Posted by: Ed Tittel
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In the latest issue of its Global e-News newsletter (Issue 99), training and certification prep firm Global Knowledge touts “Eleven Skills Every IT Pro Needs to Succeed.” The story’s author, Randy Mueller, holds Microsoft and Certified Ethical Hacker credentials, and also works as an instructor on the Global Knowledge faculty. I agree with most of the eleven specific items he recommends in his list, including (please note: items 4 and 6 in the following list are omitted on purpose, so I can disagree with their inclusion in a following paragraph):
1. Virtualization and VDI: there’s no denying that virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructures are taking over IT operations, even in small and medium sized companies.
2. Cloud: I read this morning about a CompTIA study that indicates that “IT departments are … on the edge of major transformation…” where “…the option for cloud solutions … is opening the doors for IT professionals to perform new tasks, or at least perform old tasks in new ways.” The cloud really does change everything, apparently, including IT!
3. Interoperability (networking): making dissimilar heterogeneous platforms, components, and tools “play nice” on modern networks is the cornerstone of what IT professionals must do best today.
5. Wireless: Indeed, most networks already include wireless domains already, and those that do not will surely add some, as newer and faster wireless technologies like 802.11ac and 802.11ad make their way into the marketplace.
7. Security: IT pros have to be security-savvy themselves, and promote as much security awareness in their user populations as they possibly can.
8. Imaging: IT pros must be able to build, manage, deploy, and troubleshoot a library of desktop and server operating system images as part and parcel of what they do, often in conjunction with item 1 (virtualization and VDI).
9. Helpdesk or people skills: I’m not necessarily sure that IT staff must put in a stint at the helpdesk, but it’s essential for them to know how to communicate and interact with users, even when they’re unhappy or hostile, and have the skills needed to help them when help is needed, or requested.
10. Troubleshooting: This ability is truly what separates the pros from the dilettantes, and requires careful observation, documentation, and problem or fault analysis, followed by equally careful and deliberate application of discrete and understood fixes, repairs, or work-arounds. A key component of the IT skillset, no matter what specialized or general subject matter it may also involve.
11. Automation: Mueller’s original heading reads “PowerShell (and other scripting)” and talks about “automating many common administrative tasks.” I agree that a working knowledge of automation is a good thing for all IT professionals, but for those outside the Microsoft world, PowerShell won’t do them much good. I think he also errs in not mentioning the many excellent GUI automation tools (such as OpalisRobot, for example) that can help to automate point-and-click based interfaces as well as command-line stuff, too.
I may quibble with some of the nuances in 9 of these 11 items, but I don’t really want to argue about any of them. I do, however, think that what Randy includes as items 4: Database Administration and Business Intelligence and 6: Disaster Recovery may be a bit over the top. DBA and BI stuff is rightly the focus for a subset of IT professionals who have the right backgrounds and platform knowledge to work those niches. I don’t think that every IT pro necessarily needs to dig into these areas, nor are some of them even likely to get the chance. And while disaster recovery and business continuity are indeed important aspects of the IT services portfolio, I think Randy goes too far when he says that “IT Pros must be able [to] plan, test, and implement a disaster recovery (DR) plan.” Indeed, many or most of them will get involved with implementing, should that ever be required, but many of them will neither work on planning or testing such elaborate and expensive scenarios and staged incidents.
If you ask me, I would rather see Randy include an item on “soft skills” instead of database and BI stuff. By soft skills, I mean verbal and written communication skills, plus people and project management skills. Likewise, I think it would have been more appropriate to subsitute “basic Web and Internet skills,” including basic understanding of HTML, HTTP, Web servers, and online content and information delivery for the disaster recovery elements expressed in item number 6. I would argue that Internet and Web savvy are much more universally-applicable and necessary skills for ALL IT professionals to learn, than the important but more specialized items that they would replace.