back to article IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?

I’m a big fan of data networking blogger Greg Ferro, who writes under the moniker Etherealmind. Greg and I are really on the same page with regards to work/life balance but his latest thoughts on that topic struck a chord with me. Drawn from his latest blog post, the key part says: Why am I focused on work life ? After 25 or …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do need to multiskilled.

    My main area is Telecoms / Contact Centre design...

    But how can you do telecoms these days if you don't know VoIP? How can you do VoIP if you don't understand networking, how can you do networking if you do QoS, how can you don't understand the need for QoS? How can you support the end user and understand their needs, if you don't understand the software?

    I'm proud to say I came from desktop support, then network, then old school telephony to cutting edge multinational contact centres, but still retain knowledge in the areas I need.

    So I CAN get the bloody software working on a Win8 machine, I can do a Wireshark trace and smack the networking team around the head with a keyboard to show it is their problem and I can understand why the business is getting annoyed because what they want isn't working how they think it should do.

    There is nothing worse than someone that is so focused on their "skillset" that they have no concept of the other people involved.

  2. JLH

    Good article

    Good article Storagebod.

    There was a recent Guardian article on growing older and ageism in IT,

    well wort a read. Sorry I can;t find a link at the moment.

    And thankyou for the link to Etherealmind - I happen to be doing som enetwork diagrams at the moment, and his book on Visio network diagramming looks very useful!

    I am buying a copy.

    1. southpacificpom

      Re: Good article

      Read something similar about a year ago regarding an IT workers lifespan and it was about 15 years.

      Hmm time for a change...

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    It's all about the foundations

    I've always suffered from memory problems, especially when a subject isn't particularly interesting from a spiritual point of view - so for my work stuff (network & firewalls) I always had to delve deep into the understanding of how it all hangs together.

    This makes initially learning a 'concept' longer, such as a new area of technology that I haven't worked on before, but once you do this you have created a framework within your mind upon which to hang 'information'.

    After a time not working on a particular type of device, I can forget a lot of the details, but the infrastructure (i.e. the fundamental understanding) is still there so it can be picked up again in no time at all.

    After a few years of this I discovered that the same infrastructure can be employed to learn new kit in a very short time, even under lots of pressure, a very useful skill to have as a consultant with a new job every 6 months or so.

    It came as a complete shock to me a few years back when a colleague in a position of trust for a major company, running their firewall estate, didn't know about subnet masks. He said 'that's just the routing stuff' - presumably catagorised under 'someone else's problem' in his head.

    He was surprised to learn that his firewalls were routers. Apparently he went on a firewall course to become a firewall engineer - not moving up through the network support path that I thought was ubiquitous - he didn't even know what the 7 layer model was, let alone what they were.

    Mind you, I forgot the name of the interface scanning command* on splat in an interview, even though I could recall all the flags to set - still got the job though :) I guess bullshit is a skill too - as long as you can back it up.

    *yes, tcpdump

  4. 404 Silver badge

    The wife

    Is not happy with the amount of studying/ testing that I do on different projects, mostly because I'm an IT whore-> I'll take on pretty much anything. It's really all the same, just different ways of getting there. I run a consulting/IT bidness, local and small scale, keeps the bills paid. wow, ten years now. huh. Didn't realize that. Copy, run, start baby!

    Jack of all trades, master of none. You'll get consistent/varied work in any case.

  5. southpacificpom


    There is too much emphasis placed on paper certs these days and sadly, today's managers seem not to value experience all that much. Yes, I know the IT world is changing at a rapid pace but the main core (network, servers etc) in general is pretty much the same as it was 15-20 years ago albeit a bit faster.

    Some job agencies think that if you don't have Windows Server 2012 MCSE then you don't know anything about IT - even with 15 years experience - I don't like IT recruiters at the best of times, mostly young prats with little or no experience themselves.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experience

      I try and turn the certification requirement issue around and look on it as something for my benefit - if the hirer is adamant that it is important then I know I don't want the job which saves a lot of fannying around.

  6. Michael Shaw

    Recruitment nightmare

    Think of it from the side of the recruitment agent. Their job is not to find YOU a job, but to find THE candidate that their paying customer WILL recruit. Quite often they will be limited by how many CV's their customer is willing to accept. e.g "Send us your best 5 candidates..." and they will be in competition with other recruitment agents.

    In that environment, where there are candidates with the paper certificates, and those without them, and their customer has asked for people which that qualification, then its a brave recruitment agent to go with experience over paper.

    Now as someone recruiting, I know with developers certificates are usually a warning flag. Someone does courses when they are struggling to find a job. Good programmers don't struggle to find a job....

  7. Alistair Silver badge

    skillset requirements in IT

    Sadly - the number one skillset I've seen missing in IT is communications. If you cant explain it to someone in upper management it can be *very* hard to get leverage to solve the problem.

    I've been in IT for (aaaaak) pretty much 34 years now. And working with my current employer for 15 of those. I recognize that gives me a huge advantage, knowing history on systems here, but I also get to play with the newer toys when they get here - because I can show a history of having learned new stuff, made it work, and work well. And in the cases where it was appropriate, having stood up, admitted I blew it the first time, and presented a solution to make it better.

    I love digging into the new things, and getting a handle on them. Usually I only need a few days to get the basics, a few weeks to get the overall and a month or two to get conversant with the inner workings. IT would be boring without new toys.

    I firmly believe if you aren't learning something new fairly consistently, your a prime candidate for being automated (or outsourced) out of a job. But then I'm a screaming cynic.

    Back to my hadoop playground.

  8. Inachu

    I buy the stuff to learn about it at home. Then once I know all about it then I resell it to local family or so down the street.

    It is normal for a company to buy something and test it for 6 months before it becomes a company standard.

    If your company uses tons of app the testing involved is so to confirm maximum compatibility.

    Same goes for windows updates. We test all in a private network before it is sent out to users desktops unless it is a emergency security patch.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      "I buy the stuff to learn about it at home. Then once I know all about it then I resell it to local family or so down the street."

      I'm fairly sure the market for Nexus 7000 devices is fairly small for 'local families' :)

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    How long?

    A lifetime because it's always changing and sometimes not for the best. That's the hardest stuff to learn. Technology that is obviously backward, re-invents the wheel and adds needless complication is hard to grasp because your brain keeps saying "WTF?!".

    But learn it you must.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    New things are often old things dressed up with new terminology. The trick is to recognise when there really is a difference in the new stuff.

    Before I retired I often had to pick up the essential points in components of a system quickly - to diagnose the root cause of a festering problem. It didn't make me an expert on the components - even though I could quickly sound like one. The role was more like being an interpreter between certificated people whose knowledge area was worryingly narrow.

    My jaw dropping moment was when a Cisco certified network designer asked me what the prefix "mega" actually meant.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge

    It's the same with software development mostly but as I've found out recently sometimes there can be a seismic shift that takes longer to grasp. This is especially true if it becomes 'formalised' it seems.

    In my case after 22 years employment I was cast adrift last September. It was then I encountered WPF. Now I'd heard of it before then but my previous projects had never used it (being either MFC or WinForms depending on age). The shift over to data binding and MV(V)M is a bit mind blowing. I've mostly come to terms with it now but it took a while. Just a little bit too much 'magic' being kept hidden away (supposedly for my own good?).

    Another one I came across very recently was 'dependency injection' and had to use some weird framework that seemed designed to hide the truth from you. Then I found a blog that explained it was when you create objects and give them to a new class rather than the new class creating its own objects (usually coupled with an external file that allowed objects to be controlled and linked without recompiling). Oh and look it has all these cool advantages..

    Well duh.

    It's also amusing to hear how everything I'm catching up on is the ultimate tool that will solve all our problems.

    Uh huh.

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