Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/27/2011

The Half-Life of IT Skills

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

There is one, apparently.

So, it seems someone has figured out the answer to an old question which has often plagued IT professionals: How long are your skills good?  According to Eric Bloom, over at IT World, longer than you think.  He claims that the tech skills you have now will be half as marketable in two years.  If you read Slashdot, you’ve seen this article and the comments that followed.  Here are my thoughts, though.

First, I think it depends on the skills involved.
For example, if you’re working on Windows Server, your skills will probably translate fairly well and that two-year half-life is about right.  For Unix, maybe a bit longer than that.  For Novell, well, sadly, I’m not sure who actually uses that old warhorse any more, as much as it makes me sad to write it.  For other, less vendor oriented skills, I think two-years may be a bit short-sighted.  Take routers, for instance.  Now basic routing hasn’t really changed in quite a long time.  Even Cisco routers, the creme-de-la-creme of enterprise routers, haven’t really changed that much on the inside in the last 15 years.  I was in one the other day and I have to admit I was shocked at how quickly the skills came back to me after quite literally years of disuse.  Far more than two years, I might add.
Also, skills that are a little harder to quantify certainly stay “fresh” longer than those hypothetical two years.  Things like troubleshooting and the so-called soft skills involved with user support are something that I think are deeply engrained in someone.  They’re part of a work ethic.  So the customer service skills I learned more than 20 years ago when I worked for Hyatt Hotels are certainly still more than “good”.

Secondly, Mr. Bloom is talking about marketability, not actual utility.
So, the fact that, for instance, I don’t have a Cisco certification, even though I’m clearly capable of configuring a Cisco router, means that quite probably was never what he would have considered a “marketable skill”.  In fact, based on what many recruiters may have felt about the marketability of my skills, I should be farming beets right now, not working as the Lead Tech/IT Manager of a fairly prosperous design and manufacturing company.  Instead, of course, all through my career, I’ve managed to talk my way through the door and then show the people in charge that versatility and adaptability, not to mention mad Google-query-crafting skills, are far more important than any specific past experience or certification.

So, what about you, gentle readers?  What do you think?  How long are tech skills “good”?  And does working on legacy systems harm your future employability?

10/13/2011

The Value of Tech Certs

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, that’s not candy.

Though, I have to admit, sometimes the industry treats them like candy!
No, I’m talking about technical certifications, which are, I think, the bane of the IT industry now.  Folks over at TechRepublic are talking about tech certs and their relative value.  Personally, I don’t think they are that valuable any more.  Oh, back in the day, I think they were and, to a degree, they solve certain problems for hiring managers, but, I don’t think they matter as much any more.  Of course, maybe that has something to do with where I am in the industry and job market, too.  I am, frighteningly enough, a seasoned professional.  So, my work history and experience count for a lot more than the handful of certifications I have.  (For the record, I’ve been Novell certified since 1994 and Linux certified since 2003.)
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing my certs are good for any more are getting past a Human Resources person acting as a firewall to the hiring manager.  Usually, if I’ve done all my homework like I should before even applying for a job, once I get to the hiring manager, I’m pretty much in.  And, honestly, they don’t normally care about my certs.  They care about my ability to execute.

So, what do you think?  Are professional certifications like this worth the paper they’re printed on any more?

6/3/2010

Finding Jobs with SEO

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Search engine marketing for job search?

Sure, why not?
I mean, that is why I started this blog ten years ago.  I guess I’m a little ahead of the curve, though, because Channel Insider just recently ran a story listing 17 tips for using SEO and social media to get the IT job you really want.  Mostly, they’re good tips, too, though for anyone who’s internet savvy at all, they’re also mostly common sense.  In fact, I think most real, good search engine optimization is just plain common sense.  Granted, I may be biased because of what I do and how I spend my free time, but, still, it’s not rocket science, you know?

I’ll grant you, this blog has wandered away from my original purpose a bit, but I still talk about technology and some of the things I do at work.  Initially, I started do this so I could drop buzzwords on my page, like “networking” and Certified Novell Engineer”, with normal language to lure in the search engines.  It was easy, really, all I had to do was bore people with detailed descriptions of the IT stuff I did all week long.  Then, because that gets boring fast, I started to occasionally pepper those entries with more colorful personal anecdotes.  Not too colorful, though!

One of the best tips is, to me, one of the most obvious, too.
Be careful what you post.  People seem to quickly forget that the search engines find everything.  Every drunken picture you post or every off-color joke or skeevy thing you share on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else eventually will get traced back to you.  Count on it.  So, be careful to share only the important information and just the details that relate to the image you want to project to get that job.  Treat the whole exercise as an extended digital job interview and put your best foot forward.

Oh, also?  Be honest.  Don’t over-share, but don’t lie either.  The other thing you can count on is that every lie you tell on-line will eventually be found out.

Other than that, though, the real secret is to just provide good content that people want to read.  That, by its very nature, will include all the SEO keywords that you’ll need and give you all the right kinds of links, and, most importantly of all, the right kinds of readers.
Trust me.  I’m telling you this as a guy who once got a call from another city from someone looking for a Novell consultant and was hoping I could help.  Why?  Because I was the number one hit for CNE on Google and they could get to me, but they couldn’t find similar help from Novell themselves.  So, yeah, I do know what I’m talking about and it really does work.  Just do the foot-work, and be patient while the rest happens.  It will.
Trust me.

5/5/2010

10 Year Anniversary

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,News and Current Events,Novell,PERL,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:08 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Yesterday marked this blog’s ten year anniversary.

In ten years, I’ve made more than 1,700 posts and had more than 1,900 comments, many of those from years when I blogged almost every day.  But, it was ten years ago when I uploaded my first entry. I edited it in a text editor of some kind, probably Notepad, and used FTP to push it up to the server. That was back in the days before blogging software and when most of us still called them journals or diaries. I started doing it to try and game the search engines. Mostly, it worked, I think, since the majority of my readers have found me via a search of some kind.

Since that first entry, a lot has changed.
I’ve been through two different kinds of blogging software. After months of doing it by hand, I converted to Moveable Type. I used that for several years, until the Time of the Troubles, when there was a big fuss over how Moveable Type was going to charge for previously free software, even after promising to keep it free forever. Like most converts, I changed over to WordPress, which I still use today. Moveable Type does have a free version, but, frankly, after learning how easy it was to style and customize WordPress, I can’t imagine moving back. Not to mention how much easier it is to make plugins for WordPress. Frankly, I love it.
Ten years ago, I did quite a few entries from the road via my old Palm IIIc with a folding keyboard. I typed them up and then synced that with my PC and pushed the entries from there. That old IIIc doesn’t hold a charge too well any more, but I’m still using the same PC I was ten years ago. Of course, I’ve added a much newer laptop, several other machines, and an iPhone to my technological stable since then. In fact, I was a beta tester for the new iPhone WordPress app!

A lot of other things have changed, too.
For one thing, I married and subsequently divorced the woman I was living with at the time. I’ve changed jobs, count it, five times, finally staying at my current company for about five years. I survived cancer. But, ironically, after several ups and downs with weight, I’m probably in better shape now than I was ten years ago!
Sure, I’d have liked to had a few more dates in the past ten years, but, I think I’ve done okay considering the divorce, not to mention the less than stellar marriage and, you know, the cheating death and all.  You’d be surprised how tired you get dodging the Grim Reaper!

I’ve upgraded my Novell certification at least once in that time as well as added a Linux certification.  My original plan of using this blog to boost my rankings in the search engines has largely paid off, as I’m consistently the number one or number two hit on Google for the search term “network geek”.
In that time, I’ve taught myself Perl, which is a scripting/programming language that’s been called the “duct tape of the Internet”.  In fact, as of this post, I’m a Level 8 PerlMonk.  (It’s a geek thing.) I’ve also gotten reasonably proficient at PHP, since that’s the technology which makes WordPress go.  At least, I’ve gotten good enough to write a few simple plugins and even a rough theme.  Frankly, I hope to do more of that soon, too.

I’ve taken up photography since starting this blog, too, and I think I’ve gotten fairly good at it.  Naturally, there’s room for improvement, as I’ve only been doing it for about two years, but, still, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.  I’m not very artistically skilled, but photography lets me tap into that in a less intimidating way.  I suppose, in a way, so does my obsession with blog themes and logo design.

And, of course, I’ve started several other blogs or websites in the ten years that I’ve had this blog.  But, don’t worry, those sites have been languishing just as badly as this one has the past several months.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, or even had things to write about, but I’ve just been too busy to sit down and do it.
Though, I do have to admit, part of that sort of writer’s block has been about my audience.  I mean, if you hit that search function over in the sidebar, you can get pretty interesting access to my life for the past ten years.  Oh, sure, not everything makes it into the blog, but I’ve been pretty candid posting here.  I try to keep it clean, mostly, and nothing that would embarrass my mother, but, I have been honest enough to shock a few friends.  So, if there’s something you want to know about me, just search for it.  You may be surprised what you find here!

So, wow.
It’s been an interesting experience blogging for the past ten years.  I started before the trend was as huge as it was and kept on even when the shine had worn off for many.  I can say for sure that I didn’t anticipate many of the twists and turns this blog took over the past ten years, much less my life, but it has been an interesting ride.  Many of you have been with me for quite some time now and I appreciate you reading along with me here.
I don’t know what the next ten years will bring here, or elsewhere in life, but I do hope you’d come along for the ride.  I’m sure it will be as big a surprise to me as it is to you!

2/11/2010

Lifetime Security Certification

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Life Goals,Linux,Novell,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

So, I’ve been thinking about getting yet another professional certification.

I’ve been a Certified Novell Engineer for about fifteen years now.  In fact, I upgraded that cert three times after initially certifying back in 1993.  In 2003, I got the CompTIA Linux+ certification.  All at more or less my own expense.  Now, I haven’t heard anything about Novell updating their certification requirements lately, but I suppose it might happen one day.  I don’t think I’ll pay to re-up that cert, though.  I haven’t really used Novell in any significant sense for about five years now, so there’s not much point in maintaining it.
The lack of continuing education requirement is one of the things I liked about getting the CompTIA Linux+ certification.  One test, one cert, for life.  It seemed like a good idea to me, a good investment.  About the time I ended up getting divorced, I gave up on studying for the CompTIA Security+ certification.  There seemed plenty of time.  Well, as it turns out, there may not be after all.

Earlier this year, CompTIA announced that there would be continuing education requirements for several of their certifications.  Well, the great mass of IT professionals raised such a hue and cry about it that they modified that stance somewhat.  We not have until the end of this year to get the certifications if we want to escape the re-up requirements.  That goes for the A+, the Network+ and, yes, the Security+ certifications.
So, it looks like I’ll be buying the Exam Cram Security+ book and, probably, investing in the SelfTest Software pre-exam study software, too.  It’s not that big an investment monetarily, but I suspect it will be a little more difficult to knuckle down and study to take the test.  I haven’t worked at that sort of thing for quite some time now, and I’m almost afraid I’ve forgotten how!

Of course, the real question is, in a way, whether or not it’s even worth getting the certification at all.  I mean, it just sucks me even deeper into the bottomless pit that is the IT profession.  It’s a never-ending treadmill of oppressive hours and thankless work that few people truly appreciate.  Of course, it does pay pretty well.  And, it does beat digging ditches.  Most days.
Naturally, my hope is that the Security+ certification will make me more marketable in the long-term, should something happen to my current job.  Not that I think that’s likely, but still, it never hurts to be prepared.  And, frankly, security is going to continue to be a big issue going forward, so getting this particular certification surely can’t hurt my resume any.

Over all, the investment is small for the potential return.  And, it will probably do me good to stretch my poor, feeble, little mind to work at something like this again.
Besides, I may know a beautiful, young college student or two who could help me study.
Stranger things have happened!

2/9/2009

MCSE is too easy

Filed under: Certification,Life Goals,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

No, really, it’s way, way too easy.

Why do I say that? Because an eight-year old has just become an MCSE.
Look, there’s a lot of debate in the industry around how valuable certifications really are. Most of us know that the only real value that certifications have are to get you past Human Resources and in front of a hiring manager who actually knows the technical side well enough to know if you’re really qualified. Sure, I’ve got my Novell and a Linux certification and, yes, that attracts Headhunters who have to sort us some way, but they’re not an accurate measure of what I can really do. I’ve never bothered to get my Microsoft certifications, though I probably should. I haven’t bothered because they’ve got the worst reputation for being so-called paper certifications. It’s possible to get them without ever having touched a machine with Microsoft systems installed on it at all. A point proven by an eight-year old completing the certification.
What is wrong with that picture Microsoft?

1/14/2009

Network Geekery the right gig after all?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

It turns out, yes.

So, apparently, being a professional network geek is one of the sexy jobs to train for in 2009, according to an article on MSN Encarta. Which means that, as frustrating as my job can be some days, it’s apparently a good gig to have. Hunh, who knew?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"After a time, you may find that 'having' is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as 'wanting.' It is not logical, but it is often true."
   --Spock, "Amok Time," stardate 3372.7..

12/18/2008

Novell Cancels BrainShare

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Whoa!

Okay, this is for the geeks, specifically for the Netware geeks, like me. Novell has canceled next year’s BrainShare. It’s not clear whether this is just due to a really bad economic situation this year, or whether this will be permanent, but, after 20 years, Novell has canceled their premier convention/training session/user-conference. It does not give me a good feeling for the future of Novell or Netware in general. (If you’re interested, you can read the actual announcement here: Novell BrainShare.)

Wow.
I’m just so shocked I’m not sure what else to say.

Netware was the first real, viable Local Area Network operating system that wasn’t UNIX or some other mainframe system. Yes, there were others, Banyan VINES, SCO XENIX, and even the early Windows Server, but none were as robust and easy to use in those early days as Novell’s Netware. And, you could load it on what was basically a high-powered desktop machine. It might not run well on that, but you could do it.
Novell was the first certification I got when I was new to the network-geek-game. Back in the day, Netware was the thing to know. Now, it seems like a dead, or dying, technology. Now, we’re all learning Linux and UNIX, which, of course, was what Netware was modeled after. Wow, the times, they are a changing.

So, if you’re a fellow network geek like me, I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments. I have to say, I’m really shocked by this news. It cannot mean good things for Novell, even if they only cancel for this year and start up again next year.

11/1/2008

GroupWise twice as stable

Filed under: Certification,E-Mail Entry,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Even though I use Microsoft Windows Server 2003 at work, I’m an unabashed Novell fan.

This is a total geek-out post, so if you’re not into server operating systems or e-mail systems or if up-time doesn’t matter in your world, ignore it, okay?

Now, for the few of you who are left, let me emphasize, I am a total Novell fanboy.  I mean, I totally drank the Kool-Aid on this one, okay?  I don’t have a Novell tattoo or anything, but I have been a Novell Certified Engineer since Jesus was a baby.  And, I’ve maintained that certification through the years, even though I have to admit, we’re kind of hitting the law of diminishing returns here.
Novell’s e-mail solution is called Groupwise.  It started out life as something else, but it’s been improved to a very reliable, stable platform that was actually pretty easy to maintain.  Of course, that’s relative when it comes to e-mail packages, but it was a good trade off between ease-of-use and robustness that made it a really nice solution.  And, obviously, it integrated very cleanly into the rest of Novell’s network management systems.  So, once it was all setup right, you could make a user and a new e-mail account in pretty much the same step.  I loved it.

Naturally, there was always a rivalry between Novell and Microsoft.  They each fired shots back and forth about who had the better, more reliable product.  Die-hards like me always argued in favor of Groupwise.  Guess what?  It turns out, we were right!  Google did some testing and polling and compared e-mail packages.  Naturally, they came out as the most reliable system, though, if they lock your account, good luck getting it unlocked again.  But, go to their blog entry about their e-mail findings and scroll down until you get to the graphic.  Go ahead, click the link and look at the graphic.  I’ll wait.
Did you notice the shortest bar, next to Gmail?  Yeah, Novell’s Groupwise.
Groupwise, on average, has half the down-time of a Microsoft Exchange system.  Half!  And, I bet if you loaded it in a multiserver configuration, or even a Linux server, that number would drop even more.  But, still, half as much downtime as Exchange!

So, why don’t more people use it?

8/4/2008

SCO Owes Novell

Filed under: Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:28 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Finally a little justice!

Man, this trial has dragged out for years and years and years! But, in spite of apparently basing their entire income structure on suing people for copyright infringement, SCO now owes Novell $2.5 million dollars for doing just that. You’d think that a company that ended up primarily made of, and run by, lawyers would have been pretty careful in regards to the lawsuits they exposed themselves to if they planned on extorting money from people for intellectually property infringement. Well, I would, at any rate.

(Yeah, I know this is kind of old news, but, hell, I’ve been busy and this slipped by me until now.)

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