The Slow Season

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March is kind of a boring month. Like August, it’s practically without any holidays (with the notable exception of St. Patrick’s Day, our binge fest in the ides of March), but August has great weather going for it. Much of your spare time during this month is probably spent indoors, where you sit around and wonder what in the world you’re going to do—if you’re not a college basketball fan, that is.

 

One entertaining and productive way to pass through the desolate and dreary days of March is to pore through the pages of Certification Magazine’s Web site, particularly our community pages and discussion boards. We offer editorial content that’s informative but never stuffy, and our readers bring their wealth of knowledge and professional experience to the CertMag online forum. Here’s a sampling of what’s been happening in our Virtual Village lately.

 

Career Development
Like the industry itself, IT pros seldom remain inert. They make professional transitions to new technologies and job tasks all the time. As many who have gone this way before could tell you, though, it’s not that easy. Learning a new skill set and then gaining some practical experience with those proficiencies takes considerable time and effort. In the Career Development community this month, we explain how IT pros looking to change their career focus midstream can make the conversion smoother. Read it at www.certmag.com/careers.

 

In the “Career Path to CIO” discussion thread for this community’s forum, Pearland, Texas-based member gpearson has offered some valuable advice for anyone aspiring to this occupation: “I think the best plan of action to develop a career path toward a CIO function is to move from a technical disposition to a business-oriented disposition. Most CIOs focus on strategy and planning, and spend little (if any) time focusing on the technical aspects of a company. While a good number of CIOs start in a technical role, many build their business knowledge through project management, working with other management levels and academics. Many CIOs have a business degree; some have even taken the time to obtain an MBA.

 

“Do not lose sight of the fact that the ‘I’ in CIO stands for information. Information is the tool that the rest of the business managers will use to make strategic and operational decisions to keep the business running and/or growing. A good CIO understands many areas of information, including technical, financial, sales/marketing and human resources. Each one of these areas provides (and requires) integration of the information from each other, and the CIO is the person responsible for this cohesion.”

 

If that wasn’t enough, gpearson also has included an ordered set of steps for CIOs-to-be. Check them out at www.certmag.com/forums.

 

CRM & E-Commerce: Breaking Into Web Services
The Web services sector has really gotten some traction of late, especially with the rising interest in service-oriented architecture. This has not gone unnoticed: Opportunists have moved quickly to capitalize on its newfound popularity and thus the number of Web services providers has gone up manifold in the past few years. There’s still some room on the bandwagon, though. This month, the CRM & E-Commerce community will offer advice on how you can get your foot in the door of the Web services market and differentiate yourself from the competition. Take a look at www.certmag.com/crm.

 

Database
The Database community’s forum features a thread on stress, a feeling most DBAs probably know all too well. CertMag.com member Ima_PDA said, “I find that taking out my stress on my co-workers usually helps. Nothing makes me feel better than taking a call from an unsuspecting co-worker and literally chewing their face off through the phone when they ask if I’ve completed the latest update. The cherry on top is the phone-hang-up-slam-dunk where I actually jump off the top of the filing cabinet and hang up the phone so hard the receiver has what appear to be re-entry burns. But seriously, nothing beats a good pair of headphones and an MP3 player with everything you own. Combine that with a walk around the block, and I’m usually back to myself after about 15 minutes.”

 

SuccessCoachLaura added, “I guess I do the old fashioned things. Deep breaths that you feel all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. Take long walks through a park, by a lake or on a long country road. Listening to affirmations, so you are focused on what is good in your life rather than what is not quite working.”

 

Speaking of stress, a common source of it for many professionals in this area is the database crash. However, if they thoroughly prepare for these scenarios, then these obstacles need not be more than a bump in the road. We’ll further explore how to plan for database crash contingencies in this month’s community feature, available at www.certmag.com/database.

 

Help Desk & Support
Not all IT support professionals out there are chained to their cubicles all day, taking phone calls from confused or irate end users. Many are mobile and visit their clients personally in their offices or even their homes. It’s essential that support workers comport themselves in a professional manner in these particular situations and have the social skills and patience necessary to deal with end users face to face. In this month’s Help Desk & Support community, we take a look at how IT’s “doctors” should handle these house calls. Check it out at www.certmag.com/helpdesk.

 

Independents
The Independents community forum features a discussion thread where readers have talked about the pros and cons of working alone or with an organization of fellow contractors. CertMag contributor Chris Lehr responded that his own experiences with the latter had been a mixed bag. He said he’s worked as a full-time IT consultant with a large professional shop, which was a great experience because of the challenges, clients and interesting work. However, he added that he worked in a similar situation for a smaller, less experienced organization, where the staff was underpaid despite the fact that the boss was overcharging clients.

 

CertMag.com member Georgia, who is based in the Washington, D.C.-area, said, “We have much better projects and working situations in the collaborative groups rather than toughing it out on your own. I have two collaborative groups I am a member of in addition to my own firm’s history with ‘successful satellite independents’ and it works very well. The key for us seems to be everyone is experienced and knows how to give 100 percent to the team in order to achieve the win/win/win.”

 

Open Source
It’s not easy to predict what a technology will look like in a decade, let alone a year. Take cell phones: We can do all kinds of things on them now—who knows what they’ll be able to do in the future? Wash your dishes? Paint your house? It might be even harder to project what Linux will look like, as there is a vast community of skilled IT professionals out there constantly modifying it. Still, we’re going to give it a shot. This month’s Open Source community feature will forecast the feel and capabilities of future versions of Linux. Read all the predictions at www.certmag.com/opensource.

 

Project Management
IT projects involve a good deal of exertion, which is usually crammed into a tight timetable. As deadlines approach and work remains unfin

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