A successful IT career requires constant learning and proving knowledge through IT certifications.
Many of us got into technology because it held an aura of mystery. There is always something new and exciting, something to learn, and new solutions to bring to your company or customers. This is true today more than ever.
Throughout my career I've noticed that the people who succeed are those with intellectual curiosity: A thirst for knowledge, a desire to learn, and a willingness to spend time to garner more knowledge. In fact, when interviewing potential co-workers, I always ask what they do to keep up on the industry and to gain more knowledge. To me, the answer to this question says a lot about someone’s motivation and ability to succeed in IT.
Unfortunately, many times, the answers I get tend to be either that they are too busy, or they will look to the employer to provide training. While I agree that employer-paid training is essential, I also believe there is always time to learn and grow, and it need not take an extraordinary amount of time. So how do I do it?
Early in my career, a manager advised me to spend at least on hour a day reading and learning about technology. To this day, I try to stick to that advice. Some days I only have 15 minutes and other days I find a few hours, but every day I try to do something to learn. When time is short, I like to head to YouTube for a quick lesson on coding, Cisco ACI, Cisco Software-Defined Access, or even the Fermi Paradox. Okay, that last one isn’t about technology, but it’s an interesting video and who’s to say you must always focus on technology topics in your quest to learn?
When I want to go deeper into a topic, I usually pick up a book or consult Google to find session content from industry conferences. Two of my favorites are Cisco Live and AWS re:Invent; both provide free in-depth video content of conference sessions, and are great for taking your knowledge to the next level.
Beyond constant learning and curiosity, there comes a time when you need to do something to prove to others what you know. While experience is the best ways to do this, differentiating your resume from thousands of similar resumes can really only be done in a handful of ways. For me, one of the most important differentiators are industry certifications.
This is not to say that getting a certification is the same as experience, but a certification proves two things: that you're committed to setting goals and seeing them through to completion, and that you know how to learn. Certification testing requires you to learn a specific technology and answer questions in a specific way -- maybe not always the “right way,” but a specific way. This I analogous to process and procedure in many enterprises. You might not always agree with the way something is done, but many times you have to do things in a specific manner for compliance or business reasons.
So what certification should you choose? Honestly it doesn’t matter, as long as the certification provides value to you, your career goals, or your employer. However, certifications focusing on security, networking, or software development are generally in demand and will enhance your knowledge and resume.
Technology is great because there is always something to learn, and technology is bad because there is always something to learn. But if you spend just a little time each day, and maybe get a certification or two, the ever-changing torrent of technology will be just a bit easier to manager. It all comes down to a little desire and a bit of curiosity. Contrary to what others may say about curiosity, I promise no cats will be harmed in the process.