Navigating your IT career through rapid technology changes
(bright upbeat music) - Greetings, everyone. My name's Jeff Woolsey. I'm a Principal Program Manager here at Microsoft and it's really a pleasure to be here. Today, we're gonna be doing something a little bit different.
We're going to be talking about careers. We're going to be talking about resumes. We're going to be talking about a lot of new demands on IT teams. Before I introduce my esteemed colleagues, I wanna take a moment to also thank you and I wanna shout out to all of the folks out there at IT that have been working the last couple of years through the craziness, through the remote, through the hybrid, through the virtual. You have all been amazing. I wanna make sure that that doesn't go unnoticed.
We've talked to organizations of all shapes and sizes. Fortune 500, education, healthcare, finance, and you guys have been astounding. You have been amazing in what you've been able to deliver and keep your organizations going. So, a huge shout out to you. With that, I'd like to get started.
I have two folks with me. I'm gonna start here with Sonia Cuff. Sonia, thank you for being here today. - Hey, thank you. - And I have Orin Thomas. Thank you for being here today.
- Good day, Jeff. It's good to be here. - Awesome.
Orin, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? - So I've been in IT couple of decades. - [Jeff] Couple decades. - Written a lot of books, written a lot of courses and now I'm working at Microsoft as a Principal Hybrid Cloud Advocate. - Many books has been, you've written and they're fantastic. Kudos to you.
And Sonia, tell us a little bit about yourself. - Oh my gosh, I was 18 when I started in IT and that was like a couple of years ago now, I must admit. So, I've been here at Microsoft for about four years and I lead a team of cloud advocates that look after Cloud Native and also Windows and Azure infrastructure. - Excellent.
So two varying, very different backgrounds. Sonia, let's start with you. - Yeah. - You know, I chat with a lot of people that are coming out of, you know, high school, college, trade. They're looking to join IT.
- [Sonia] Yeah. - They reach out on social media and they say, you know what? What would you tell someone new that wants to join IT? Who's excited about this field? What would you tell them, Sonia? - Well, first of all, I'm just excited that they're looking at IT as part of this technology career because there are so many ways that you can get involved in tech, but we primarily tend to talk about coding, right? Because there are a lot of resources and a lot of ways to learn how to code. It doesn't require a big investment or a lot of infrastructure. But tech is such a broad industry and there are so many different areas, and I think that IT and Infrastructure gets forgotten a little bit in terms of an entry path into technology.
So, thank you for being here. And go explore. It is easier now than it ever was to learn these topics, to find sandbox environments online without needing a ton of your own hardware and just go deep. Just fill your boots up and get into it. - There are so many resources available now. You mentioned a few of them.
There's social media, there's documentation, there's YouTube. I mean, I look at, for example our own documentation, like learn.microsoft.com where we've made huge investments over the last couple of years really modernizing, adding more, adding more examples, more sample code, more scripts, and making it more available to folks. Now, that's great for folks that are new to IT. Orin, what would you say to someone who's maybe been in roll a little bit. Maybe five years, maybe longer in IT and how they should be thinking about the future? - You're never an expert.
Think about yourself and your career as a continuum. You need to keep learning. It doesn't matter where you are in your career, but one of the things people trip over is that they think, "Oh, I've got this job that I want. I am a Server Administrator. I am a Hybrid Cloud Administrator. I don't need to do anymore."
That's absolutely not true. You need to be learning something all the time. You need to be becoming stronger with what you are learning. So, think of your career as a continuum of consistent growth. And the growth is what you are teaching yourself, what you are learning and then what you are sharing back with others, and what you can do and the problems that you can solve.
- I really love that. You need to invest in yourself. You need to invest in your own career, your own growth. And when I kind of look back, I looked at, you know, we've been through a lot of different eras in the IT era.
You go back to the late '90s, early aughts. You really had basically client server, you know? And all of a sudden you had 2000. You had active directory, you had identity. Then we started getting even to larger scale. We went to data center. We started dealing with larger concepts.
Then, we had the virtualization era. Now, we're really entering a new phase with the hybrid and multi-cloud era. And I kind of think about what are the things that we need to be learning, to be putting into our virtual toolkit, personal toolkit for embracing hybrid and multi-cloud. How do you think about that and what are you hearing from IT folks that are are looking at hybrid and multi-cloud.
- So, I think one of the interesting parts about our role is that some of the fundamental things that we do haven't changed, but how we do them is changing. And so, when you look at infrastructure and you look at things like networking and performance monitoring and back up and restore, all of those concepts are fundamental. But the technologies that we have now especially when you're looking at using cloud capabilities to make your on-premises environment better, to do your job more efficiently and to use these cloud technologies in that way, that's kind of like the future. And that's what I see as someone who is modernizing their IT career. They're looking at the newer capabilities in terms of how they can enhance what they've already got and how they can make it better, easier, more efficient to do their jobs and go home and be with their families.
- (hums approvingly) Orin, what do you think? - IT is fundamentally about solving problems. And the set of problems that businesses have to an extent are certainly static, but the way that we solve those problems. New technologies, new ways of doing things sometimes provide better, more effective ways of solving those problems. And as an IT professional, what you are trying to do is you're trying to look at the problems that the businesses that you work for have and trying to find what is the best set of tools I can use at this point in time to solve those problems. And when you're talking about all of the development and the history, what you're talking about is the toolkit that exists to solve those business problems.
And you just need to continuously invest in yourself and learn what are the new tools and what are the old tools that I can still use. Because sometimes, you just need a hammer to put in a nail. - You're a hundred percent spot on. It is about solving the problem.
It's about looking at what are the right tools, what are the right set of capabilities to meet the goal of the organization. And hybrid and multi-cloud at its core, it's exactly about that. We know there are plenty of reasons why someone says, "I have workloads that are gonna run on-premises for the foreseeable future. I have latency concerns. I have data sovereignty concerns.
I've got regulatory compliance." - I've solved the problem, and I don't need to go and pay a whole lot of money to solve the same problem again. - Exactly. And so, we understand that yeah, people are gonna continue to do that. At the same time, there's also new capabilities that the cloud offers and that allow you to do things faster and more effective as an IT professional. One of the favorite examples I always look at is SQL Server.
You know? SQL Server, historically, the way you set it up is you have some servers, you configure them, you patch the OS, you install the OS, you install SQL, you patch it, you configure a cluster, you do all of this work. By the way, I haven't even set up a database yet. - [Sonia] (chuckles) Yeah. - All I've done is just set up the infrastructure and then, I actually deploy database. Then a new patch comes up for the OS. A new patch comes out for SQL.
And we have to handle all of that, etcetera. In the cloud, we've got services to do this. We have SQL managed instances where we handle the operating system for you. We'll help patch it for you. We're making your life easier.
You don't have to deal with an OS, you don't have to deal with SQL. All you do is manage the database, manage the permissions, DR, backup, it's all handled for you. Now, if you've got workloads that are in the cloud, makes perfect sense to take advantage of it. But if you still need to run on-premises, no, we still understand you. So, having the toolkit to understand what your organization needs.
Do I need to keep running on-premises? Great, we've got great solutions here. Oh, guess what? We're gonna take advantage of some things in the cloud too. Great, I have the toolkit to be able to do that so I can take it to my organization and be successful.
- And I think that's one of the things about keeping up with this pace of change in an IT role though, it's about making sure that you've got awareness of what's going on. You've got awareness of the breadth of the capabilities. But our IT pros don't always have the luxury to carve out time to dedicate for learning in their roles. You know, a lot of them have to do that outside of business hours. And what we tend to find is that our IT pros are very much just in time learners. They're like, "I have an awareness that these things exist.
The next problem that I'm solving for my business is this. So, I need to go deep into this particular topic now." And I think that that's a very good approach to be able to keep updating your technology while also spinning all the plates of doing your role, right? It's about combining those problems with the things that you're learning.
(Jeff hums approvingly) - You do need to be careful though that your learning doesn't just become reactive. That you should be looking out and consuming enough information, going to conferences, consuming whatever tech press you need to, to make some long bets on what might work, what you need to learn about that might not be a problem that you are solving that's immediately in front of you. You're instead looking at learning a technology that might be solving a problem, that may turn up in five years time, or it might end up not being useful at all.
- And it's those challenges or those dead ends that inform you so that when you're making that next big bet, when you're trying to make that decision, you have more to learn from, you have more to pull from, and hopefully you make the, you're more informed to make the right decision next time. - And this is what an IT professional or any professional is paid for, their judgment. Don't feel that you just have to go along with whatever you feel the current fad is. Work out what the organization, and you need to have the judgment to work out what the organization you work for needs and what the best solution is for that organization.
Not for whoever your cloud provider is. Not whoever your hardware provider is. But the people that actually pay your paycheck. - (hums approvingly) One thing that I always ask when I'm having a customer conversation, and I would think that IT pros should be asking their bosses the same question.
Where do you wanna be in three to five years? And I'm not talking about, that's both the person, but it's the organization. You know when a company comes to me and says, "Hey, Jeff. We wanna talk." For example, "Tell us about the roadmap for on-premises.
Tell us the roadmap about hybrid. Tell us the roadmap of multi-cloud." My first answer is, "Great, I'm happy to do that. But first, tell me where you wanna be in three years? Where do you want to be as an organization in five years?" And immediately, it's amazing how many people go, "Well, we're still trying to figure that out."
And I'm like, "Okay, so let's ask some very easy questions. Are you in a hybrid, multi-cloud strategy? Is that your long term strategy?" And 95% plus of the people out there say, "Oh yeah, we're all doing hybrid and multi-cloud." And we've always thought of cloud is really a continuum. How much of it is running on-prem? How much is running in the public cloud? And customers will figure that out. So, with that in mind, you can start to think about your career going, "Okay, if my organization has said that in five years we really wanna have 75% in the cloud or 50% in the cloud and 50% on-prem.
How do I adjust my career and learn the right things so that I'm in a good position to help my organization get there and move up the ladder and get a better paycheck and do the things that are interesting to me from a career perspective?" - And I think that career as an IT pro doesn't always necessarily need to be static to one organization either. And so, the cool thing about our platform of products and services at Microsoft is it literally is a toolkit where you go and pick and choose the things that you need that suit your business. Now, you might spend some time in a very large enterprise environment. You might go and work in small and medium business. Two very different customer segments.
And so, the work that you're gonna be doing and the way that you're gonna be using our products and services can be very different over those. But it all colors in that picture of your career, right? (Jeff hums approvingly) - Another way to think about it is that you are thinking about your career as developing a set of problems that you can effectively solve for one organization or another. And so, things like the Hybrid Administrator Cert help you because they allow you to see a spectrum of the type of problems that you can solve using just the right amount of cloud to solve the problem.
- Exactly. And so with that, you mentioned the Windows Server Hybrid Certification. So, I need you to talk more about this 'cause I think it's amazing. I know we have a ton of people that have already completed it, but we've got a lot more.
So, tell us about the Windows Server Hybrid Certification. - So one of the things that we've, a lot of people who work in the Microsoft ecosystem have always sort of pitched their wagon to or hitched their wagon to is some sort of certification. In the NT 4 days, we had the MCSE and it's gone through various different names. But there's always been what the core on-prem component is. Where our certification stands now is taking those on-prem technologies and where they extend appropriately into the cloud. And the Windows Server Hybrid Admin Associate Cert is sort of where the evolution of the NT 4 MCSE is.
And there's still topics that you would've taken in Windows 2000 and NT 4. Identity, storage, networking, software updates, monitoring, performance, troubleshooting. - It's fundamentals that haven't changed. - [Jeff] Exactly. - Right? (chuckles)
- There's some things that are constant. - And it's that you are still solving the same problems. It's just that the technology, set of technologies that you are using to solve those. So, in terms of where you are in terms of your own career. As we have gone through changing what the tools are and the nature of the tools to solve the same problems in the toolbox are, our certification program has evolved with that.
So, you should be as part of a testing to your knowledge looking at certification. And there's some people go, "Look, I knew all of that and I continue to learn all of that." And that's great until you need to prove to someone who hasn't seen you at work that you actually do know that.
- And you know what? I think if you're not changing jobs, it's also really good validation of what you do know. And if you've been working with Windows server for a while, you're probably still gonna learn some stuff. - Oh yeah. - [Sonia] Going through that exam material. - Well, what I really liked about the exam material was as you look at the content, it really is a mixing and blending of the fundamentals, the foundation that you need. You know, files, storage, identity, active directory.
Those things. But it's also a blending with the things that are gonna help you in the hybrid world, Azure File Sync. I mean, that's actually a perfect example to me of a technology that blends both. The number one reason someone deploys a server is for files, is for file serving. And Azure File Sync takes that standard server that you've been running for 20 plus years, and all of a sudden creates a hybrid one with virtually bottomless storage, you know? And the benefits of better backup and DR and all of those things. And I know that that's something that's covered in the hybrid certification as well.
- Absolutely. And one of the things that the Hybrid Certification reiterates is that a lot of those skills that you've always had, creating users, adding them to groups, doing those meat and potatoes things are still relevant. Though sometimes you might feel in your career that all of this new stuff has come along and all of the old stuff that I used to know has become irrelevant, and that's not true. There's some of it that might have become irrelevant.
You probably don't know how to, need to know how to run a Windows server anymore. But there's a lot of things that you would've learned if you're in your career a long time that will remain relevant throughout the course of your career that you started in your 20s and you will still be doing in your 60s. - Yeah. Now, Winds. Whoo. (chuckles) Oh, let's not talk about that, shall we? One thing I have to mention, since we're talking about hybrid and multi-cloud and really, careers.
One thing I think about is as we move to these distributed fabrics, you know? One thing, I know you've heard this. We've had this chat before. When customers come to us and say, "Look, hybrid and multi-cloud is interesting, I'm excited about it. But the big challenge is I don't wanna manage my on-prem one way, my cloud another way, my branch office is another way, other clouds, other", I mean, it's really becomes a management problem. And I really wanna treat this as a single distributed fabric.
And when I talk to customers I'm like, "You know what? Have you heard about Azure Arc?" And so, what are you telling folks and what are you hearing about Azure Arc from folks and IT professionals? - Well, it's about when you're thinking about how you've been managing your systems all the time. One of the things that we've been looking for is sort of a management layer and that you were managing down. Now, it might have been that you were managing service through group policy and you still manage things through group policy. But what the cloud provides you with is it provides you with an overwatch of all of your systems, wherever those systems are.
So, something like Arc and the technologies that make up Arc and the technologies Arc connect are still those core technologies. You still need to do software updates. - [Jeff] Yes. - And you've needed to do that forever. - [Jeff] Yes. - You still need to do backup and recovery.
You've needed to do that forever. You still need to do monitoring. It's just where do your logs lie? Where does the software update service it? All of that. So, it's just a different type of abstracting a way to solving the same problems. - How about you? What are you hearing about Arc from professionals? - Yeah, I think what goes on to that, right? It's about having that, what I call the "single glass of pane" because that's where all my problems are.
And it doesn't matter whether those servers are on-prem, whether they're Azure, a different cloud provider, it doesn't matter where they are. But I also just wanna do a bit of a shout out to other technologies like Azure Lighthouse for our delegated access into different parts of Azure tenants and then Azure Automanage. So, Azure Automanage for being able to easily onboard servers in a repetitive, best practices way- - Yes. - Into those services for management. So, it's getting easier and easier to go, what is the way that I manage this thing the best? Let's configure that as an Azure Automanage profile and know that all of our servers are gonna get stamped with that and enrolled into these services the way that we want them to be set up.
- That's really an excellent point. Automanage was about how do we help our IT professionals? - [Sonia] Totally. - You know, how can you do this thing in a consistent, automated way? And guess what? Our Automanage is like having someone there, right there helping you out, making sure that we're helping manage these things for you. This- - And when you are coming back to it from the career perspective, how do you think about all of these technologies and when you hear about a new technology or a new service? Sit down and think, "What problems does my business have that I can solve with these technologies?" Because sometimes the technology sounds spectacular and you don't have the problems that they solve. And sometimes you need to look a a bit more closely and be a bit creative and then you can suddenly find a pressing organizational problem that you can solve.
But that's part of your career, part of taking that new product announcement and then figuring out how you solve an actual problem that your business has. And that's what they're paying you for. Your intelligence to be able to take a set of tools and then use those to fix something that needs to be fixed. - I don't think I could sum it up any better than that.
(Sonia laughs) Orin, I completely agree and I thank you both. This has been really amazing. So, a couple things to think about, folks. Please. Windows Server Hybrid Certification.
Absolutely. You very much want this on your resume. This is a way to continue to invest in yourself and invest in your career, learn.microsoft.com. Again, we're making huge investments and documentation and videos and how-to, and scripts, and like, literally click on the copy button and the PowerShell script you can immediately use. And of course, thinking about how you can embrace hybrid and multi-cloud.
I'm telling everybody right now, you should be archifying, I'm creating a verb there, you should be archifying every server you've got. Because once you've done that, we basically create a metadata representation in Azure. And all of a sudden now, you have the ability to do management. And again, update management, backup, all of the things that we've been doing and take advantage of that from Azure. This has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate it.
Thank you, guys. Thank you to the Windows Server community. You guys are awesome. And we'll see you next time. (bright upbeat music)