Back to school: DIY skills development for IT pros

With autumn approaching and that back-to-school feeling in the air, here’s how to take learning into your own hands — and take your career to the next level.

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Welcome to the era of DIY skills development.

For IT professionals, the days of expecting an employer to provide all the training and education required to perform (or advance in) the job are over. In a 2017 survey conducted by LinkedIn and Spiceworks, 64 per cent of IT pros complained their employers don’t offer enough job training resources.

“This leaves IT pros with one option,” the report concluded. “They must take learning into their own hands. Employers expect workers to be more proactive than ever about their own career advancement, and to take responsibility for continually updating skills needed to succeed.”

The question is: how? With autumn approaching, and that back-to-school feeling in the air, here are just a few resources to check out.


IT courses have been around for ages. What’s new is the number of flexible options available to busy professionals trying to cram training into their demanding schedules. There are courses for individuals, programs for groups, in-person classes, virtual lectures, video tutorials, online quizzes, webinars, practice certification tests and more.

Providers and platforms using various elements or combinations of these formats include ExitCertified, Pluralsight, Global Knowledge, Grey Campus and Udacity, which offers what it calls ‘nanodegrees’ in data science, artificial intelligence, programming, autonomous systems and cloud computing.

Do your homework on any course before signing up. Read student reviews online. Compare costs, course materials, requirements and deadlines. If your goal is a specific IT certification, make sure the course qualifies as a credit towards that.


Attending tech conferences can be expensive and time consuming, so we’re zeroing in on two that focus on upgrading technical skills and developing your IT career path.

The SecTOR infosec conference not only features two days of expert cyber security speakers but also an additional two days of technical training such as IoT hacking, hands-on cloud security and application pen testing. Plus, all courses qualify as continuing ed credits to retain the CISSP certification. SecTOR 2019 runs Oct. 7 to 11 in Toronto.

The aptly named DevCareer Summit is similarly laser-focused on one thing: helping developers advance within IT. Per its website, this event will explore what it takes to be a senior developer, architect, product manager, dev manager or CTO: “What skills and technologies should you learn? How do you acquire project management skills? What career paths have the best outlook for the next decades?” DevCareer Summit is part of the DeveloperWeek conference, which runs Feb. 19 to 24, 2020 in Oakland, CA.


With new tech podcasts springing up every week, it’s daunting to spot one that can actually advance your IT skills and career. Luckily, Stephen Watts has compiled a list of some high-quality ’casts.

One of his recommendations is The Cloudcast, which serves up a main course interview (often revolving around an industry case study like “Etsy’s Big Data Cloud Migration”) with a side dish of the latest cloud news. Clocking in at around 30 minutes per weekly episode, it won’t eat up too much of your time.

Watts also gives a shout-out to The Packet Pushers Weekly Show, described by its creators as “an unabashedly nerdy swan dive into networking technology.” Meaty subjects tackled during recent episodes include “Key Concepts of Intent-Based Networking,” “Enterprise Networking is Dying” and “Certifications Are Dead.”


YouTube has become the world’s virtual classroom — and the tuition is free! If you want to learn more about something (heck, anything), there’s probably a YouTube video for that.

We’re deferring here to a list by Ben Putano. He suggests the Codecourse YouTube channel for code-based tutorials on Javascript, PHP, CSS and HTML5, among others. Playlists include topics like building a Twitter bot, creating an e-commerce shopping cart and diagnosing and detecting code errors.

Putano also recommends Computerphile. On this YouTube channel, you’ll find a mix of the technical (here’s seven minutes on Arduino hardware) and the philosophical (yep, a 14-minute video on “The True Power of the Matrix” complete with Keanu Reeves references).

To hone your so-called ‘soft’ skills, take a look at Udacity’s Ask A Job Coach channel. This YouTube series features videos ranging from “Acing the Job Interview” to “A Day in the Life of a Cloud Engineer,” all specifically tailored to helping IT pros climb the career ladder.

As you can see, IT training and education have moved beyond ‘hitting the books.’ The world has gone omnichannel, and so has skills development for technology professionals.

Images: Rüstem GÜRLER/iStock; JDawnInk/iStock

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