Lifelong Learning I.T.-Part 1-You and your environment

For the record, I was never the ideal student and still struggle to this day. However, if you want to be in Information Technology (IT), you have to embrace….no, you have to crave change and more importantly, life-long-learning!! thYou are stepping into the world where the phrase “lifelong learner” is an understatement. How do I know this? I’m a 45 y/o IT “thingamajob” type guy. I have been a business technology consultant my entire career and have been an IT instructor for more than 15 years. I have an MBA in Computer Information Security and am a geek/nerd/whatever. My name is on some Microsoft MTA ERK curriculum books and had a ball doing it. My resume is not “amazing” however I have a fairly good theory on how to be successful in this field and “learn IT”. It’s simple…LOVE I.T. That’s really it (sorta…there is “work” involved). Don’t think of it as a paycheck but more a passion. If you regularly go home after work and do not “plug back in”, then IT may not be your path. You may earn a living, but you will end up miserable and hating it. I’ve seen this first hand. These posts will step through some basic ways to improve your learning. This has worked for me and “may” work for you. If you find just one thing you think would work for you…AWESOME!

Identify Yourself

Nope, you’re not under arrest! Simply put, you have to become a self aware learner. What are your learning obstacles? I’ve struggled in the learning department my entire life and still do, but I have found little (may seem obvious) things that help me get to that next level. I have been clinically diagnosed with ADHD(AF). SquirrleI don’t use this as an excuse, however, realizing part of the “why” helped me identify counter produ ctive behaviors when it came to my ability to learn. I still experience days where I just cannot focus. It can be maddening-er. It’s OK to have a plan B (and you should) on those days when your mind isn’t focused and it doesn’t mean you have to be ADHD. It can be stress in your life, a phone call that throws your mind off. It’s OK, find something physical to do and get it done. I have a TON of plan B items on my (wife created) list. I put an audio book/podcast on and get to work.

Identify Your Optimal YOU Time

Simply put, when is Mike the best Mike as it relates to cognitive ability and retention. When am I the most focused? For me, it’s from 7:00 a.m. (or earlier) until early afternoon. That’s when I function the best (apologies to my night students). So, I arrange my schedule to tackle the most cognitively challenging tasks during those times.

Identify Distractions

The first exercise I do in class with my students is go through a brief activity and identify their “time wasters” or distractions. We assemble a list and consider the amount of time that we (myself included) waste with our distractions. Common responses are:

  • YouTube
  • Twitter (way guilty)
  • Facebook (guilty…too many good recipes)
  • SnapChat
    • Yes, I could have used “Social Media”…I get that.
  • Gaming
  • Netflix/Streaming media (guilty)
  • Family (yes, that was a response in several classes)
  • Partying/socializing (at least they are socializing)
  • Many others…however, these were the most common

I’m not implying these need to be eliminated, but managed. We all need to allow ourdownload brains to check out for a while and re-energize. Carve out “ME” time to give your brain a rest.

I need to be in an environment with limited distractions (see SQUIRREL). At home, I am in my office with notifications  off and no music* or radio. I use the * for music as I do listen to Music to Code By by @carlfranklin which helps me stay focused with 60-80 beats per minute with 25 minute tracks. I take a break between tracks. At work, I typically will hold office hours or just hang out in my classroom before class. Our designated office area can get a little distracting (loud) and I just cannot get anything done. Conference rooms, break rooms or even your car can be your fortress of solitude to carve out some quiet time to get caught up on your latest learning goal.

Identify Good Fuel Sources

Finally, and most importantly, your brain requires fuel. Our fuel choice is going to determine how effective our brain will function. Fuels high in process sugars (soda, carbs, candy, etc) will give you an insulin spike but will be followed by a crash 2 hours later. You can continue to “fuel” up, but the side affects of using this as a fuel source will hurt you long term (diabetes, obesity, etc). Burning fat as a fuel source has been a great discovery for me. I follow (not religiously) a low carb, high fat (LCHF), also known as modified ketogenic, diet. I get the majority of my calories from good fat’s (coconut oil, butter, bacon…oh my), th (1)with moderate protein and 50-100g of carbs per day. It takes a little adjustment time for your body to go from burning sugar to burning fat for energy, but trust me, the 3-7 days of carb withdrawal (this should be red flag number 1000 why sugars are bad…we are addicted to them which causes withdrawal). But once your burning fat (ketones) for fuel, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done so earlier.

This works for me, and may not be everyone’s cup of bulletproof coffee, but bottom line is to reduce your processed sugar intake and you will be happy. My focus, energy, and reduced appetite have been awesome (and I’ve lost 20 lbs so far)! Not to mention less aches and pains as a bonus. It was easy for me to get further away from carbs since I have Celiacs disease which means my pasta and bread options are limited and I wasn’t a really huge “sugar/candy/chocolate” type person. A great resource for education and motivation for me was found at http://2ketodudes.com. Another @carlfranklin resource. Great podcast, resources and RECIPES!

Identify The End

This post was a little longer than anticipated, however, identifying your environment and yourself among other things is critical to get better at your lifelong learning. Finding the time, making the most of that time are critical to not just continuing, but excelling in the I.T. field with relevant skill sets. It’s hard with all the technology coming at you from 20 different directions, but focusing in on 1 or 2 and going from there is a great place to start. Get after it!

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PowerShell Summit 2017-a “Noobies” Reflection

20170409_173808604_iOSI’m not an expert“, “I’m a PowerShell Noob“, “I’m not good dealing with other people“, “Bellevue is far“, “I‘m afraid of @United“,”Will I fit in?“…Don Jones blogged about this very topic. Some of these thoughts went through my mind when deciding whether or not I would put myself out there and attend my first IT related conference since the Windows 2000 launch..yes, that long ago, and yes, I’m that old. I’m not entirely new to PowerShell as described here. I developed and teach a 2 credit introductory PowerShell course at a local 2 year college.

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Hanging with Don Jones!

My goal with this post is to motivate other fellow “Noobs” like myself to put themselves out there, whether it’s contributing in the community forums, asking questions, or even attend that scary PowerShell Summit 2018. The following is just some experiences and takeaways that I wanted to share. I chose to hold before posting this as I wanted to be able to share post Summit communications with the folks I met while at the Summit.

 

Relax

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There will be cocktails!

Breath! This is probably hard for some of the introverted folks out there. Remember, you are going to be with A LOT of like minded people. Don’t be afraid to be honest about where you fall on the skill set chart. Everyone is there to learn, contribute and have fun! It’s pretty much a “judge-free” zone in most respects.

Feed You Brain

The PowerShell.org team did a smart job of providing healthy snacks and meals to keep your brain engaged throughout the conference. Yogurt, trail-mix, protein shots, fruit, wine and beer. The meals are second to none and meet almost all dietary needs/restrictions. You barely touch your per-Diem throughout the conference. Oh yeah, all the Starbucks you can handle (apparently they’re a big deal out there). You need to make sure you are feeding your brain the right stuff so you can digest (pun intended) all the great info. Doughnuts (sugars and carbs) isn’t the right fuel for these sessions.

Relax

See above.

Choose your Sessions Wisely

The sessions were plentiful. I wished I could have cloned myself for Pete’s sake. Most sessions were recorded so you can view online after the Summit. I think it’s important to go with a game plan as the sessions are scheduled and posted on PowerShell.Org in advance. If you’re attending with a colleague…divide and conquer! The variety of topics can seem overwhelming and you may feel it’s above your skill set. It’s not a bad thing to wade out into deeper waters. You’d be surprised what you may pick up. One of my wiselyfavorite components of the Summit were the lightning demos. Some folks are doing some pretty cool things in the ‘Shell, from #VSCode to PowerShell in Linux. Sometimes all it takes is to see what’s possible.

Engage

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Pur and myself at the meetup!

Talk to people. Get on the Slack channel and get to know people before you hit the Summit. It helps break down those social barriers. Yes, you will forget peoples names, they will forget yours, we are human. It’s nothing personal. Ask people what they do? How are they leveraging PowerShell in their environment? Some may be just like myself and are just getting familiar with the “community” and are looking for ideas and ways they can contribute even though they aren’t hard corp “dev/ops” ninjas.

It’s been a couple of months since the Summit and yes, I have had contact with some of the folks I have met out there. From LinkedIn to Twitter as well as the Slack channel. This is a great “networking” opportunity for anyone not just to share knowledge, but who knows, someone may know of an opportunity that may interest you and might get you further down your career path.

GET OUT OF YOUR HOTEL ROOM!!

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My hotel room was a place for me to change clothes, shower and sleep. Period. I was down in the lobby catching up with a group of guys heading for cocktails or dinner. You (or someone) paid for this event so your best bang for your buck is to collaborate and establish connections with people within the community.

Bottom Line

This was a great professional experience for me and would recommend it for anyone. They limit the number of attendees to 250 which makes it a more intimate experience. Most Summiteers attending have been to the HUGE conferences  (Ignite, Build, VMWorld, etc) and all admitted this was by far the best bang for your buck. My goal is to become a regular attendee and contribute as much as I can to the community, whether it’s participating in the forums, organizing a PowerShell Saturday or just helping out and being a DevOps evangelist. Either way, get out there, contribute and be active!

I’m attending the DevOps Camp in July…wading into some pretty deep waters! Wish me luck!

M