Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Matters Most Accredited Knowledge or Time Served ?

   I want to actually apologize for the layoff as well as the general vagueness of some of the posts. I guess I am more the cowboy then the surgeon after all.  I can't completely dismiss the layoff on the holidays and the continuing job search. I'll try to, but that isn't the truth.
     I have added reading and studying for some certifications to my daily routine. It has been very rewarding in more ways then one. If one is to weigh qualifications (i.e. certifications , school and such)  verse professional experience, real world experience should always win.
     I was certified quite sufficiently before having my first I.T. position. I will never dismiss certifications. Approximately ten years later, I know certifications are a glorified rubber stamp that is supposed to indicate you could build the best mousetrap or survive the burning of Rome.
     I learn every time I read. I learn from re-reading. I can attribute my ability to navigate through some of the outages I have seen in the last five or six years from that reading. However there are several things a good professional does that the certs don't test for. There are things that the good professionals do even in the heat of failing systems or unexplained application issues.
     In my first position I was given documentation for the processes I inherited. I was trained in those processes . Then as I maintained and further develop those processes, I was in charge of maintaining those processes and their documentation.
      My trainer gave me the understanding to expect a system or a process to fail. To prepare for an unexpected outcome. Simple making copies of files or knowing where to restart a failed process. Or knowing how to restore data to resume running a process.  
    If this kind of professional logic was included in your texts they might triple in size and they might finally be worth some of those price tags. I don't feel many, if any, books really teach you how to be a better all around I.T. professional. There are endless books that will teach in great detail about all kinds of amazing technologies. There are design books and other reference books.
   It is your work practices and how you apply them routinely that will best serve you when the chips are down. Be it a deadline for an application or a system failure of any nature.
  I recently experienced an individual who muscled through his I.T. career with a great deal of effort. He appeared to be a very hard worker . He spoke very confidently in his plans . So much so that he seemed knowledgeable.  I now feel like he was actually relying on a few tricks to get by and was not using best practices and textbook processes in many cases. I feel that some earlier independence and some false success led him to believe his practices were correct. It is this kind of negative experience that contradicts the previous thought that work experience trumps education in the I.T. field.
    A bad manager from my past had a very narrow definition of what "I.T. work" was supposed to mean. I didn't agree with him, but i have grown to see his point. I.T. work isn't a craftsman job.  A truly talented professional will deliver a quality product. It is not however like having sculpted for years and being able to make great pieces of art. It is like having a measurable scientific understanding of how things behave based on circumstance.      
     In short a good professional experience will always teach you more than a solid reading of the best book. The common ground is in the quality of the resource. I have had the luxury of working with quality professionals whose technical ambitions rival my own in every way. I love to read. I have chosen great texts. I am always willing to learn . I have seasoned all of this "book knowledge" with years of real hands on experience.
    I find it helpful to ask a lot of questions . I even ask questions I technically know an answer for , but I want to know my peer's insight. If your peers are patient enough, you can even play devil's advocate and bounce the different ideas off of each other. Good professionals don't have to share the same processes. They just have to be able to clinically justify why they took their approach.

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