Keeping up with IT once your study has finished

So you have completed your course or qualification in some sort of IT field. Now you can relax and just watch the money roll in. WRONG.

I am of the firm opinion that you should never stop learning and that the responsibility is on you to keep up to date with what is going on in the IT field. As IT changes so fast it is essential that you keep up with what is going on and be prepared for people asking you questions or needing to deploy new technologies.
Doing these things will not replace traditional training but they will help you build upon the skills and knowledge that you will learn from training.

Vendor Specific Certs

Vendor specific certs are a great way to learn more about IT and how everything works. Many times if you are like me and work for a managed service provider the vendors that you are partnered with will offer free(or at least subsidised) training on their products.
Since I have finished studying I have taken part in free training programs offered by software vendors in relation to telecommunications (more specifically VoIP), Security, Anti Virus, Document Management, Point of Sale and more.
This has allowed me to build on my knowledge that I learned during my official study and have helped my further along my position within the company and remain in the loop for upcoming projects.

Videos

Another valuable free resource to keep up to date is believe it or not, YouTube. YouTube is full of great resources on new and old technology that you may come across. The only thing with YouTube is that you are not getting official training from the software vendor meaning that the way that the person on YouTube is showing you how to do something may not be the best practice and may not have all of the information you need. It is a useful resource though.

Forums

Forums like Microsoft TechNet, Spiceworks or even vendor specific forums are a great place where you can either just scroll through and look at what people are talking about or get involved and ask questions or bounce ideas around with other people interested in your field. This can really help as the information is all out there but talking to people with experience can really help you understand things better.

Testing things out

Testing out new products or even products that you have not had experience with yet can be a great way to get your head around things. Microsoft allows you to download Windows Server and run it on a trial for 6 months and the normal desktop version for 30 days. Also things like packet tracer for Cisco products allows you to test in a demo environment. You can also use most versions of Linux for free but you will want to make sure you read the license and make sure you are not breaching copyright. You can also spin up a test environment of Office 365 if you are a Microsoft partner.
If you want to test out different servers I recommend using visualisation to test them out. You can get free virtualisation software for home use like Hyper-V, VMware Player or Virtual Box. All you need to do is install them and then you can start spinning up virtual machines. To do this you need to make sure that your computer will support virtualisation and that you have enough RAM to do it.
While testing things you may want to use some of the other resources listed in this article.

Industry Events or Trade Shows

Industry events are where vendor get up and show their products and have demos or training events. Some that are on in Australia are:

  • Microsoft TechEd
  • VMware vForum
  • Cisco Live
  • Citrix Mobility

There are more events for other events that IT distributors or software vendor hold. To keep informed of these you can sign up to mailing lists from your vendors or distributors or chat to others in the industry.

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