Keeping Your Edge – Remaining an Expert in IT
Keeping your edge – Remaining an Expert in IT
Some aspects of life are inexorable. You cannot escape the forward passage of time, and all that comes with it. Information technology is based on the current level of tech, and the constant drive to improve the ability and storage of computers. Greater technology is being developed constantly, as is more advanced systems to take advantage of those advancements. This means no matter how much you learn as a professional, more is ready to be learned. The single greatest thing any professional can do is to keep learning. For IT, that can be more true that possibly any other field of expertise. The rate that equipment and programs become obsolete is staggering, and understanding what is outmoded is only the beginning. Sometimes programs are advancements of familiar interfaces. Sometimes they are rebuilt from the base code up and are a completely different program. With such advancements and a near-revolving door of upgrades, understanding what to do as an expert in IT is a series of simple steps to always keep in mind. While the goal is to continue educating yourself, several options exist to make that happen. Some you can do on your own in free time, others will need another expert in the field. All can improve your abilities, and are worth investigating.
First and foremost, being an expert means far more than knowing specific aspects inside and out. It also means being aware of what your industry is doing. Any professional should be aware of what his or her peers are up to, as well as the industry as a whole. Be aware of up and coming projects or upgrades, and be ready to work with them when they arrive. Professional journals, blogs, newsletters, and industry-focused online forums are great places to spend your time. If for no better reason, you will be able to discuss things with your peers and share information on what to expect. Trends can tell what skills will be waning, and what to focus on. Approach experts in the field, and ask what they are seeing as well. Different positions offer insight into the industry, and having more information is always going to benefit you.
One great place to start is a ‘cringe topic.’ Those terms and subjects that are brought up in a technical conversation that you smile and nod to- but have no idea what they are referring to. Spend a few free moments researching what that term means, expanding your understanding of the subject. An in-depth study is preferred, but being able to get the reference without mentally cringing or scrambling to pick up context clues can be a boon. Once you have an idea of something important to focus on, you can follow through. IT professionals are well-aware of the need for constant certification and training. Enroll in programs when you can. Local programs, online tutorials, and distance learning programs all provide a measure of understanding. Even free sites like Youtube can offer at least a cursory glance at some programs or skills that you are not an expert it, or help refresh your memory. Earning, maintaining, and seeking out certifications and licenses help you to be able and ready to try new challenges and prepare for upcoming skills in your field.
Unfortunately, there is only so much a person can do on their own. Online courses and certifications certainly help, but nothing can replace hands-on and in-person training. To that end, find individuals that can further your education whenever you have the time. Technology recruiters are typically very aware of the latest trends and skills needed to thrive in IT. These individuals maintain contact with industry leaders, and are able to highlight skills that can be improved. Also remain in contact with former coworkers and maintain a network of contacts. The more individuals that you are able to work with and talk to, the greater chance you will be able to see the trends and habits of your industry. Again, understanding your industry can help you prepare for the trends that are just starting. Being able to work with others and make yourself known is invaluable- arguably as much as being certified for the task to begin with.
Another tactic is to volunteer your time on side projects. A universal aspect of any skill is that the more it is practiced, the better it becomes. Offering your skills and time to other projects on the side can be a terrific way to add diversity to your skill set. Volunteering to work on projects can relate to your field, such as keeping a website running or offering to develop security for a program. Charity organizations, churches, and non-profit groups are always in need of help, and offer a variety of opportunities. Working with new people can broaden your skills and understanding of what people are looking for. At the same time, this expands your network and ability to speak with other professionals. Working on a variety of projects in addition to your work offers a better view of the industry, and what others are looking for. Such also provides the added benefit of beneficial lines you can add to a resume, making yourself more attractive to potential employers.