One of my three sons is a financial analyst who manages millions of dollars for his employer. He told the family in March that October would be the time when the financial markets would collapse, and he told us why. We thought he was a bit out of his mind, but heck, we love him, so we listened and nodded our heads and hoped he was wrong.
Now I'm caught between pride at his forecasting abilities and fear of what's happening across the US and around the world. How do I deal with my fear? By doing research—which means I've read numerous blogs and articles that advise how to get through these uncertain times.
One tip I like, but which I'm not sure about the practicality of executing, is that IT pros should focus on keeping their skills current and adding new skills. To me, that's always meant going back to school, which, even if you go at night or online, can get expensive unless your employer is footing the bill.
But this week, I had this major little epiphany, this moment of "Duh": Hey, why not do it yourself? Why put your learning goals in your employer's lap or a college's? There's a strong history of DIY training among IT pros. I know several who regularly create their own learning plan for what skills or knowledge they want to acquire, then plot out a timetable of steps to achieve it, setting aside time for study in the morning before work or in the evening before bedtime.
I can't say what will work for you, but it seems to me that an hour or two of focused attention every day can pay off in a few months, depending on the skills and knowledge you want to acquire. You're lucky, being in IT—numerous resources exist online to help you, from Microsoft's virtual labs to how-to articles, white papers, e-books, podcasts, and videos from Windows IT Pro, among many others.
I've been enjoying the little snippets of knowledge John Savill offers in his FAQs, especially the down-and-dirty facts that are easy to digest during my lunch break: http://windowsitpro.com/authors/authorid/198/john-savill.html.
I've also recently discovered his webcasts, where he takes you step by step through technology, like his recent video "How to Use the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator Command-Line Interface," at http://www.ittv.net/VideoPlayer/tabid/57/VideoId/107/How-To-Use-The-Microsoft-ISCSI-Initiator-CommandLine-Interface.aspx. (Okay, I'll admit it--I'm a sucker for his British accent.)
One thing I DO know is that IT people are wickedly resourceful when it comes to learning. It's amazing how you figure out how to deal with technology that didn't even exist a few years ago—as well as successfully deal with bugs, crashes, upgrades, crazy managers, clueless users, low budgets, and uncertainty.
So maybe I should be asking YOU for advice (though you might be too busy putting out fires to give it—I understand completely). Still, I'm curious about how you are getting by in these chaotic times. I'm also curious if there's anything the editors and writers and readers of this website and magazine could do to help you do it better.