CLOUD STRATEGIES FOR SMARTER IT | A ZDNet Multiplexer Blog What's this?

IT Training Choices in a Fast-Paced World

Understatement of the year: Cloud technologies are evolving rapidly. Experts agree that IT professionals need to stay educated as new features and capabilities are released every day. Whether you're a cloud expert or just trying to plan your next career move, these resources will provide helpful, and often free guidance.

Technology is changing constantly. It would be a challenge for anyone to stay current with all the technologies available today. As with most IT professionals, though, you may have the need to stay current in your present role or you may be transitioning to a new role.

This is especially relevant for IT professionals whose organizations are migrating - or even considering a migration - to cloud resources. Cloud technologies are evolving constantly, and forward-looking companies are embracing operational models like DevOps so their IT and dev teams remain agile and flexible in rapidly changing conditions. If you iterate quickly, automate wherever possible, and maintain a healthy pace of continuous improvement, you're well-positioned to thrive.

Even the trend is growing quickly. Back in 2015 (a century ago by cloud standards), Gartner predicted that it would take one year for DevOps to evolve from a niche strategy to a mainstream strategy in use among 25 percent of Global 2000 organizations.

Evolve your skills, evolve your career

You've only got a finite amount of time and a lot to take in. Think of skill training like a buffet. You have to go down the line carefully and decide what you would like to try and how it fits on your plate. Select carefully so your plate is balanced - not piled too high and not lacking, either.

If you need some direction, check out the IT Pro Career Center, where you can read about and hear from professionals like you who have embraced various aspects of cloud technology, find out which skills you'll want to develop based on your personality and work style, and dive into research about the kinds of salaries that cloud professionals command.

Once you have a rudimentary plan in place, focus on remote or virtual training programs that are self-paced and available for little or no upfront cost.

Download and kick the tires

Most platform vendors have adopted open source models, so you can download full-functioning software to install and review. Depending on your level of motivation, this may be an adequate training environment. If not, let's consider what options are available.

You'll find a comprehensive library of demos and how-to videos on the Microsoft Mechanics site, and you can dive deeper into classes and hands-on practice modules on topics such as Azure security, backup, and application development at Microsoft Hands-on Labs.

Microsoft provides Azure training in a number of formats, from bite-size overviews you can consume on a lunch break to certification-level courses (both available at the Training and certification for Azure page). You can also enroll in OpenEdX-hosted Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to train in a more formal setting.

A wide variety of course offerings lets you proceed at your own pace.

Beginner and intermediate:



I like to highlight this variety of formats, because as you are selecting items to go on your plate, you can peruse introductory videos and discussions to determine your level of interest. Microsoft also has a rich community forum of professionals where you can ask questions or lend a hand to a fellow professional. You can also take advantage of a large software library, with products available to download for trial periods of 3 to 6 months. You can earn points for completed courses, even if you don't opt for a complete certification.

For general cloud training, look no further than Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials, where you'll find a wide range of free downloads, classes, and support. When you're experimenting with other cloud services, there are numerous resources that allow you to do a self-paced exploration. Each one has a trial or free tier that you can use. You should definitely get a jump start if you have an upcoming cloud project.

Coding, big data, and more

MongoDB is an open source NoSQL provider that has a series of no-cost certificate programs. If your company is using a NoSQL solution or planning to do so, I highly recommend it. There are live/recorded sessions, exercises, as well as a test at the end. MongoDB also has a robust community that is more than willing to help you.

Collective training resource libraries like Udemy, CodeAcademy, and Lynda by LinkedIn offer a mix of free and low-cost training courses. Within each one of these service vendors, you can review what past learners have said about the instructor or you may be able to try a sample class before paying. Most courses are self-paced and easily fit on your buffet plate of learning.

IT pros are known to be very creative when it comes to training on a budget, and vendors like Microsoft provide very generous resources that will help you evolve as a cloud professional.