The End of Year Career Evaluation

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  • Hey Steve, this is an excellent article to help close out 2022. I often think about ways of improving my career, so this fits in nicely. I like your disciplined approach. I'm going to use it.

    I do have a question I'd like to ask everyone. I've taken courses to learn new technologies from Pluralsight and LinkedIn Learning. This has been great, but I have learned the need to be able to practice what I've learned. I cannot do that, in my job. I've mentioned before that many people where I work don't want to learn anything new. Not being able to practice what one learned really hurts. It has hurt me as recently as last week when I interviewed for a new position but didn't get it. I have 90% of the skills required, it's just that extra 10% that I lack, which was enough to have me no longer be considered. And I'm not trying to use cutting edge technologies. I'm just trying to use what is currently available and has been for a few years now.

    What I need to do to practice what I learn, is to have the infrastructure in place. The technologies we use at work are 10 years old or older. And I am not an infrastructure person. Nor can I afford to buy a Windows Server to set up an environment which is current. So, how does one gain experience at a technology, when you cannot practice it at work?


  • Rod, sorry you didn't get the job, but glad you're working on improving.

    Work can certainly be hit and miss, and I think if your employer doesn't use newer tech at all, it's tough. I would continue to lightly make the case, not argue, but suggest that improvements in some areas can help. That might move things, though very slowly. If nothing else, you're working on your communication and leadership skills by trying to get the boss to do something.

    However, at home, the best way to practice that I know is pick a real project and treat as if it's a job. Obviously slower and smaller scale than it might be at work, but still with the same rigorous approach you'd take at work.

    For example, if you want to work with Windows Server 2022 at home and build a domain, then treat this as if you were doing it at work. You don't need a lot of machines to do this. You can use free virtualization (Xen/virtualbox/etc) to set up "machines", even on a relatively modest home setup. Bring these up, create accounts, work on managing a domain. It's slow, and it can be frustrating when the machine crawls, but you can do this.

    Lots of people have had to purchase their own tools and invest in themselves, even in modest ways. Mechanics go to harbor freight rather than Craftsman. Carpenters look for used tools. Us Tech people can look for deals and make modest investments in hardware that allow us to simulate machines. There are some free tools and resources, like the free $150 you can get from Azure ( or AWS ( Use what you can and work at a smaller scale, but practice.

    Then document. Write a blog on your experiences, what you learn, etc. Do this in Word if you want, but do this so that when someone wants to interview you, you can show your efforts, give them something that shows you're making this effort. A bunch of things you've written, especially online, show that you're motivated and trying, which is impressive to hiring managers.

    It's not perfect.  Some people will only think that if you haven't done this in a Fortune 500 company, you don't have experience, but more and more, companies do need to hire, and they need people willing to learn if they can't find experienced people. It's hard to prove you're willing to learn from a resume and interview, but you can show this by your efforts.

  • Rod,

    My approach to infrastructure in the home environment started with Virtual Box to build VMs with the tech I needed. More recently I have focussed on learning about Docker and building docker containers.

    Anything that lets you play around at low cost and can be ring-fenced to prevent you trashing your physical (as opposed to your virtual) setup.

    In all honesty, I think if you have 90% of what a job demands then you are probably aiming too low.  Also, a potential employer who rejects you on the grounds that you only have 90% is either daft or making excuses.

    One thing I am finding is that for all its reputation for fast change, IT seems to consist of new things that are strangely familiar.

    Bucky Woody said that if you want to annoy the NOSQL crowd, simply say "Ah, COBOL flat files".  Funny, and once that thought has been put in your head you can't unthink it.

    How confident are you that you can pick things up quickly?  That is the selling point, as is the fact that you put your own hard-earned cash into training yourself on Pluralsight.

    I would learn just enough Terraform to be able to spin up and destroy small amounts of infrastructure in the cloud. is a really good Pluralsight content creator.  This makes any experiments repeatable and you can put them under source control.

  • Steve, thank you for your reply as well as the analogy such as craftsmen using Harbor Freight, rather than Craftsman.

    I hadn't thought about documenting/blogging my trip to try to upskill myself. I guess I could do that, but boy, looking over what I've tried in the last few years, I see starts in one direction, which I realized wouldn't pay off eventually (for me, at least), so then abandoning that to start in a newer direction. Each change, though, has been good because my understanding of why I'm changing and what the new direction leads me to, is good. In other words, I've not made radical changes; seeing that what I thought would help me, won't, so narrowing my approach.

    Doing something in the cloud I see as being beneficial. I wasn't aware of the two links you gave for helping one get going with either Azure or AWS. I do know that 5 years ago I would have selected creating VMs, whereas today a container approach is better and certainly (so I understand) cheaper.

    Challenging thoughts. Thank you.


  • Hi David,

    Thank you for your reply! I do have a newer (less than a year) desktop PC with 32 GB of RAM as a 2 TB SSD with another 2 TV HD drives. So, I should have enough to get started at. As I said in my response to Steve, I think I'll try using containers, rather than VMs. However, at this point I don't see the need to learn Kubernetes. I know that's a hot topic, but I only see myself using one Docker container at a time; so K8s seems like overkill.

    I don't know Bucky Woody, but I love that quote of his. That's great!


  • My year end evaluation:  "Wow, was I ever lucky!"  My IT career began in 1969 when my friend Robert Maple invited me to visit him at Bendix Corporation in South Bend, Indiana.  That was the first time in my life I had ever seen a computer.  (I had studied Sociology, Psychology, and Education in undergrad and gradschool).  Sitting in his cubicle he suggested that he have me do some sort of an apptitude test, so we went to a conference room and I did it on the spot.  That was a Monday afternoon.  On Wednesday evening my home phone rang and it was the Bendix HR office calling to offer me a job to come and learn, with a salary increasse of $200 a month.  That may not sound like a lot now, but considering my salary at the time was $450 a month it was gigantic.

    First thing I did was to sit in a 5 half-day class they were having on using Informatics Mark IV.  Then Bob gave me a handful of COBOL manuals to take home and study.

    I've been retired 12 years now.  Over the years I had a couple employer-funded classes, but mostly picked up entry-level skills in new things by going to evening classes at three different colleges as my career took me through four states.   I recall in one interview I was asked if I knew FORTRAN.  My response was 'No, but I can have a handle on it by the time I start to work for you'.  At that point Microsoft had a FORTRAN compiler that I bought along with a couple books, and off I went.

    I worked in IT for a total of eight different companies, from family-owned operations to Fortune 500,  in manufacturing, banking, distribution.  My years as a DBA began because I was employed as a 'SQL Developer' where I was doing database design and developing stored procedures to support a group of around eight front-end developers.  Finally I went to my boss and said 'Look, I'm doing the work of a DBA. so I want the title also.'   This finally got me into the salary range for the job I was already doing.  My final years were spent in a corporate group of DBA's responsible for around 50 instances of SQL Server for production, development, and quality control testing.

    In another instance I felt I had been too long without a salary increase, so I prepared a short summary of 'Here is what I contribute and here is what I want' and gave it to my boss.  We had a short meeting where he told me my salary increase had been put in place.

    My other year-end eveluation and encouragement to you all is be aggressive, take care of yourself, keep learning, don't be afraid to change, and don't be afraid to ask for what you want.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by  skeleton567.

    Disaster Recovery = Backup ( Backup ( Your Backup ) )

  • Now for my annual exhortation to you all.  I'm sure you are tired of this...

    Besides your career evaluation it is time for your after-career evaluation too.  Someday you won't have that paycheck coming in regularly.  So take a hard look at what you are DOING FOR YOURSELF in that regard.  From what I'm hearing, company-funded retirement plans are becoming more and more rare.

    Back in the 90's I decided I had to take serious action.  My method was fairly simple.  Each time I had earned a salary increase, I figured what the net would be after taxes.  Then I increased my voluntary retirement investment by that amount, before we became accustomed to having the additional income.

    This has worked so well that the past several years I have actualy had to withdraw funds and pay the tax even when I didn't need to take out the funds.   So I withdraw, pay the tax, and reinvest.  Over the years I have utilized 24 different retirement fund sources, the first of which was an investment my Dad began for me 79 years ago.   Every year I send them a little money, and they give me more back in return.


    Disaster Recovery = Backup ( Backup ( Your Backup ) )

  • Good advice, Rick. Everyone should plan for the future in some way, and ensure you are ready to retire.

    I wish all schools did a better job of financial planning for teenagers, drilling into them the need to save something, always.

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