You never stop learning

You never stop learning

A truth of the IT profession is that everything changes and that if you don’t keep moving, your skills become quickly irrelevant. This isn’t a job where you get trained once and then you’re good for the next few decades. If you’re an IT Pro, any knowledge that you gain has a half life. The clock is ticking on anything you learn. The way you stay relevant is to stay up-to-date.

I meet many IT Pros who still have Windows Server 2003 in their environment (that’s okay, it’s still being supported by Microsoft). Back in 2000, when I first left the confines of being a systems administrator in academia, I remember being horrified that one branch office of the company I was working for had Windows NT 3.51 servers still in use. In 2000, when I worked on a 7 year old operating system, I felt almost like an archaeologist. Yet today people routinely work with an operating system that’s as old as my son, and he starts high school next year. In some cases that OS is in place because the business doesn’t want to move. In others its because the IT Pros don’t want to stay up-to-date.

The point I’m trying to hit is that many IT Pros seemed to have forgotten that they need to keep learning. They got comfortable with a static set of operating systems and applications. Being an IT Pro means that you don’t have the choice of getting “too comfortable” with a static set of technologies. This is simply because every technology has an expiry date, even if you can’t see it yet.

Those servers running Windows Server 2003 are going to have to come out. It’s better that the people pulling them out already be fairly proficient with Windows Server 2012 R2 already, rather than sitting there thinking that they should book some Windows Server 2012 R2 training at some point in the future so that they can develop a migration plan.

Learning must be constant. You can’t thrive as an IT pro if you only poke your head out of the server room every 10 years and then go on a learning binge. Learning gets harder if you aren’t doing it on a regular basis.  You need to keep up a constant pace of learning, so that the current state of the art doesn’t move out beyond your horizon.

Microsoft and third parties have made a variety of tools available that allow you to remain up-to-date, from Microsoft Virtual Academy  and companies like PluralSight, through to more traditional learning methods, such as Instructor Lead Training and even the textbooks that I and others write. If you want to remain closer to the cutting edge, get on to and review the videos of the recent TechED 2014 sessions.

IT Pros are employed for what they know, and everything that they know has an expiry date on it. The only way that they remain employed is by replacing that expiring knowledge with new knowledge. If they don’t, eventually everything that they do know will be as relevant as Windows NT 3.51 is today.

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