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IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?

I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind

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Storagebod I’m a big fan of data networking blogger Greg Ferro, who writes under the moniker Etherealmind. Greg and I are really on the same page with regards to work/life balance but his latest thoughts on that topic struck a chord with me.

Drawn from his latest blog post, the key part says:

Why am I focused on work life ? After 25 or so years in technology, I have developed some level of mastery. Working on different products is usually just a few days work to come up to speed on the CLI or GUI. Takes a few more weeks to understand some of the subtle tricks. Say a month to be competent, maybe two months.

The harder part is refreshing my knowledge on different technologies – for example, SSL, MPLS, Proxy, HTTP, IPsec, SSL VPN. I often need to refresh my knowledge since it fades from my brain or there is some advancement. IPsec is a good example where DMVPN is a solid advancement but takes a few weeks to update the knowledge to an operational level.

I like that Etherealmind is a good mix of technical and professional advice. Greg's also a good guy to spend an hour or so chatting to; he’s always generous with his time to peers and even when he knows a lot more than you about a subject, you never feel patronised or lectured to.

Now although he is talking about networking technologies, what he says is true about storage technologies - and, actually, pretty much all IT these days. You should be able to become productive on most technologies in a matter of days providing you have the fundamentals. Spend your early days becoming knowledgeable about the underlying principles and avoid vendor-specific traps.

Try not to run a translation layer in your mind. Too many storage admins are translating back to the first array that they worked on, trying to turn hypers and metas into aggregates. They worry about fan-outs without understanding why you have to in some architectures, and not necessarily so in others.

Understanding the underlying principles means that you can evaluate new products that much quicker. You are not working out why product A is better than product B; doing this often results in biases. Instead, you understand why product A is a good fit for your requirement – or, you may come to understand why neither product is a good fit after all.

Instead of “iSCSI bad, FC good” you will develop an idea as to the appropriate use case for each technology.

In short, you will become more useful … and you will find that you are less resistant to change; it becomes less stressful and easier to manage. Don’t become an EMC dude, become a Storagebod. Don’t become a Linux SysAdmin, be a SysAdmin.

Am I advocating generalism? To a certain extent, yes, but you can become an expert within a limited domain and not a savant for a specific technology.

And a final bit of advice; follow Etherealmind. He talks sense for a network guy! ®

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