This morning just after 7 AM, we dropped my son Gregory off for his first day of third grade at his local elementary school. And no sooner did we return home than my wife headed out to Austin Community College to try to wangle her way into the first day of some language classes she wanted to take, but was unable to pre-register for. She’s not home yet, so I can only assume she’s in the classroom for the first of her two classes today. All of this has got me thinking about the “back to school” state and what it can mean for IT professionals.
Even for IT professionals who already have a bachelor’s (or perhaps a more advanced degree) an occasional return to school can be a good thing. It can provide access to current technical or professional information in a structured setting, help keep your mind and learning skills sharp, provide another source of potentially valuable networking with fellow students and faculty, and give you a chance to try on new subjects, ideas, and perspectives. These intermittent forays into learning can also occur online as well, and are often available at very reasonable costs on schedules flexible enough to shoehorn themselves into busy, modern, working lives.
For some certification topics — especially those that benefit from (or require) hands-on access to complex systems or devices — classroom or online training may be the only way to make sufficient progress to master the curriculum (or like many Oracle or VMware credentials, meet stated certification requirements that mandate attendance at authorized training of some kind). That’s why even older professionals with multiple degrees should still be willing to contemplate a return to the classroom for continuing education and professional development. Simply put: while it isn’t free, it can’t hurt, and it might actually help your career and to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.
As for myself, at age 60, I’m unlikely to chase any more degrees but I can’t rule out a back to school experience for myself, either. There are plenty of classes I would like to take — yes, even in the classroom, though there are many more high-quality online encounters also available nowadays as well — even now, in the final phase of my working life (I’ve had a part- or full time job continuously for the past 44 years, I now realize to my astonishment and amazement). My own interests lean toward technical and certification topics, but I’m as likely to be in front of the classroom nowadays, as I am to be sitting in a student’s chair (I’m flirting with TrainSignal right now, who’ve asked to talk to me about teaching Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 classes, for example). But to keep a long and productive career moving, I am still ready to head back to school myself from time to time. You might try it, too!