You’ve got a niche blog where you write as a deeply technical expert in a IT field such as cloud, networking, storage, development, or security. Your audience is made up of fellow nerds in similar orbits. You’ve been writing for years, and have developed a faithful audience who reads most of your stuff. After all this time, a real-deal vendor appears, wanting to place a sponsored blog post on your hallowed site. Now what?
Life & Career
A list of career-related maxims easy to consume, but challenging to apply.
I was a guest on the February 22, 2022 episode of the So You Wanna Be In IT podcast. I chatted with hosts Pat & Dean about how my career got started. Along the way, we discussed whether or not someone can have a successful IT career without a college degree. Put another way, are IT certifications good enough? I think that yes, you can have a successful IT career without a degree, but that the question, “College degree. Yes or no?” deserves more analysis than a simple yes or no answer offers. Give the episode a listen for more nuance.
After a several minutes of answering her scripted questions, I lost it. I unloaded on this kid. I was yelling over the speakerphone at her. In an open office. With my boss standing next to me. In front of my co-workers and the junior network engineer I was mentoring, all of whom had either also been there all night or come in early to help with testing. In front of everyone else, I just leveled this poor JTAC girl.
I prefer to hire a person who first tries to figure things out. While I want neither a cowboy nor science experiments making their way into production, I do want a motivated individual who will research difficult technical challenges and grow as a result. As that person grows stronger, their team grows stronger as well.
From a technical perspective, I believe a senior IT engineer is primarily differentiated from a junior in one word–experience. The senior engineer has installed more systems, planned more changes, fixed more problems, and survived more outages than a junior engineer in the same organization. Ideally, that experience has led to wisdom about how technology can best serve the business needs of an organization. This wisdom will tend to eschew needlessly complex designs, nerd knobs, and “science experiments” conducted in production. But this post is more about the non-technical skills…
Architects and engineers tend to be introverts who are at times unsure of themselves. We don’t want to be learning in public. We want to be left alone to figure it out. When we’ve figured it out, maybe then will we share, once we’re supremely confident that we’ve got it 110% right. We just don’t need the headache of criticism, controversy, and the “but actually” pedants.
Backups are crucially necessary and incredibly boring all at the same time. We almost never need backups, and so they tend to fall down the task list next to “update interface descriptions to the new standard” and “write the new standard for interface descriptions”. Yet, when disaster strikes, the most important thing in the world might be recovering from that backup data.