Monday, Feb 23 2015

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

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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.