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Reimagining the IT Pro's 'Week of Training'

Training has come a long way...make sure you consider all options when planning your staff improvement.

It's been a staple of the IT industry for as long as there's been an IT industry. So culturally ingrained, it has evolved past privilege and become almost the right of every IT professional. Whether troubleshooting problems as a field tech, answering phones at the help desk or managing teams of others, the IT pro's annual week of training represents a once-a-year opportunity to boost the skill set.

Over the years, delivering that week of training has taken a range of forms, with entire industries springing up in support. Its most traditional setting involves a manual, an instructor and a week of labs occasionally interspersed with lecture and discussion. This classic classroom training approach has served the industry for years, enlightening legions of students with deep content and hands-on exposure.

Opposite in form, but no less effective, are the IT conferences. The big ones are held by IT's biggest vendors. These spectacles gather thousands of professionals for a week of sessions and expo-hall publicity. Far different from the classroom, the IT conference favors networking, tips and tricks, and a "what's new" focus in place of heads-down learning on a single topic.

New Choices
For a long time, these two opposing approaches encompassed our only options for training IT professionals. Your choice was simple: Seek the classroom for deep instruction on a single topic or travel to the conference for a broad technology update. Go wide or go deep, but choose one way or the other.

Yet our industry is growing and evolving as it ages. So with it evolve the options for supplying that week to the needy IT professional. New delivery methods, some less obvious, now serve to bridge the wide-versus-deep divide.

One option takes a personalized approach, in that it offers a form of classroom training, but at your facility and populated exclusively with your staff. A combination of training, mentoring and hands-on labs, this delivery method also adds a measure of consulting to the experience. It also delivers the trainer to your facility rather than sending your team elsewhere. [Full disclosure: The author's company, Concentrated Technology, is a provider of personalized training. -- Ed.]

A second option seeks the happiest medium between the breadth of industry conference and the depth gained in the classroom setting. Call them independent shows or deep-dive conferences -- these events gather IT professionals from across a city, a region or the nation for a collection of short-form sessions plus long-form classroom instruction.

What's different? Most notable is who's holding the conference. These shows aren't held by the vendors selling you products but by the trainers educating you on them. That independence enables trainers to talk tough about technologies that don't work among those that do, providing a real-world perspective not often found at the big shows. This magazine's publisher sponsors events such as TechMentor (IT pros), Campus Technology (higher education) and FOSE (government), among others, which fit this more intimate and independent mold. Other media outlets hold similar engagements throughout the year.

A third form is computer-based training. Each online training provider brings a unique style to training delivery. Some focus heavily on production, ensuring every second of video delivers a consistent quality. Others prefer a more raw approach, trading movie-like production for trainer control over the learning experience. Neither method is necessarily better than the other, merely different. With a little research, you'll find the style that fits your preference.

Technologies will always change to meet the needs of a changing work environment. So must the training experiences involving them. If the duality of training options previously available didn't meet your needs, consider reimagining not just the training you want, but also its form of delivery. Odds are, these days you're sure to find the format you're looking for.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.


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