The Spiceworks Review: It’s never too late to learn new skills

Our monthly roundup of the best discussions on the online community, from going back to school to learning from the “school of hard knocks.”

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The school year is now reaching the mid-term point, and it seems Spiceheads have education on the brain — or thoughts of furthering their careers, learning from failure and getting ahead of the game by being more proactive with IT needs.

Spicehead Don Miller, who has worked in IT for 19 years, explains why he’s hitting the books and heading back to college at 50.

“After supporting just one network for the last 10 years, I felt like I’d lost some of my skillset and hadn’t kept up with technology,” he says. “I looked for training opportunities, but my employer wasn’t really excited about paying for some of the boot camps.”

That’s when he started exploring colleges. While it hasn’t been easy working toward his degree in information technology (with a network administrator focus) while working full-time, he’ll graduate with his MCSE, Security+, A+, Network+ and Project+ certifications, as well as being a certified web developer.

“My goal is to take my 20 years of IT experience and my new degree and become an IT manager or CIO with a larger organization,” he says. “At almost 50, I feel like I’m getting too old to keep crawling under people’s desks.”

But, as IT manager Mark3624 points out, at the management level you tend to need a wholly different set of skills — and those tend to be ones that aren’t as easy to quantify by paperwork.

“Where paper skills are required they’re more likely to be specific to the business you finally find a role within and the range is so diverse it would be difficult to pre-empt unless you’re shooting for a narrow range of companies to move to,” he says.

So what makes a good manager, aside from certifications? Scott Abel, cofounder of Spiceworks (who spent nine years as CEO and recently stepped down to focus on product strategy and culture), shared his top four management tips.

One of these tips is to fail openly: “We have a saying: ‘Fail fast, fail cheap.’ But that’s hard if there’s a culture of blame. Your job is to dispel that and show that you can learn from your mistakes.”

WeirdFish agrees. Years ago, his organization distributed “motivational” signs, including the “failure is not an option” cliché. So staff covered up the “not” as a joke — but the more they thought about it, the more it rang true. “Whether it’s the proverbial beating of the dead horse or pursuing an incorrect strategy, failure is always an option,” says WeirdFish. “Cut the losses, and try something different.”

In another thread, Spiceheads discussed how failure has helped them succeed.

“Without failure, we do not know what success looks and feels like,” says Capnsplody, aka group admin Gerry Elgart-Fail. “I tend to dissect my failures after they occur to see what missteps I took. Understanding what went awry can greatly increase your understanding of your own abilities or how you make choices.”

And Mitch Blackburn says sometimes that “event,” whatever you choose to call it, is the “nudge/shove/kick that drives you to look at something differently, or try a new angle. It gets you out of your comfort zone.”

Spiceheads were also looking for the best professional IT organizations for networking and how to get more proactive to IT needs.

“After a recent failure that may have been prevented with some replacement scheduling, I’m wanting to find more ways to become more proactive and less reactive to IT needs,” says Snyper82.

From alerting and automation to patch management and trending tickets, Spiceheads had plenty of useful suggestions. Rav7027 even came up with a “self empowerment solution” for users to resolve common issues, so he could focus on more important tasks.

This month’s lesson? It’s never too late to learn — whether it’s learning how to be more proactive or learning to make the transition from techie to CIO.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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