It's no secret that the technology industry has experienced unprecedented change, and continues to each day. As such, staying relevant with the right training and certification is as important as ever. But where to start? Where to focus? I discussed some of the key trends with Chris Pirie, general manager of sales and marketing for Microsoft Learning, to get his thoughts and advice for today's IT workers.

 

Windows 7 Certifications Skyrocket
The first trend that Pirie emphasized is that Windows 7 certification is taking off. With the rapid rate that organizations are migrating over to Windows 7, becoming familiar with the new OS is absolutely critical to just about any IT pro that works on Windows systems.

 

"Windows 7, in terms of course material, went straight to the top of most consumed courses, much more quickly than other technology we've seen. The adoption of Windows 7 is very very high, and it's a similar story for the certification track," said Pirie.

 

IT Skills Shortage Imminent
Good news for IT workers struggling with today's economy: IDC is predicting a massive skill shortage in the coming years. Between today and 2013, IDC predicts a shortage of 5.8 million jobs. It might not feel like it in your area or field, but the need for IT workers is still strong, and should grow as organizations start rolling out the latest systems.

 

"This might sound counterintuitive when everybody's talking about a jobless recovery, and we've seen the tough hiring environment around the world for the last 18 months. Nevertheless, IDC is solid on its projections around the skill shortage in our industry. And it's partly due to demographics, with a lot of people expected to retire—the sort of first generation of IT workers if you like," Pirie said. "And it's also around the compelling nature of a career in IT. If you go back to the end of the last century, there was a real gold rush to our industry with the dot com boom and Y2K stories going around. People flocked to the industry. There's a lot of concern now that the post-Y2K slump tarnished the career in IT as an exciting place to be."

 

Steps You Can Take Today
So we have a rough economy, no clear cut end in sight, and yet the statistics say things are looking up. But what can you do today to "catch the wave" and push through this period in a far better place career-wise? Below are Pirie's recommendations.

  • Get into Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. "Make sure you're on top of Windows 7. We have a Windows 7 Learning Portal, which can take you all the way from, 'Hey I'm brand new to computing' all the way through, 'I'm doing broad deployments across my company.' Microsoft is anticipating a phenomenal wave of desktop refreshes. Understand how policy works, how security works (BitLocker). Also, Windows Server 2008—we expect a wave of deployment upgrades, so make sure you're on top of the basic hygiene things. "
  • Understand the implications of the cloud. "Understand Azure, and more than anything else, by staying current on our technology, you're going to understand the options available to you, and that's an exciting opportunity for people in our industry in what decisions get made in using the cloud partially or wherever. One particular areas it serves up is security—security gets a little more complex when you have data in multiple places. Access is another one: which people accessing data on site and in the cloud. Those are the areas that IT pros need to be up to date on. "
  • Make clear plans for your career, today and in the future. "The third thing that I would say is really think about your career. We have a career portal at Microsoft Learning that really helps you understand the jobs that map technology to careers. Nobody cares more about your career than you, and if you care about your career be a lifelong learner and really stay current on technology. I think that's really our core message."