A Black Belt in IT

Opinion: Certifications and accreditations show that you care, but nothing takes the place of real-world experience.

Welcome, young student. You have traveled far to learn from the humble yet famous priests of IT. Should you succeed in your studies and gain mastery over our many tests, then you will have been proven worthy to become a true IT professional.

Ah, I see that you come to us after earning many honors, accreditations and certifications. MCSE, CCNP, PMP—the many letters flow from my mouth like e-mails from the outbox of a marketing flack.

Yes, titles are truly impressive. But they mean nothing within the true disciplines of the IT professional. They are but letters on the keyboard. Only by doing, by actually striving against the many hazards and obstacles that arise within a business IT department every day, may you gain true IT wisdom.

The procedures, steps and practices you have learned may work well within the clean environment of the classroom, but in the real world of business IT, they can grind to a scratchy halt like an opened hard drive exposed to a dusty room.

Young student, like a wireless access point that spreads its antennas to welcome connecting laptops, you must open yourself to the actual experiences of a working IT professional.

Take the simple parable of upgrading business systems. You smile, thinking, what could be easier? But like an anti-spam system with many false positives, you are overeager.

The system upgrades will require great coordination among many different groups and IT workers. Did your certification class teach you how to deal with the maverick IT colleagues who try to do everything themselves? Or the business group manager who insists that every legacy application work exactly the same on the upgraded systems?

No class or training course can teach you this. Only the act of doing, of gaining mastery through actual experience, can create an IT professional who can handle these problems as a router handles network packets.

Now, young student, you look puzzled. But we are not asking you to do the impossible, such as walk on rice paper without leaving an impression.

But, now that I think of it, that does bring to mind another parable—that of the evil rootkit, which moves stealthily through company servers and systems without leaving a trace.

Perhaps your security training classes taught you how to identify a system that may have been compromised by a rootkit. The class may have even taught you how to remove the offending rootkit.

But these test systems and scenarios are as unlike a true business system as a 3-D user interface is to the real world.

Tell me, young student, how will you detect unusual rootkit activity from a server that already generates a wide variety of traffic? And how will you clean the rootkit from the server without damaging or losing vital company information?

So, you see, while your many certifications are welcome in that they show that you care to better yourself, in the truly enlightened world of business IT, only experience and knowledge can create an IT professional able to think on his or her feet and creatively respond to challenges and problems that no training course can re-create.

/zimages/4/28571.gifSurvey finds that tech workers are restless. Click here to read more.

And while it has long been true that many of the more foolish masters of IT professionals have sought out workers based solely on these amalgamations of letters, we priests of IT have been working hard to teach the less-enlightened masters the value of true experience when hiring an IT professional.

And though many of the ignorant masters who hire IT workers remain closed off, like a user system with a poorly configured firewall, we finally are seeing some advancement in the hiring of experienced IT professionals.

You see, you have a long road ahead to learn the skills and knowledge to become a true IT professional. I will accept you into my teachings, and, from now on, you will be known as Frogger.

So, Frogger, how will you know when you are ready to leave? You will be ready when you have gained the skills to take the RFID-enabled key card from my hand.

And you also will have access to the secret IT break room—the one with the large-screen TV and the XBox 360. After all, knowledge and inner peace isnt everything.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

/zimages/4/28571.gifFor reader reaction to this column, click here.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIOInsight.com.