Happy New Year. See What We Did, There?

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my articles on this site over the past year. Whether you realized it or not at the time, I set out to write 26 articles related primarily to technology and tech careers; this is the last of ’em. They’ve been interspersed with other observations, which I hope you’ve found somewhat interesting.

If nothing else, I hope you’re considering what your career should look like in 2015 and beyond, and thinking about ways to get it from wherever it is today, to wherever you’d like it to be. One thing’s for certain: the tech world will continue to change and move on with or without us, and it’s up to us to continue to change. It’s by paying attention to the “meta information” in your career that you’ll pull ahead.

I haven’t yet considered what I’ll write about for 2015. I’m open to suggestions, or perhaps I’ll just play it by ear.

Thanks for reading, and please have a safe and happy 2015.

Still… Proud to be an American

As we start to close out 2014, I realize that I’ve traveled a lot this year – almost 100,000 miles by plane alone. This travels have taken me to a number of different countries.

As a well-educated, well-traveled American, it’s easy to be… well, a little apologetic for my country, sometimes. Our 250-ish year history as a country pales next to the centuries-old countries I’ve visited. We’re often the brash upstarts on the world stage, our power and influence often seeming to eclipse our maturity and experience.

I’m always amazed at how in-tune folks form other countries are with American politics, at least at a high level. They all know our President’s name, they know our political parties, and they know the basic issues we’re arguing about at the time. They can’t always fathom why we’re arguing about those things – and they often ask, politely, if I can explain the issues. In most of Western Europe, for example, residents find it inexplicable that we argue about something that they take as basic – like universal healthcare. I explain the history behind our situation, some of the different viewpoints, and point out that we’re not really one big, unified country so much as 50 strongly allied little countries – with all the sense of independence and difference that implies.

I sometimes worry about how US citizens are perceived by citizens of other countries. From the inside, I could see how others would view us as overly militant, possibly belligerent, and probably intolerant of diversity. Many of our citizens never travel outside their own towns, let alone to other countries – and I could see how we’d be viewed, at least in part, as backwater hicks. The sensationalist news feeds coming out of the US probably support those views – our own news rarely shows us at our best, of course.

Read More

Help Me Make Your Help Desk Helpier

I could use your help. In fact, if you could bring this post to the attention of everyone in your IT team, and anyone else in IT you know, I’ll be hugely indebted.

I’ll get straight to the point. In the comments of this post, please provide a simple list of the skills and knowledge you believe someone should have in order to get a job on a company’s entry-level IT team (typically the help desk, and that’s where I’m focusing).

This should not include anything specific to your environment, like custom apps. Imagine there’s a super, world-class “help desk school” out there someplace, and they teach a perfect curriculum, and people are dying to hire their graduates into entry level IT positions. What is it they teach?

Be as specific as possible. For example, don’t write “AD Management,” because you and I both know your help desk isn’t “managing” AD. Perhaps they’re unlocking accounts and resetting passwords – so write that.

Don’t go overboard, either – we’re looking for entry level skills, not the skills you wish the help desk had so that they could do your job for you.

Think about soft skills, too. Phone skills? Conversational skills? Anger suppression skills? What does your help desk, at work, do really well? Write those things down. What do they struggle with? Write those things down – provided they’re in-scope for what an entry-level IT person would be expected to know.

I’m going to run this through the end of January 2015 (so don’t bother adding-on after that), and I appreciate your help. Read on for my reasons behind this, and to offer your input.

If you’re looking for more detail on why I’m doing this, I’ll tell you. I’m massively frustrated that our entire education system funnels kids towards massively expensive four-year college degrees for everything, and acts like there’s simply no way to get a job outside that system. Kids are saddled with $60k or more of debt when they’re just starting out, or they beggar their parents going through a program that usually has zero applicability to what they end up doing. For-profit colleges are raking it in hand over fist, and it’s not fair to our kids. 

The equivalent of a two-year associates certificate from a career college should be sufficient to get someone an entry-level job in IT – and from there, experience will get them a lot further than expensive credit-hours. Unfortunately, most of those two-year programs come from commercial career colleges, which charge upwards of $24k a year for the privilege. Sure, some community colleges do a good job for tons less – but they struggle with funding, and they struggle to find good curricula.

I’m in a position to create a good curriculum, and to populate it with training from some of the industry’s best, and that’s what I want to do. This is kind of a personal mission for me. I didn’t go to college myself, and I took a lot of ribbing for going down a more vocational path, but it’s worked out damn well for me. I love IT, and I think a lot of younger folks would do really well in it – if weediest stopped jamming college down their throats as a solution for everything.

Thanks for your help. I want to make this as practical and as real-world as humanly possible, and knowing what your help desk actually deals with (in a generic sense) will go a long way toward helping. And again, please help me get as many eyes on this as possible. Don’t worry about writing duplicate information, I’ll sort it out.

Again, thanks.

View full post

People who reply with “+1” on a discussion thread are a threat to the continued happiness of all humankind. Deal with them accordingly.