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What do you folks do to

What do you folks do to

What do you folks do to

(OP)
"stay sharp"? I wasn't even in the computer field for a year when I got an offer as a contractor. Back in the good old days when IT workers were a scarce bunch! I was exposed to so many different systems, technologies, etc., etc. Well, since the Y2K scare was over, everyone started cutting back, and I was one of the victims. However, I did get a permanent job at one of the sites where I contracted at, and have been here since.

I really miss the exposure to all the different situations I ran into "back in the day", but I love my current job as well. And in this economy, I'm not going to let it go.

So for those in similar situations, how do you stay up on all the latest technologies, software, etc., etc., without having access to the majority of it?

 

RE: What do you folks do to

Two things have helped me out in my career.  The first one was simply that I have spent most of my time working for smaller companies where I was in a decision-making capacity in regards to IT.  For example, when SQL Server 2005 was released, we evaluated it and went with it for a new data warehousing initiative in late 2005/early 2006.  So if you want more freedom as far as skills you can pick up, then a smaller company may be the way to go.  Conversely, working for smaller companies might not be the best plan if your goal is to obtain a very specific position at a large company.

As that does not apply to everyone, the other method I have used over the years is simply development at home.  Luckily for me, many Microsoft products come at a reduced fee for developer versions and when something new comes along, I tend to look at it at home even if it's not on the immediate horizon at work.  I'm  not sure how well that translates to other areas (it's not like you can buy a developer version of a $5,000 Cisco switch as far as I know).

I would also mention that simply reading related posts at forums such as this contributes to an overall gain in knowledge.  Sometimes a little knowledge before-hand yields a shortcut when the technology enters the workplace.  

RE: What do you folks do to

(OP)
Thanks for the input, RiverGuy. I like the smaller to mid-size  jobs myself.

RE: What do you folks do to

Forums, definitely.  Additionally, I read msnbc's tech/science section daily.

 

Just my 2¢

"What the captain doesn't realize is that we've secretly replaced his Dilithium Crystals with new Folger's Crystals."

--Greg  http://parallel.tzo.com
 

RE: What do you folks do to

Second Greg's forums idea. Also, in order to force-feed myself technical information, I have (in the past) been on mailing lists which mirror some newsgroups for the system I was working with (AS/400, or iSeries, or System i, as you prefer). We are now migrating off of that platform to SQL Server 2005 / Oracle (yuck!).

I have the MSDN Forums for SQL Server 2005 and the T-SQL reference bookmarked, and refer to them often. Sometime, I'll just browse through the reference, and check out a function that I have not used yet. It might give me an idea of how to use it to solve a particular problem I'm working on.

-- Francis
I'd like to change the world, but I can't find the source code.

RE: What do you folks do to

Quote (Francis):

yuck!
Careful now...some of us make a tidy living and actually enjoy the stuff you call yuck. <grin>

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
[I provide low-cost, remote Database Administration services: www.dasages.com]
"Beware of those that seek to protect you from harm or risk. The cost will be your freedoms and your liberty."

RE: What do you folks do to

Ah, yes. AS400. We still have it but are doing more and more development in SQL Server and .NET. Up until 2 yrs ago, AS400 RPG was all I did. Now, I sometimes can't rememeber how a simple op code works. :} Instead of yucking SQl/Oracle, maybe you should embrace it? Learn as much as possible about it. I'm studying Azure. Why? Because I see us going there one day. And, I'm interested in everything tech. I can't learn enough. That's how I stay sharp.

 

RE: What do you folks do to

Get yourself on the mailing list of one of those "free" ad-laden tech "magazines" like Information Week.  Their analysis is often wrong, as are their predictions.  A lot of their content is also targeted at Director/CIO levels rather than techs, but they do a fair job of telling you what's currently going on and what's hot, even if they can't tell you what's coming down the pipe.  That's one good way of finding out what things you should be looking into or at least be familiar with.

Secondly, go to vendor events.  I know that most of them end up being sales pitches, but even if it's just a webcast they still tend to present useful information about products and services for free.  It's good to know what capabilities are out there.

Make time to learn.  Seriously.  Set aside a couple of hours a week to focus purely on brainstorming, reading about technology, learning new software/systems, etc.  If you don't make time for it (even if it's just 30 minutes in the morning every day) then you'll have a very difficult time getting it done.

Then there's my favorite...consulting.  If you're hopping from project to project every 6-9 months you'll be learning something new at every stop.  Even if I am brought in for my expertise in one particular area, I always end up learning something useful outside of that area on every project.

________________________________________
CompTIA A+, Network+, Server+, Security+
MCTS:Windows 7
MCTS:Hyper-V
MCTS:System Center Virtual Machine Manager
MCSE:Security 2003
MCITP:Enterprise Administrator  

RE: What do you folks do to

tcsbiz & Santa:

I don't have a problem per se with either SQL Server or Oracle. But, the implementation has been painful at times. A combination of little drops of water eventually turns into a tsunami. It's not my intention to trash either system; but I suppose any implementation of a completely new system (two, in our case) for anyone can always use some improvement.

I'm not in the Oracle group; I strictly do the SQL Server stuff; at the moment, mostly writing reports and overseeing the implementation to SQL Server (and keep things running on the 400 until we pull the plug thereupon).  

-- Francis
I'd like to change the world, but I can't find the source code.

RE: What do you folks do to

Francis, my "<grin>" was purposeful. I am the first to admit that Oracle can be like trying to build the Space Shuttle in your backyard. <another grin>

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
[I provide low-cost, remote Database Administration services: www.dasages.com]
"Beware of those that seek to protect you from harm or risk. The cost will be your freedoms and your liberty."

RE: What do you folks do to

Yeah, I sometimes wish you were over here. I liken it to learning to fly for the first time in a 747 with three of four engines flamed out.  

-- Francis
I'd like to change the world, but I can't find the source code.

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