Use virtualization technology training, conferences to develop skills

Virtualization technology training courses and certifications can help you develop your skills, as can attending virtualization conferences, our Advisory Board members say.

Virtualization skills are in high demand as IT departments look to server virtualization to help reduce costs and improve management.

IT managers and systems administrators should continually develop their virtualization skills to make themselves more marketable. There are several different ways to stay up to date on the latest trends in the market; signing up for virtualization technology training courses, earning virtualization certifications and attending virtualization conferences are among the most popular.

Members of the Server Virtualization Advisory Board shared their tips for developing virtualization skills in their responses to this question:

What are the best ways to keep your virtualization skills up to date, and are sometimes-costly virtualization certifications worth their price tags?

CJ Metz, Orange County United Way

I like to keep my skills up to date by attending at least two virtualization events per year. This year, for example, I attended TechEd 2009, mainly focusing on Microsoft VDI and Hyper-V, and coming up I will be attending a local VMware event. You cannot rival the opportunity to actually speak to the developers and pros up front and in person. It is also extremely cost effective when compared to in-class training.

As for virtualization certifications, I myself have one in VMware and believe that, if utilized appropriately, they can be very much worth their cost. If, for example, you are new to virtualization and know which solution you want to go with -- but not more than that -- a certification is the right route. If, however, you have been working with your virtualization product for a while and just need specific answers to specific questions, then conferences, the Internet and your personal network are much more appropriate and cost effective.

Eric Siebert, Boston Market

The main methods for me are reading and doing. By "reading," I mean reading through product documentation and other resources to find out more. But that only gets you so far. Some of the best information comes from reading about other people's experiences, as well as blogs and websites and books written by experienced virtualization veterans.

By "doing," I mean hands-on experience. By combining reading and doing, you really help your knowledge and experience grow.

Another great method is writing. Researching what you are writing about is the best way to learn about something. So if you aren't doing it already, try starting a blog or website.

I've never been a big fan of certifications. The IT industry puts too much emphasis on them. They're mainly useful when job hunting, or for consulting companies to show that their people are certified. Certifications don't really show a person's experience, just the fact that they passed a test. And their costly price tags are just another way for companies to make money.

Dave Sobel, Evolve Technologies

Keeping your virtualization skills up to date is going to be key as the industry continues to move forward at a rapid pace. I have some specific things that you can do to keep on top of things.

First, make sure you're keeping on top of the certifications from the vendors you embrace. Each vendor will have a program of classes and certifications you can take. These are sometimes pricey but are often required to participate in partner programs and to acquire valuable marketing development funds (MDF). Vendors will invest in the solution providers who commit to them, so certifications are important to gauge this commitment. Stay on top of their certifications, and make sure to stay on top of the MDF available in their programs to offset the costs.

Next, continue to read online resources. Blogs, newsletters and news sites will provide valuable insight into the industry's direction and challenge your ideas. Don't only subscribe to sites for your vendors; read others too, to see what the competition is doing and how the industry might change. If you only stay with one perspective, you'll be surprised when something changes. If you're a VMWare shop, read a few Microsoft blogs. If you're a Microsoft partner, make sure to read VMWare. If you do both, read up on Citrix and Oracle and Parallels. Don't be surprised by a move in the industry.

Finally, get some lab time. Products are available for free to try. If you aren't trying something, your skills are getting rusty. Invest in some training time to make sure things work as you expect. Set aside some time to build something. That hands-on time will let you work through real-world scenarios and make sure you know what you're doing.

Have a question for the Server Virtualization Advisory Board? Email Colin Steele, Site Editor.

This was last published in October 2009

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