"No matter where you choose to improve your skills, the important thing is to keep improving those skills. As long as you are a technology professional, you need to constantly be learning about the new types of software and platforms that we use."
I recently sat on a plane discussing a spinoff of this topic with another industry professional. We were both joking and commiserating about the growing complexity in what used to be somewhat simple and effective systems. If you look at what has been done to SQL Server and Visual Studio - these were once products that one good techie could grasp, understand and use. Now they are both loaded down with so many "improvements" that I am not sure managers can gauge what parts of them are most useful to their business, and techies have no way to guess what any given job or business will want from them.
Cases in point: We used to manage our source code with Source Safe which was admittedly clunky at times, but it was pretty basic, straightforward and usable. Now we use Team Foundation Server and have already realized its buggy, overly complex, and getting it to do the simplest of tasks sometimes takes weeks to figure out. Or consider the mess I went through last year when I asked a very simple question: We need a reporting tool; which is better to use SSRS or Crystal Reports? I got a different answer from each "eckspurt" I talked to. Some would say they are completely different tools. Others would say SSRS is "better", while still others would say we could do more with Crystal. No one seemed to know any straight answer. (We eventually went with Crystal).
I don't see how any young technologist can do what Steve's editorial suggests with any real world business application - Improve your skills - what skills? Where will those skills be needed? Do you study SSAS like crazy only to find the next SQL job you get, they don't use SSAS? Do you learn to write better SPs and UDFs only to find the next SQL job you get just wants an administrator good with backups and restores? Do you dive headfirst into SQL 2008 only to find most companies in your area who are hiring are staying on 2005 for now?
I'm not sure the "improvements" and "added features" in products like SQL and VS are doing much more than giving MS a way to keep selling us "stuff" that in the end, we don't really need to run our businesses. Worse, even the best techie who studies hard and tries to learn it all has no clue what the next job will really require of his or her skillset.
But what scares me most of all is that in the coming years, am I going to have to hire multiple people to manage what used to be one product - SQL Server. Will I need an SSMS expert, the another SSRS expert, then another SSAS expert...
Whatever happened to the KISS principle? (Answer: it got lost in the drive to keep the revenue stream at MS flowing...)
There's no such thing as dumb questions, only poorly thought-out answers...