Luke Snell has experienced a lot of professional growth the past four years — thanks to learning new IT skills. He went from working small contract jobs to working for a global mining company’s technology operations center. Oh, and he has nearly tripled his income during that span.
A mentor for CBT Nuggets Learner Community, Luke often shares his experiences and advice for getting the most out of IT training. Our learner community brings together IT pros in a real-time Slack channel, where people can ask questions, share stories, and encourage other members.
Here are three of Luke’s tips for getting the most out of your training and furthering your career.
1. Always Be Learning!
The IT industry is constantly evolving. The past four years, cloud computing, virtualization, big data analytics, software-defined networking, and DevOps are just some of the things IT pros have helped more organizations rapidly adopt. As a result, I’ve seen employers become more demanding of their IT employees. Everybody wants to keep up and have the latest, best technology.
If you want a successful career in IT, you need to commit to becoming a lifelong learner. Seek opportunities that push you outside of your comfort zone. Be proactive and research what skills would make you a competitive applicant for that next career move.
And don’t forget to network with other IT professionals. The CBT Nuggets Learner Community helped me meet new people and get help during my IT certification studies when I needed.
Regardless of where you are in your career, make sure that you don’t get left behind! Learn new technologies, build physical or virtual labs, configure things, break things, tear your hair out troubleshooting broken stuff. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are learning.
Key Learning Points:
Keep up to date with industry trends. Make sure you know which skills are in demand by routinely checking job postings in your area. The CBT Nuggets blog also can help highlight skills that are in demand based on industry trends.
Join online IT communities. Find like-minded people to network with and learn from. The CBT Nuggets Learner Community is just one example.
Seek opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone so that you can diversify your skillset. Need to pick up a new skill quickly? CBT Nuggets has an expansive course catalogue that may be able to help!
2. Soft skills are as Important as Technical Skills
In 2015, I made the jump from a small team environment to a large IT enterprise. It was a culture shock to me. The number of people I had to work with on a daily basis to perform basic tasks was overwhelming. I also felt like an imposter, being new to the mining industry and not understanding how the company’s production systems operated.
I knew I needed to develop a stronger technical foundation to address that “imposter syndrome”, as well as further my professional development. However, I failed to consider improving my interpersonal skills as well.
As a result, I struggled for nearly two years because I couldn’t articulate my thoughts effectively to other teams consisting of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. I was told I was too confusing, too blunt, not blunt enough, or that I didn’t share workloads well with others.
While discussing my issues with my supervisor at the time, he shared something that has stuck with me to this day:
“Your interpersonal communication skills and ability to work within a team will determine how others measure your success. The most technically proficient individual in the world will never succeed if they are perceived as difficult to work with.”
This feedback helped me realize I was forgetting about the human element of IT. I decided to devour CBT Nuggets ITIL® training — and earned ITIL® v3 Foundations-certified. The skills I learned while getting certified helped me communicate more effectively. Not only within my team but with other teams across the organization. I was able to speak the same business language as everyone else was using.
I also found taking additional managerial courses and seeking feedback from my peers further helped me understand how critical effective communication is within the workplace.
Key Learning Point:
Non-technical skills, such as interpersonal communication skills, are just as important to develop.
3. Identify Training that’s Relevant and Accessible
At one point in 2015, I raised concerns about my company’s server environment with my production supervisor. My feedback was based off observations that didn’t feel right, partly due to me not knowing how Windows Server worked.
For example, at the time, we were probably one disgruntled employee away from losing all our project documentation because everyone had domain admin privileges. What a scary thought!
Fortunately, my production supervisor took my concerns seriously. He reassigned me to work with our systems developer to address the problems I pointed out. While asking the systems advisor for guidance one day, it was recommended I explore training options to get me up to speed on Windows Server. However, I was quite shocked when I saw it could cost several thousand dollars to learn those basic server skills! This was an expense I simply didn’t have the income to cover.
CBT Nuggets popped up one day while I was searching for online training. I was blown away by the value. There were courses on Windows Server and much more like networking and even soft skills.
After getting signed up, I resisted the temptation to dive into any training that looked interesting. Instead, I honed in on CBT Nuggets Windows 2012 with R2 training. Within a few weeks I removed everyone’s domain admin access and locked down our server environment.
Key Learning Points:
What training do you need? Identify what training meets your needs. Bootcamps and classes can be expensive compared to online training options like CBT Nuggets.
What do you want to accomplish? Identify what objectives you want your training to achieve. Also, determine how you are going to maximize your return on investment. Make sure you supplement your training with additional study resources.
Stay focused. Focus on training that’s relevant to what you want to learn. That will help you stay accountable for completing the training and achieving your goals. If you need guidance, CBT Nuggets accountability coaches can help you stay on track.
About the Author:
Luke Snell is an IT professional who works in the mining industry in Australia. When he’s not fixing machines at work, he’s a mentor in the CBT Nuggets Learner Community. Luke posts his other thoughts occasionally on LinkedIn.