Certification helps keep your IT career going strong
There are probably moments when professionals in just about any field of endeavor take some time to evaluate their career momentum and look for the accelerator. If you're standing still, then life — and work — are passing you by. This is almost certainly even more true in the IT realm than elsewhere, as advancing technology constantly changes the rules and redraws the playing field. Depending on where you work, it can feel like you never stop running to keep up. There are certainly some IT skills that don't become obsolete overnight. Even with IT's more enduring niches, however, it's healthy to assume that the burden of learning is one that can never entirely be set aside.
One of the most imporant means of staying relevant in IT is certification. Building and maintaining a strong certification portfolio provides the ongoing education that's essential to keeping up with the industry. A recent article by CIO managing editor Rich Hein lists several means of ensuring IT career longevity. Hein doesn't exactly bang the drum for certification, but he does emphasize the importance of keeping an open and active mind in a section under the heading "Always Be Learning." "There are many ways to stay current," Hein writes, "like a formal college environment or a certification course for example."
Included among Hein's other keys to staying in the game is a different kind of learning: knowing the ABCs of business. It's a fairly common observation in the IT realm that having a strong knowledge of programming, or networking, or software engineering, doesn't necessarily equate with understanding how business works. After all, even IT businesses are, first and foremost, businesses. This is another area where certification can help, as a number of IT companies offer nearly as many business credentials as purely tech-driven credentials. (Cisco's recently launched Enterprise IT Business Specialist cert is one example.)
Hein also emphasizes the importance of being adaptable, as well as staying abreast of the industry by both engaging in regular reading (of industry-targeted websites, journals, blogs, magazines and more) and attending IT conferences and conventions (which are legion). Hein also points out that while it's commonly assumed (and largely true) that tech companies are staffed by men in their 20s and early 30s, there are IT opportunities everywhere. IT touches everything, so even industries that don't have very many (or any) business addresses in Silicon Valley can offer a career that will keep you on your toes for years to come.