Staying current on all the latest technologies can be a real struggle, but it’s crucial in the tech industry. We’re constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve on the latest technologies and trends. Whether you’re keeping current in your existing job, or taking the next step, you need to avoid obsolescence.
But you probably know this already.
That might even be why you’re here.
Technology and industry trends are paving the way to advancing careers by natural selection, and also leading others to extinction.
On this topic, VMware’s Jase McCarty recently gave an excellent talk at the Minnesota’s VMUG UserCon 2016 on the topic of being a generalist versus being specialist. He gave some excellent insight into both sides of this fence, detailing pros and cons of each.
Being a generalist lets your river of knowledge run wide yet shallow. Because you don’t get terribly deep in your knowledge of different topics, you might rely on someone’s specialist knowledge to get something done. You can more easily tap into different areas, but just not quite as deep as others; you can experience a broader range of technologies than someone who is specialized.
On the other hand, being a specialist has an entirely different set of pros and cons. Your river of knowledge may be narrow, but it runs deep. On the bright side, you may be the go-to person for your specialty. The downside of that is you may be the go-to person for your specialty. Everyone may be relying on you, but you’ve got that deep understanding of whatever it is you know. Unfortunately, because your knowledge is a bit more focused, you can be more prone to becoming obsolete. Of course it’s not impossible, but it is a bit more difficult to pivot your focus.
Let’s keep these two (generalist vs. specialist) thoughts in mind as we continue on. Regardless of where you are on the fence, staying relevant and up-to-date is important to maintain your career. Whether you’re new to the industry, trying to pivot to stay relevant, or maintaining your generalist knowledge, this might be of use.
One thing I often hear from those new to the technology industry, maybe as a college graduate at a 2- or 4-year school just starting their first professional career, or changing careers to something in technology, is “Where do I get started learning all this stuff?” Throughout the years, I’ve ended up organically discovering a bunch of different resources at different times, and have discovered a trove of free information ready to be consumed. Aside from coming back here, here are some other great resources.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social stuffs
Twitter is nothing short of awesome for the virtualization and tech community as a whole. There is no shortage of experts willing to share their knowledge, and some are insiders for prolific companies (read: VMware, EMC, HPE, etc). Even if you don’t have any fancy meals to share or pictures of your cats, sign up for a Twitter account just for lurking purposes if you don’t have one already. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself sharing a thought or two sooner than you expected. Hashtags such as #vExpert or #VMware might help to get you started finding people to follow. Eric Siebert has a list of Top 100 VMware People and there are the 2016 vExperts that can also help build your interesting portfolio of people to follow.
LinkedIn is the butt of a few jokes, but I cannot discount the quantity of communities available:
- VMware Engineers
- Cloud Computing, SaaS & Virtualization
- System Administrator (Windows Linux Unix Apple VMware Oracle EMC Cloud SAP SQL CRM Cisco ITIL SAN)
- VMware Virtual Community
- VMware vSphere Troubleshooters
And many more...
vBrownBag was started by Cody Bunch, based on the idea of a “brownbag” seminar, also referred to as a lunch-and-learn. In a physical workspace, an idea is to get someone knowledgeable on a topic to cross-train other staff members during a lunch hour. I had started something in my workplace before I discovered the vBrownBag community, and I now also volunteer for the organization. Topics include VMware (obviously), Cisco, and some development topics such DevOps, OpenStack, Security, Storage, AWS, and more.
vBrownBag is a community of people who believe in helping other people. Specifically we work in IT infrastructure and we help other people in the IT industry to be better at their jobs by learning about IT. The most frequent activity is producing the vBrownBag podcasts and we also produce TechTalks at conferences.
The vBrownBag crew host podcasts where community members present on topics that will help others in the community. Some podcast series are aimed at helping people achieve certifications for example VMware’s VCP and VCAP certifications. Other podcasts help community members learn an entirely new subject area like the Couch to OpenStack series.
VMware Technology Network
VMTN is a worldwide knowledge base that has over 2 million virtualization experts participating. VTMN contains documents, discussions, and polls on all VMware technologies and products.
Communities (away from keyboard)
VMUG launched back in 2010, and is an independent, global, customer-led organization. The overall purpose is knowledge-sharing, training, collaboration, and events. Local VMUGs often do regular meetings and yearly “UserCons,” and are a great place to talk with other users, partners, and vendors.
This year’s annual VMworld 2016 will be held in Las Vegas. VMworld has over 400 break-out sessions, hands-on labs, exhibits, quick-talks, and a bunch of other stuffs. A few thousand people normally descent upon the event. The trick, in my humble opinion, is convincing your employer to cover your trip to VMworld. They link to a nifty downloadable document (docx link) on their page to help convince your boss to send you there. If you do make the trip, make it worth their time; bring awesome ideas back.
I already mentioned VMUGs, which have regular meetings, and they also have their annual conferences called UserCons. If they’ve got enough in attendance, they’re Super UserCons. UserCons not only have a ton of information, but are often much closer (Wisconsin has 2 chapters!), and are free. Who knows, you might end up really diggin’ the experience, and volunteer to do a talk or two or three. I know for experience, but it’s well worth it.
Eric Siebert also runs vLaunchpad, which is an excellent aggregate of VMware and storage related blogs you can read from the comfort of your own...wherever you do. He’s got a Top 100 Blogs section, VMware corporate, Storage, Scripting, other News and Info, quick references, and all sorts of great things.
Personal favorites listed here:
Overall, the sky is the limit if you know where to look, and I hope this can point you a bit closer in the right direction.
Photo courtesy: Robert