What Makes SV the Hotspot for Technology Startups

The San Francisco Bay Area is perhaps better known as Silicon Valley—the place where multi-billion dollar tech companies are born. SV is the home of household names in technology: Google, Apple, Facebook, HP, Yahoo!, Netflix, eBay, and hundreds more thrive in this area. Tech-leaning entrepreneurs salivate at the prospect of starting up here, and the brightest IT talent flocks to SV in hopes of being snagged by one of the giants.

But why is this particular place Silicon Valley? How does the Bay Area continue to incubate the best and most innovative tech companies that survive for the long haul? Here are a few of the reasons technology lives in SV, and fizzles out in other areas.

The Silicon Valley state of mind       

Many entrepreneurs starting out in SV share a number of similar traits that uniquely position them for unprecedented success. Among them are a willingness to collaborate and a strong competitive drive, as well as openness to innovation, experimentation, and even failure.

But perhaps the most important piece of the SV puzzle is dedication. Innovators and entrepreneurs come to Silicon Valley with the knowledge that building a hugely successful, standout technology company does not happen overnight—and they’re willing to make the long-term commitment that represents the only path to success of Google proportions.

Not for profit—yet

In Silicon Valley—and to some extent Seattle, the only other area to come close with the production of more than one multi-billion-dollar tech giant—profits are often not the first concern of a startup daring to dream big. This idea seems to fly in the face of sound business theory, because why start a business if you’re not going to make money?

That’s not to say that Silicon Valley startups aren’t interested in money. It’s simply not that high on the list of requirements for the earliest stages of the long-term plan. For instance, Facebook and Twitter both focused on growing massive and unprofitable user bases, waiting years before introducing any type of monetization to their networks. Seattle-based global online retail giant Amazon has continually operated in the red since the company’s inception in 1994.

One of the main issues with this type of approach is sustainability. Long-term operation without immediate profit is not only high-risk, but also requires substantial investment of resources. And many non-Silicon Valley investors simply aren’t equipped to provide this type of financial investment, which results in early exits and sellouts in order to turn a profit, rather than staying the required course and placing big bets on developing massive companies.

Truly, madly visionary

Attempting a Silicon Valley style breakout requires a certain level of instability—a kind of systematic irrationality that allows startups and entrepreneurs to disregard logic, pass over sound business decisions, and take chances that from the outside can appear downright disastrous.

Most investors and entrepreneurs, rather than investing ten years or more in building an enormous technology corporation, prefer to grow the company to nine or ten figures and then flip it into a near or mid-term payday. And in perhaps a majority of instances, this is the right choice. Selling a fledgling company to a larger conglomerate provides the personnel and financial resources that can make or break a success. But for many in SV, there’s a greater willingness to roll the dice, and hope the company stands on its own.

One of the most well-known examples of this type of apparent insanity that can ultimately pay off occurred in 2006, when a struggling and unprofitable social network turned down what appeared to be the deal of a lifetime. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was 22 years old, and the company had been launched less than two years before Yahoo! offered $1 billion to buy Facebook.

The company’s three-person board turned down the offer, despite elder advisors’ attempts to convince Zuckerberg to accept. The reason the young CEO gave for their refusal was that Yahoo! “had no definitive idea about the future. They did not properly value things that did not exist, so they were therefore undervaluing the business.”

As it turned out, Zuckerberg’s choice to stick to his guns was the right one. Facebook is now worth more than $200 billion, and the CEO’s personal net worth is over $33 billion.

Success in Silicon Valley hinges on dedication, ambition, and a vision to build a technology company that will be around forever. It’s more than a place—it’s a state of mind that serves as an inspiration for entrepreneurs and startups everywhere.

Top System Administrator Certifications for 2015

System administration is a popular pathway for IT professionals—after all, where there’s an IT department, there’s a need for a SysAdmin. A career as a system administrator requires knowledge and skills in a wide variety of crucial network services and applications. These skills can be demonstrated to potential employers through certifications. But with hundreds of certifications available out there, which ones should you go for?

Technology is constantly evolving, and so is the role of the system administrator. If you’re looking for high employability and a great salary in 2015, here are five of the hottest SysAdmin certifications you should consider to advance your career.

Microsoft MCSA & MCSE: Windows Server

Microsoft needs no introduction. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) is the most popular mid-range IT certification from the software giant, covering just about all IT administrative roles along with specialized roles such as Office 365 and SQL Server. The MCSA is also a prerequisite for any Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification.

For system administrators, the top certifications in Microsoft’s range are those involving enterprise and server administrator level Windows Server. These certifications are in high demand among employers. The MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification is a prerequisite for some of the top MSCE levels for SysAdmin positions, including:

  • MCSE: Server Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Private Cloud

IT pros who hold MCSA: Windows Server 2008 or a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification can upgrade to Windows Server 2012, or directly to one of the specialized MCSE certifications.

LPIC: Linux Professional Institute Certifications

While Windows still dominates the business desktop environment, Linux is a vital skill base for applications, the web and much of the Internet, and cloud-based platforms and environments. Linux certifications are valuable and in high demand among employers, regardless of platform or distribution—because while there are unique training and certification modules available for specific suppliers and vendors like Ubuntu, Mint, and Debian, the LPI certifications are distribution-neutral and can be applied across all platforms.

For most workplaces, the LPIC-2 certification is ideal. LPIC-1 is a prerequisite for the second level. There are LPIC-3 (Mixed Environment) certifications available as well, but most are highly specialized and less frequently demanded. Some of the most wanted skills in the Linux range for system administrators include security and virtualization.

RHCE: Red Hat Certified Engineer

A difficult credential to obtain, the high-level RHCE certification is popular and highly sought-after in HR departments throughout the country. Earning the RHCE involves an intense, hands-on performance exam that takes four hours to complete. However, completing this certification qualifies you for popular and high-paying Red Hat certifications like the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator (RHCVA) and Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA).

VCP5-DCV: VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization

For any system administrator interested in virtualization, VMware certification is a must. This family of certifications is recognized around the world as high-end, best in class credentials that are highly desired by employers.

The entry level certification is the VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization (VCA-DCV), which serves as the prerequisite for the VCP5-DCV. This professional certification is in itself valuable, and holders are qualified for more advanced VMware certifications, including:

  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Advanced Administrator (VCAP-DCA)
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Advanced Design (VCAP-DCD)
  • VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-DCV)

CompTIA Server+

Specializing in must-have, entry-level certifications, CompTIA is a highly recognized credential among IT departments and businesses. The certification for system administrators, CompTIA Server+, is recommended—and in some cases required—by companies like HP, Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Intel, and Xerox for server technicians at any level.

With a vendor-neutral focus and a comprehensive range of foundational server topics, the CompTIA Server+ certification qualifies IT pros for positions as server or network administrators, website administrators, or system engineers. This certification is also a stepping stone for more specialized credentials like the RHCSA or MSCA.

Stay Ahead of the Curve The Importance of Continuing Education in IT

Today’s IT professionals have a wide range of educational levels, from bachelor’s or master’s degrees, to two-year associate or one-year certificate programs, to self-taught pros who may have obtained various certifications. But whether education is obtained in a classroom, through experience, or with a combination of methods, one thing holds true — in the IT industry, there’s always more you can learn.

Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. For IT managers, continuing education is the key to staying on top of the industry, maintaining personal and professional development, and remaining relevant in an ever-shifting work environment. Here’s why every IT manager should strive for ongoing learning and keep up with the latest education available for your industry.

Keep your skills fresh

Most skills continue to improve with experience, but this is not always the case in IT. While real-world practice is typically the best way to strengthen basic skills, ongoing learning is required to stay up-to-date with more specialized skills. Database software tools, network management, and even operating systems are constantly evolving, and industry best practices change as the tools and systems advance.

Unfortunately, no amount of experience will help you sharpen a skill set you don’t already have — so continuing education is a requirement to learn new systems, tools, and features that can help you advance your career.

Refresher courses are also invaluable for ensuring that your credentials and certifications remain current, and that you’re informed about the latest developments in your areas of expertise.

Increase your professional value

The IT job market is tougher than ever. Even if you’re satisfied with your current position, there are any number of reasons you may find yourself looking for a new job—from downsizing or restructuring, to your organization closing its doors, or even a personal decision to seek a better career.

Continuing education is an investment in your value as an IT professional. By expanding your skills and knowledge base, while ensuring that your existing skill set remains current and up-to-date, you’ll be able to stand out among other professionals at your level. And if you re-enter the job market, you’ll be well-positioned to get hired quickly by the company of your choice.

Further your IT career

Hard work and technical knowledge are the building blocks of a successful IT career. But in order to move up the ranks of IT management, today’s pros must have more than technical skills. IT leaders are increasingly expected to not only have strong proficiency in the tech areas they work with, but also have excellent soft skills. Often, these non-technical skills are the deciding factor for who gets promoted to the next level.

Ongoing education and personal development can help you improve your soft skills and gain a more rounded skill set that’s best suited for senior leadership positions. Some of the soft skills IT managers need for success include:

  • Communication: The ability to communicate well with team members, peers, and the C-suite, and to explain complex technical terms in language that non-tech people can understand.
  • Presentation: Successful IT leaders are able to make compelling presentations that sway decision-makers, such as executives and board members, to gain support for IT initiatives within the company.
  • Talent management: Even in organizations where HR is responsible for recruiting, strong IT managers should understand the basics of attracting and retaining talent, and participate in the process where applicable.
  • Critical thinking and decision making: A great IT leader will be able to solve problems efficiently and make the right decisions quickly.

There are many beneficial soft skills for IT managers, and many training and educational programs designed to help leaders improve these skills and advance their careers. Continuing education is a necessity for any IT professional looking to remain relevant, viable, and on top of the game in today’s fast-paced technical landscape.

Why Diversifying Your Skill Set in IT May Not Be the Best Idea

The general wisdom for job candidates states that having a diverse skill set is an advantage. The more you’re able to do, the broader your potential qualifications are for a wider range of jobs. But when it comes to the IT industry, diversification may actually work against you in your job search.

In many cases, it’s better to focus on and improve a particular set of tech skills, specializing in a certain area rather than attempting to be an IT jack-of-all-trades. Specialists can be beneficial for employers, and give you a greater boost as a job seeker. Here are some of the advantages of specialization for IT candidates.

A competitive edge

The IT job market is highly competitive. Tech candidates are competing with both seasoned professionals and newly trained college graduates, and there is increasing pressure on companies to hire the best of the best among IT talent. If you have a specialized IT skill set, you’re more desirable to employers — who prefer to choose rock stars over stage hands.

Specialists are more likely to get hired than candidates who are simply proficient in the required skill set. While specializing can limit your options, you’ll have a greater chance of landing the positions you are qualified for with comprehensive skills in a particular area.

Elevated authority and expertise

Networking is an essential part of any job search. IT specialists can enhance their profiles, and their chances at getting hired by top companies, by becoming authorities on their areas of specialization through various networks that employers and recruiters frequent.

Contributing to and leading discussions in your specialist area on social channels like LinkedIn, and IT-centric forums like Github, can help you create an online presence that will truly impress employers. Your authority and influence as a specialist will give you a significant networking advantage over other candidates.

Greater independence

Employers seek out specialists in part because they don’t require a lot of training, and need little-to-no supervision on the job. As an IT specialist, you can enjoy increased independence and autonomy in your career. Specialists are also more likely to be innovators, with the freedom and latitude to work on projects that interest them personally in addition to directly assigned projects.

Increased salary and job security

IT specialists can typically command higher salaries than their general-skills counterparts. Particularly in today’s business landscape, employers place a high value on tech specialists, who are able to deliver more value to the organization. This often extends to better perks and benefits in addition to salary.

Those who specialize in a particular skill set can also enjoy greater job security. If you’re difficult to replace, you will be more valuable to a company — and less likely to be laid off or downsized, even if the organization is forced to cut back on staff.

Having specialized IT skills as a job candidate can not only help you land a more desirable position with a great company, but can also serve as the foundation for a long and successful career in technology.

Behavioral Questions to Use in Your Next Interview

Traditional and behavioral interviews are very similar to one another, with the only difference being the type of questions that are asked. But behavioral interviews can provide keen insight into the skill set and workplace behavior of your potential candidate. This set of questions is more complex, encouraging the interviewee to provide immediate, unrehearsed answers. If you ask the right questions, you can get a more complete picture of your candidate’s previous success on the job and how they could replicate those efforts at your company.

1. Tell me about a tough problem you’ve faced recently.

This question will not only illuminate the candidate’s previous work experience, but will also give you an idea of the way they think and solve problems. Interviewees may describe interpersonal dilemmas, issues with their work, or even struggles with professional skills like meeting deadlines or leading meetings. It’s a bad sign if they aren’t able to think of an answer — everyone faces problems in the workplace, regardless of the nature of the issue.

Questions that will give you similar insight include:

Describe a time you made a risky decision.

Tell me about how you’ve worked well under pressure.

2. Describe a conflict you’ve experienced with a co-worker or customer.

Behavioral interviews are as much about learning a candidate’s social skills as they are their technical skills. This question will delve into their ability to manage interpersonal conflicts. It’s a good sign if the candidate admits responsibility for the conflict or describes actively trying to resolve the issue. On the other hand, it’s a bad sign if they put all of the blame (and responsibility for resolution) on the other party. After they answer, you will have a good sense of their ability to accept responsibility and their interpersonal skills in the workplace.

Similar questions include:

Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?

Describe a time you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor.

3. Describe a time you dealt with a workplace policy or guideline you didn’t agree with.

With this question, you’ll learn how your candidate navigates the complicated world of workplace diplomacy, as well as the strength of their problem solving and interpersonal skills. Look for interviewees who were able to work creatively with restrictions or were (respectfully) open with their supervisor about this conflict. Take it as a warning sign if they chose to break policy at the cost of their job performance because they felt they were right. Even if this displays initiative, it shows a lack of respect for authority and can be a bad sign of future behavior.

These questions will provide similar background:

What do you do when you disagree with your boss?

Give an example of a time you disagreed with your supervisor’s opinion.

These (and similar) questions can provide vital behavioral information on your potential candidates. They will give you a solid idea of the interviewee’s work history and ways in which that history might inform their future with your company.

Brand Yourself as a Best Place to Work in 2015

More and more employers are beginning to see the impact of workplace happiness on the efficacy of its employees. Higher morale results in increased productivity, lower absenteeism, company loyalty, and a myriad of emotional and mental benefits for staff members. Prioritizing the well-being of your employees can earn you a reputation as a desirable place to work, attracting new, talented candidates and retaining your existing workforce. Below are four strategies that will brand your company as a best place to work in the coming year.

1. Treat your employees like adults.         

Treating your employees like grownups can manifest itself in a variety of ways. On one hand, you can give them the flexibility to determine how they work best, whether that’s their office hours or their desk configuration. Always assume that they are responsible enough to manage their individual workloads without constant supervision. You should also try to strike a work-life balance, allowing your employees to focus on their families or their health when necessary.

2. Think outside the box with benefits.

You should always provide your employees with a comprehensive benefits package, but there are other nontraditional benefits that you can offer to improve employee morale, satisfaction, and even their health. If you have the space, offer access to a gym or fitness center, and encourage employees to use these facilities whenever they need to re-energize. Provide healthy food, whether it’s from an on-site café or well-stocked vending machines. Consider offering rare, highly sought after benefits like paid parental leave for new parents.

3. Support education and professional development.

Employers can accomplish this in a variety of ways. You can host on-site professional development seminars, reimburse education expenses, or provide training programs for employees looking to further their skills. You should also use support mentoring programs to nurture underrepresented demographics, such as women and minorities. These methods will help provide employees with a sense of forward momentum and a constant challenge that improves their well-being and satisfaction within a company.

4. Give back.

Many people prefer to work for organizations that give back to the community or demonstrate environmental awareness. Your company can provide volunteer opportunities for employees, organize fundraisers for good causes, or find creative ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This will instill pride in your employees, while bringing about social and environmental benefits.

Implementing some of these tips may require more work, but you can improve your company’s work environment in dozens of small ways. Let in more sunlight, fill the office with potted plants for higher air quality, or provide ergonomic office equipment. Develop the right strategy for your business and make it a goal to improve employee satisfaction and well-being in the coming year.