Complete IT Professional Helping New Software Professionals Get Ahead In Their Careers Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:30:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Is The Solution Architect Career Path? Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:30:54 +0000 What Is The Solution Architect Career PathThe solution architect is an important role in an organisation, and has several responsibilities. If you’re interested in becoming a solution architect, learn what the career path is in this article.

What Is A Solution Architect?

First, let’s start off with what a solution architect actually is. A solution architect is someone who is able to understand and design a solution based on the requirements of the business and the technologies that are available. They have the technical skills of a developer and the business skills of a business analyst.

Their role may vary between companies, but a solution architect is usually responsible for:

  • Working with the business team to document and design a solution, based on the requirements
  • Communicating the solution to the developers
  • Writing the occasional piece of code to test proof of concepts
  • Discussing any technical limitations or abilities with business analysts when needed

I’ve written another post on architecture in the IT industry which can help explain the role further.


Solution Architect Career Path Starts With A Degree

Many roles in the software development world start with a degree from a college or university, and solution architecture is one of them. It’s probably the role that requires a degree the most, because of the large amount of understanding that the solution architect needs.

So, if you’re looking to become a solution architect, start by getting a degree in Computer Science or a related field. This doesn’t just teach you how to write code, it teaches you how computers work and all kinds of important topics that are relevant to working in this role.


Start With Software Development

A common step on the solution architect career path is becoming a software developer. This is with good reason, as solution architects need to be able to understand code, and sometimes even write and debug code as part of their role.

Being able to write code, not just on an application, but as part of a team, is an important skill to have as a solution architect. It gives them the understanding that they need in order to do their job well. Most of the solution architects I’ve met have come from a development background. They feel that it helps them speak to developers, understand code, and propose better solutions, than if they didn’t know how to write code.


Move Into A Business Analyst Role

At this point, you have a few choices.

Sometimes, those looking to become a solution architect look to move into a business analyst role. This is a good move, as it lets you practice skills such as communication, documentation, requirements gathering, and understanding of how business works. These skills, combined with working as a developer, are a great way to start as a solution architect.

It’s not a required move on the solution architect career path, however. Sometimes you can skip the business analyst path and move straight into a solution architect. However, this is usually for those who have quite a bit of experience as a developer, and who have already developed their soft skills. A solution architect is quite different from a developer, and different skills are needed.


The Need To Stay Up To Date

Regardless of the path you take to become a solution architect, you need to stay up to date on the latest technologies. Solution architects need to be able to propose solutions that work, that get the job done as easily as possible, and that meet the requirements.

Staying up to date is important, so you should be aware of the changes in recent versions of programming languages, database technologies, operating systems, and other software and hardware developments.


Hopefully this post has answered your questions on the solution architect career path. Are you thinking of becoming one? What other questions do you have? Post them in the comments section below.

Career Action Tip: If you’re looking to become a solution architect, assess where you are on the path of “degree, developer, business analyst”, to help decide your next step.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!


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How To Get The Most Out Of Dropbox At Work Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:35:39 +0000 How To Get The Most Out Of Dropbox At WorkDropbox is a fantastic tool. It’s one that I couldn’t live without. I’ll explain why, and how to use Dropbox at work,  in this article.

What Is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a free, online storage solution that’s available to the public. It allows you to save files to a special location on your computer, which are backed up to a central server. The most useful feature is that it syncs across all devices that have Dropbox installed.

This makes it very easy to keep files in sync, share files with other devices and even with other people. As it stores a copy of your file, it also provides a backup solution, which I’m sure you know is important as an IT professional. It also works with Windows, Mac, and mobile devices such as iOS and Android.


How To Set Up Dropbox

Setting it up is pretty easy:

  1. Head over to and click on Download.
  2. Save the file to your computer.
  3. Run the installation file and install Dropbox
  4. Select a folder to use as your Dropbox folder. This can change with each computer you install it on, but it’s the folder that Dropbox uses to sync files to.
  5. You’ll also need to create an account for Dropbox.

Once it is installed, you can put files and folders into this Dropbox folder. If the Dropbox application is running, the files will be uploaded to the Dropbox service, and downloaded on other devices that have it installed.

Some workplaces don’t let you download Dropbox onto the computer. This is OK, you can still use Dropbox. You can still access your Dropbox files by logging into your account at and downloading/uploading from there. It’s a bit more work but it’s still quite easy.


What You Can Use Dropbox For At Work As An IT Professional

There are many things that I’ve used Dropbox for as an IT professional, either at work or doing work-related tasks. I’ll list a few of them here:

  • Sharing files between my home and work computers. If I need to transfer a file between my work and home computer, and it’s too big for email, then I put it on Dropbox. Actually, I do this anyway, as it’s just easier than emailing a file to yourself. Keep in mind that any files that are not safe for public viewing (such as system specifications or source code) probably shouldn’t be put on Dropbox. However, other material might be suitable.
  • Backing up personal documents. Sometimes I work on personal documents and stuff during the work day, such as in my lunch break. I could be searching for a new place to rent, or comparing models of phones, or something else. I’d like to be able to save this information to access it at home or wherever I am. I can save this to Dropbox to access it later, and not worry about where my latest version is.
  • Storing your resume. This is an important one. I think the best place for your resume to be stored is on Dropbox. It’s something you keep for a long time, something that you might need to access in many places, and should be backed up. Storing your resume (and associated cover letters and reference documents) on Dropbox is a great way to keep them backed up.
  • Uploading photos from your phone automatically. Another thing I use Dropbox for is uploading photos from my phone automatically. Sure, you can select photos and upload them to Dropbox manually (which is a good idea in itself). However, I really like automating parts of my life where I can, so doing it automatically saves this step. There’s a setting in Dropbox that allows you to upload photos automatically, whether all the time or just when you’re on Wifi (mine’s on Wifi Only). This means that any photos I take, such as screenshots of my phone or photos of things at work, get uploaded automatically. I can then download them from Dropbox onto other areas of my PC, preventing me from connecting the phone to download photos.


Well, I hope these tips have been helpful for you. What other uses do you have for Dropbox at work? Share them in the comments section below!

Career Action Tip: Download Dropbox onto your devices and move some of your files there that you wish to back up and have synced.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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How to Handle Getting Kicked Off a Project Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:39:30 +0000 How to Handle Getting Kicked Off a ProjectJust recently I was moved off a project that I was working on at work. How should this have been handled? Let me share a few tips in this article.

The Story

I work as a business analyst in a team that works on many projects. The way that we work means that we can handle several projects at a time. I was assigned a new project recently, but I was given a more senior role in it.

This was great. I thought I must have been doing something right! It also means that there was a lot more work to do in this role.

I spent the next few days learning about the project, reading notes and documents, and attending meetings. It was a little overwhelming at first, not just because of the new project, but the senior role meant I had to know even more about the project.

All was going well, until about a week later, one of the managers found out that I was working on this project in the senior role and said that I shouldn’t be doing that. They believed that it was too much work for someone with little experience. They felt that someone more experienced should take that role.


My Reaction

At first I was quite annoyed. Mainly because I had only been on the project for a week and felt that I could do this senior role but wasn’t given the chance. The news actually distracted my work for a few hours (which isn’t a good thing). I didn’t make a scene or have an argument with this person, as it was in the workplace and didn’t think it would make a difference.

After I thought about it for a while, I realised that this person had a good point. It was a senior role that required more attention, and the project was bigger than I originally thought and needed to be done effectively. I also had about six other projects to work on (which is more than most), and they didn’t want to run the risk of me being “spread too thin”, where I didn’t have enough time to work on it.

From this experience, I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learnt.


Remember The Bigger Picture

The main thing that made me realise that getting kicked off a project was the right thing to do was that it was better for the project. Nobody wanted the project to fail. I didn’t, my manager didn’t, and the team didn’t. I realised that me not working on the project in this senior role means that someone else can take it, who has more experience, and as a result, could probably deliver it better than I could.

Thinking of the bigger picture when these things happen is a good way to stay calm with these kinds of decisions. If it’s better for the team or the company as a whole, it might be worth considering.


Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Another related point is that you should try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine what this person, the one who is kicking you off the project, is thinking. What drives them to do a good job? What performance are they looking for? What happens if the project fails?

Thinking of all of these points means that you can be more empathetic towards their decision, and it makes you understand it easier. If you were kicked off a project, try to understand the decision behind it from their point of view. You might disagree, but trying to understand why they made it may help you.


Have A Conversation With Your Boss

If you’re still not convinced that it was the right decision, you can have a one-on-one conversation with your manager. This is what they are here for. Approach them and ask to speak to them in private, as it’s not a good idea to have these conversations in the open.

Mention to your boss how you feel about getting kicked off the project, and ask them what he or she thinks of the situation. Try to remain calm and listen to their answer. They may agree with you or disagree, but they should give some reasons, depending on if they were the one that kicked you off the project.

This has two benefits. It lets you explain why you feel a certain way, and it lets you hear your manager’s opinion. It can help you understand the decision.

Also, if you’re interested in this kind of role in the future, accepting the decision can make you seem like more of a team player, and may help with getting a similar role in the future.

I’m not worried about my chances of getting this kind of role in the future. Someone thought I was up to the task initially, so if a smaller project comes along that I could do, then I may get assigned the work on that one.


I hope these tips have helped you if you’re getting kicked off a project. Has this ever happened to you? What did you do about it?

Career Action Tip: Think about the next step in your career, such as a more senior role, and think about what is involved to get that role.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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3 Ways To Be A Better Team Player At Work Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:53:33 +0000 3 Ways To Be A Better Team Player At WorkWorking in the software industry means that you’ll most likely be working with teams. You’ll be part of a team that needs to perform a certain task, depending on your role. A good way to improve at work is to help out your team, and to become a better “team player”.

Think Of How You Can Help The Team

A big part of becoming a better team player is coming up with ways you can help your team. Think about what your team does and how they do it, how can it be improved, and how it can be done. Some ways could be:

  • Is there any manual process that can be automated with scripts, formulas, macros or other programming?
  • Are there any helpful links that you can share with your team to help them?
  • Have you done the same task at another company and have a different way of doing it?

This can be quite a big task, but it has its benefits. It’s so big that it even has its own role – “business process improvement”. These people are responsible for looking at processes and how they can be improved.

You don’t need to go and analyse every process that’s being done. Just have a think about how your team currently does something and if there is any way it can be improved.

This can be done regardless of how long you’ve been there. You can be there for a week, or years. Sometimes it can be easier being there for a short time, as you have fresh ideas and the ability to question what is being done.


Share What You Do Easier with Others

Another way to become a better team player is to share what you do easily with others. Over time, you may develop your own way of doing certain tasks, which may be quicker or easier than the normal way.

When I was an SQL developer, we had to implement code that was well formatted. It should be tabbed in from the edge, aligned properly, and well spaced. This took a bit of time as we were writing code, but it made it easier to read and maintain. We were doing this manually for a while, but I found an extension for our IDE that allowed us to set our formatting preferences and run it. It would save a lot of time when writing code. I shared this with our team, explained what I used it for, and it helped us all work a bit better.

It doesn’t have to be a link or a program that you use. If you are pretty good with Excel formulas, scripting commands, or other kinds of shortcuts, you can share them with your team and help them do their job better. My post on the top five software developer tools includes a few suggestions.


Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Another way to be a better team player, and arguably the most important, is to give credit where credit it is due.

You might have heard this saying before. Basically, it means that if someone does good work, give credit for them, and don’t take the credit yourself if you don’t deserve it. This might seem obvious, but I’ve seen quite a few people that don’t give credit to others, and it just looks bad.

I’m a big believer of being humble and selfless in the workplace, so I’m happy to give credit (probably more than I should). If you did the work to achieve a goal, then that’s OK. If there were others involved, or if others did the work and not you, then give the credit to them.


What other tips do you have for helping out your team and becoming a better team player? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Career Action Tip: Brainstorm ideas for how you can improve the way your team does something. Start with the tasks you do, and see if you can apply some kind of automation to them.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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How To Move From Developer To Business Analyst Mon, 14 Jul 2014 11:19:25 +0000 How To Move From Developer To Business AnalystAre you currently in a software developer or programmer role, and looking to become a business analyst? I’ve done this with my career, and have also seen others do it as well. I’ve listed out some tips in this article that should help.

Work On Your Communication Skills

The main skill that business analysts can benefit from is communication skills.

This includes listening to what other people have to say, explaining concepts and ideas, asking questions that you need to know the answers to, writing effective emails, and learning how to communicate better overall.

The hard part about improving your communication skills is learning how to communicate with non-technical people. You might be able to explain the advantages of object inheritance to other programmers, but if you need to explain that to a non-technical person, an entirely different approach is needed.

Learning how to explain technical terms to other people in the company is a useful still to have. I’ve worked with technical BAs before, and non-technical BAs, and the advantage of coming from a technical background is being able to understand and communicate technical areas with people.


Find Out More About The Company

Something that will help your move into a business analysis role is finding out more about the company. Working in IT as a developer, you may only be exposed to the IT systems and the technical requirements for the project. Getting a big picture view can help, and this is where learning about the company comes in.

If you learn more about the company that you’re working for, it can help you understand why certain things are done and what the projects are about. You can learn about:

  • Major problems facing the business
  • Trends in the industry
  • The direction the company is going
  • The kinds of projects they have done in the past

This kind of information can help you when speaking to other people and learning what you need to do for any future projects.


Improve Your Documentation Skills

Another important tasks for business analysts is documentation. Depending on the method the company uses to deliver projects, your documentation will be different. However, you’ll still need somewhere to write down what the project needs to accomplish and how it’s going to do it.

Documentation is important and the more you do it, the better you’ll get. I was pretty bad at it when I started my career, but I’ve noticed it’s something that has gotten better (and I still have plenty of room for improvement). Improving your documentation skills includes:

  • Learning the language and style that is used for documenting
  • Understanding the templates and formatting of the document
  • Learning all the tricks for your word processor program (such as Microsoft Word).

I’ll go into detail on each of these in a future post, but learning to improve your documentation is a good step in moving from a developer to business analyst.


Read Project Documents

Something that I’ve found useful in learning about the role of a BA is reading project documents. As the developer on the project, there will have been a lot of documentation created before the project gets to where it is.

Reading this can be helpful to learn about the purpose of the project, the language and style of the document, and what is included in the document.

Speak to your project manager or team leader to see if you can get access to the documents. If they ask, explain that you’d like to further your knowledge in the area. They should be happy with that – anything that improves your knowledge as a worker should be good for them too!


Speak to Other Business Analysts

Seek out other business analysts in your company, or that you know, that have come from a technical background. If they’ve worked as a developer before, then they know first hand what is needed to move into a business analyst role. I’ve shared some tips in this article based on my experience, but of course there will be others with more tips and better advice out there.

Your situation and experience may vary, so if you’re able to speak to someone who’s done it before, then it can benefit you and your move into this BA role.


Speak to your Manager

A great way to move into a business analyst role from a developer role, and from any role really, is to speak to your manager or team leader. Let them know that you have an interest in moving into a BA role or getting more experience, and see what they say.

They should be able to help you out with information, or telling you who you can speak to (which may be other BAs). If they are concerned about your time or dedication to the role, you can work out some kind of plan with them, to make sure there is minimal impact on the team.


Start Doing Business Analyst Tasks

Getting some minor experience as a business analyst can help. If you’ve spoken to your manager, ask them if there are any business analyst tasks that you can assist with.

This might involve sitting with another business analyst in your team, or another team, and helping them. They might also give you some work to do, or documents to read. Any little bit helps – learning about what a BA does and getting some experience is the main thing here.

You can do these kinds of activities over time. Getting more and more BA work from other team members will improve your knowledge and give you the experience you might need to move from a developer role into a business analyst role.


Well, hopefully these tips have helped you if you’re considering moving from a programmer to a business analyst. If you have any questions, share them in the comments section below.

Career Action Tip: Choose one of these points and take the next step for it. For example, speak to your manager about what you can do, or find some project documents to improve your knowledge.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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5 of My Favourite Career Tips From Spiceworks Mon, 07 Jul 2014 20:56:04 +0000 5 of My Favourite Career Tips From SpiceworksThere’s a lot of career advice out there for all kinds of professions, including those of us who work in IT. I’ve found a great list of career tips, and I thought I’d share what my favourite pieces of advice are from it.

Top Career Advice Guide

The guide I’m referring to is the Top Career Advice from IT Pros. It was prepared by Spiceworks, the professional network that IT professionals use to connect with each other. You can find the guide here, and I encourage you to read it, as it contains a lot of valuable career advice.

I’ve highlighted my five favourite career tips in the rest of this article.


Tip 2 – Add to your Skills

This tip suggests adding to your IT knowledge every year. The person who contributed the tip mentions they like to focus on a different skill or area of focus each quarter, which adds up to a new skill each year.

I think this is a great tip as it means you can slowly but eventually add to your skills. Sometimes getting a new skill can be hard and seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into quarters or choosing smaller skills can really help.


Tip 4 – Polish Up Your Resume

Adding to and cleaning up your resume isn’t just something you should do when you’re looking for a new job. It’s a good idea to keep it up to date, perhaps taking a look at it every 3 to 6 months and making sure it’s still correct. You can do this by:

  • Adding new experience that you’ve gotten in this period
  • Removing old jobs that may not be relevant
  • Updating job titles if you have changed roles
  • Adding links to online portfolios or profiles


Tip 12 – What Do You Want

A great piece of advice is that you should know what you want to do. The advice mentioned in the Spiceworks guide mentions job searching, but I think this equally applies to other aspects of your career, such as your current role and your overall career.

Knowing what you want is the first step to getting it, and without knowing, you probably won’t get as much enjoyment and fulfilment from your job. It also doesn’t let you improve or demonstrate the skills that you want, leaving you in a role you might not want to be in.

I once spent some time in a role doing some VBA programming (yes, that’s Visual Basic for Applications, aka writing macros). It wasn’t something that I immediately wanted to do for my career, but it was only a short role and I knew I could see the other benefits in the role. If I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I might still be in that role, writing macro code.


Tip 23 – Labels, Documentation and Improvement

This tip mentions a lot of little things, so I’ll break it down.

It starts with labelling and documenting everything. This is important, because writing documentation will help the business run better and help you remember when you come back to something in six months time.

The tip mentions “remember customer service, talk to users on the phone with a smile, yea hard sometimes”. This is good to remember as the interaction you have with your users, whoever they are, can be helpful to them and to you.

Streamline workflow and look for ways to improve processes. This is a fantastic piece of advice. The benefit of IT is being able to improve processes and automate things. Being on the lookout for ways to make improvements will help the business and your career.


Tip 28 – Mingle

This piece of advice mentions the importance of networking and getting to know people. There are several tips in the guide that mention personal skills and speaking to people, but for me, this one stands out as it’s simple.

It explains that networking is the best way to advance or change your career. It suggests going to trade shows and live events to meet and talk to people in your industry. It’s probably something that I don’t do enough of, so it highlights the need to make improvements there.


Hopefully these tips have proven useful to you. What other pieces of career advice do you have for IT pros? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Career Action Tip: Download the Spiceworks “Top Career Advice from IT Pros” guide and read through the tips that are mentioned.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!


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How To Convince Your Employer To Pay For Your Certification Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:31:22 +0000 How To Convince Your Boss To Pay For Your CertificationAre you thinking about getting a certification, but you’d like your employer to pay for it? They don’t always do this automatically. Here’s a few tips on how to convince your employer to pay for your certification.

Why Would You Want To Get Certified?

First of all, let’s start with why you want to get certified.

Getting a certification has a lot of benefits for you. The main one is to increase your knowledge in a certain area. As IT is a constantly changing industry, keeping up to date and improving your skills is important. This is true no matter what your specialisation is – programming, testing, project management or something else.

It also helps you become more marketable, both within your own company and to other recruiters, if you end up looking for a job one day. Having a certification shows that you meet a minimum standard of knowledge, which is used a lot in job applications.

That’s all well and good, but how do you get your employer to pay for your certification? Exams and courses can be expensive, ranging from $100 for some, all the way up to several thousand for some of the more advanced certifications. Let’s take a look at some ways you can convince your boss or employer to pay for it.


1 – Your Knowledge Can Save Them Money

If you need to make your case, one of the best arguments is that your knowledge can eventually save them money.

Companies care a lot about money, not only how they can earn more, but about how they can save money. If you can demonstrate how you can save them money, they will be happier with that.

You can save your employer save money by getting a certification by putting your skills to use. You will likely be more efficient at what you do, due to the improved knowledge. You’ll learn better ways of doing things, learn how to spot problems before they arise, and many other benefits. All of these things can add up to help the employer save time and money. And time saved equals money saved.


2 – Other Companies Pay For Employee Certification

Other employers in the industry pay for certifications. I read articles all the time about companies paying for certifications, or employees saying their boss paid for their certification.

I don’t raise this point to be childish, for us to go to our employer and say “Everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?” I raise it because it’s worth highlighting that it’s the norm, or that it’s quite common.

If you can, get some examples of companies paying for the certification that you’re doing. This will help. Bring it up when you speak to your employer, by saying something like “I’ve found several/many companies have a certification payment plan in their budget for employees”.


3 – Research the Time and Cost

Another way to help your cause is to do your research. Probably the best tip for presenting information or convincing someone to take action is to do your research and know your stuff.

For this point, do some research into the cost and time taken for this certification? Answer questions such as:

  • How much will the exam(s) cost?
  • Are there any training courses involved? How much will they cost?
  • Do I need any books to study from?
  • Do I need to take any time off?
  • How long will it take me to complete? This can show the company when they can get the benefits of it.

Once you know this information, you should be able to prepare a final dollar amount for the certification. It’s no use asking for the company to pay for it, and not knowing exactly how much it will cost them. If you can say “I’d like to get the MCTS certification, and it will cost $1100″, then it helps your case, better than saying “I’d like to get the MCTS certification, and I think it will cost about $600 for the exam, plus some books, maybe a course, and some other material.” I’m not sure how much this really costs, but it’s just an example.


4 – It’s Not That Expensive For a Company

When asking your employer to pay for your certification, the amount to them is less of an issue as it is to you. Imagine you had to pay $1000 for a certification, which was the exams and training material. If you’re earning $700 per week and can only save $100, that’s 10 weeks of savings to prepare for the course. It means you delay your exams and the benefits they get by another ten weeks. The amount will vary depending on your income and savings, of course.

For a company, however, paying $1000 should not be too much of an issue. Companies have larger incomes, and they have budgets, which should include training. Allocating $1000 or $5000 or $200 from their budget for your certification should not be much of an issue to them, if you can explain the benefits.

Comparing the impact to your own salary, it’s easier for them.


5 – Study Won’t Affect Your Job

Another thing to point out is that the studies should not affect your job. You should try to study for the certification after hours, so the employer does not get impacted by your study habits. You don’t want to be studying on the job, as it could impact your work and may not impress your boss.

If you do need to take time off, however, for your exam or last minute study, let them know. Let your boss know that you might need a day off for the exam, or to study, but tell them up front. This should hopefully be the only impact on your work life. Studying outside work hours should be the aim, as it has minimal impact on your job.


6 – You Can Teach Others What You’ve Learnt

Another benefit of getting the certification is that you can teach other people at your company what you’ve learnt. If you’re the first one in your company, department, or team to get the certification, others can benefit as well.

This will depend on the certification and the team you’re in, but if you become certified, you can offer to teach other team members what you’ve learnt. This will help the entire team, department, and company do better and work more efficiently.

You can either do this formally (by making a presentation), or informally (discussing it with them in your team meetings or just as you do your work). Either way, it’s good to help out your team.


7 – You Can Help the Company Achieve Partner Status

Some certifications and vendors have what’s called a partner status. This means that if a company has a certain number of its employees with a particular certification, or certifications from a vendor, they achieve a partner status with that vendor.

This comes with additional benefits, such as reduced cost of training, reduced cost of their products (hardware or software), and the ability to show customers you are a recognised partner. Cisco and Microsoft both offer partnerships if enough of the employees are certified with them.

This only counts for some vendors, but it can be helpful if your employer is looking to maintain or become a vendor partner for certifications.


Tip – Don’t Just Get Certified and Leave

I have one final tip, but it’s not related to getting a certification approved by your boss. Once you get certified, I would recommend not leaving your company, if you can help it. It looks pretty bad in the eyes of the employer if they have just paid for your certification and you leave to find another job. They would have received no benefit from their investment and you’ve just left as soon as you are certified when they paid for it.

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and we can’t be expected to stay in a job if something else in our life changes, but if you can help it, try to stay with the employer. It’s good for your reputation and can help you in the future when you’re looking for a job anyway.


How to Convince Your Employer To Pay For Your Certification

So, in summary, the tips to convince your employer are:

  • Your knowledge can save them money
  • Other companies pay for employee certification
  • Research the time and cost
  • It’s not that expensive for a company
  • Study won’t affect your job
  • You can teach others what you’ve learnt
  • You can help the company achieve partner status


Well, I hope these tips have helped you consider how to approach your boss and convince them to pay for your certification. What other questions do you have about this? Share them in the comments section below!

Career Action Tip: If you’re getting ready to study for a certification, gather the information you need before presenting it to your boss (such as cost, time taken, how you plan on studying for it).

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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3 Steps For Starting a Business Analyst Job and Don’t Know Where To Start Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:13:31 +0000 3 Steps For Starting a Business Analyst JobAre you starting a business analyst job but don’t know where to start? It can be overwhelming at the beginning. Learn some tips on how to get started in this article.

Aim Is To Gather Requirements

A good way to start is to remember what the role is for. The role of a business analyst is to gather requirements from other people in the company for a particular solution, and document them in a way that is helpful to the IT team and the business users.

This is the aim of a business analyst. So, generally, your first step should be starting to gather requirements.

But what if you don’t know how? What if you don’t know what to look for, or who to speak to?


Get The First Steps From Your Manager

Your manager can be a good place to start if you’re not sure where to begin your role as a business analyst.

They should be able to give you some direction on your role. Try to speak to them and find out:

  • What the project is called (sometimes you’re not even told this)
  • What the purpose of the project is
  • Who are the key stakeholders (the main people involved)
  • What do they expect from you as an outcome (document, user stories, etc)
  • What they think the next steps are

The key stakeholders are important here, as it will determine who you need to speak to about this project. Try to write down their names and details, if you can. You may also be able to look up their phone numbers in the company address book or contact list.


Prepare A Document When Starting a Business Analyst Job

The next thing that I would suggest is to prepare some kind of document for your work here. This could be in any format you like – it doesn’t need to be the document that you use for the project. It can be a notepad file, a Word document, Excel file or something else. I recommend having it on your computer, rather than writing it down, so you can organise it and search it easier. Personally, I use OneNote, but that’s just my preference.

This would be used for all of your notes that you take for the project. You don’t need to deliver it or provide it as an official document for the project if you don’t want to. You could use this document as your rough notes file, and then translate that into whatever kind of documentation is needed.

I suggest making this document as you have all of the notes for the project in one place. When you’re a couple of months into the role and need to remember what someone said about a certain topic, you can go back to your notes and find out.


Contact Those You Need To Speak To

After speaking to your manager, you would have hopefully got the name of someone to speak to. Whether you got the name of one person, or five, it’s a start.

You can go and contact them to find out more about the project. Send them an email, give them a call, or go around and see them if they’re in the same building.

If you’ve only got the details of one person from your manager, that’s OK. This person would know about the project or work that needs to be done. They can also provide some information on who else you can talk to.

Write down what they say, the things that need to be done, what’s important to the project, and what needs to be done next. You can always come back to them and clarify some points, but it’s better to write it all down first. Don’t worry about going too slowly – the person you’re speaking to knows you’re new to the role or the project.


Organise Your Notes

Now that you’ve spoken to some people and got some idea of the project, you’ve probably got some idea of what needs to be done. You’ve also probably got a heap of notes.

It’s now time to organise them. You should try to translate them into whatever format you need them for your project. This could be a Business Requirements Document, or user stories, or a design document, or something else.

If your notes are detailed enough, it should be all you need. However, that’s not always the case. You can still go back and clarify some points with those people you spoke to. It’s commonly done later in the requirements gathering phase, as you get more detailed into the requirements and your understanding improves. You then come up with some “what if” questions and find gaps in the requirements.


Well, I hope these tips have helped you if you’re starting a business analyst job and don’t know where to start. What other questions do you have? Ask them in the comments section below.

Career Action Tip: If you’re starting a business analyst job, prepare some kind of document to capture your notes.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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Microsoft C# Certification – Your Questions Answered Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:36:02 +0000 Microsoft C# Certification - Your Questions AnsweredIf you’re looking to get a Microsoft C# certification, you probably have a lot of questions. Read some of the common questions and answers for certifying in this technology in this article.

What Microsoft C# Certifications Are Available?

There are two main certifications available for you if you’re interested in getting a Microsoft C# certification:

  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD): Windows Store Apps using C#

The MTA is more of an entry-level certification, and the MCSD is the next level up in the Microsoft certification path.


What C# Certification Exams Do I Need To Pass?

You’ll need to pass a few exams to become certified in Microsoft C#. These exams are different for each certification.

You can get the MTA certification by passing only one exam, the 98-372 Microsoft .NET Fundamentals. This is targeted towards those who are new to the industry or have minimal experience. It’s based on understanding the .NET concepts, including C#. More information on this exam can be found here.

To get the MCSD Windows Store Apps using C#, you’ll need to pass three exams:

  • Exam 70-483 Programming in C#
  • Exam 70-484 Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#
  • Exam 70-485 Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C#


What Are The Requirements For Each Certification?

What’s different about these two certifications compared to other organisations, and even older Microsoft certifications, is that they don’t have any strict requirements.

For the MTA, there are no requirements needed, it’s just targeted towards the entry-level IT professional who wants an understanding of .NET and C#.

For the MCSD, there are no requirements. You don’t need to have the MTA to get the MCSD, and the exams don’t cross over (as in, the exam for the MTA is not included as one of the exams in the MCSD). There is a recommended experience for each exam, though:

  • Exam 70-483 Programming in C#: one or more years of experience programming the essential business/application logic for a variety of application types and hardware/software platforms using C#.
  • Exam 70-484 Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#: two to five years of experience developing C# and XAML applications, including one or more years developing applications that conform to the Windows Store app guidelines.
  • Exam 70-485 Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C#: two to five years of experience developing C# and XAML applications, including two or more years designing and developing Windows Store apps.

So, it’s suggested that you have at least two to five years of experience developing C# and XAML applications in order to pass these exams.


How Can I Get A C# Certification?

Getting a Microsoft C# certification is just like getting any other certification:

  1. Choose a certification, either the MTA or the MCSD.
  2. Determine how you study, based on your budget and preferred method. Microsoft offers courses for each exam, so you can take those if needed. You can also browse the Internet or read books on each of the exams.
  3. Schedule the exams. Find a time to enrol in the exam when you’re ready to take it.
  4. Sit and pass the exams. Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll either become certified (if it’s your last exam), or you’ll need to move on to the next exam.


Which C# Certification Should I Get?

Well, as there are only two to get, which are recommended for different levels of experience, it’s an easier decision to make than other certifications.

If you have over two years experience of developing C# and XAML applications, and are quite confident in your skills and abilities, and known the subject matter of the MCSD exams (484, 484 and 485), then I suggest going for the MCSD certification.

If you don’t, however, or if you have less experience or are new to the industry, start with the MTA. It’s one exam and gives you the understanding at a certain level about C#.

Following the C# certification path means you can start with the MTA and move on to the MCSD, but as you don’t need to pass one to get the other, it’s only a suggestion.


How Much Does The C# Certification Cost?

The prices for each exam depend on where you take the exam and what country you’re in. I did some research for my market (Australia) and this is what I found (at time of writing and converted to USD):

  • MTA Exam 98-372 Microsoft .NET Fundamentals: Cost was $157 AUD ($147 USD) from Prometric.
  • MSCD Exam 70-483 Programming in C#: Cost was $206 AUD ($193 USD) from the Microsoft website.
  • MCSD Exam 70-484 Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#: Cost was $206 AUD ($193 USD) from the Microsoft website.
  • MCSD Exam 70-485 Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C#: Cost was $206 AUD ($193 USD) from the Microsoft website.

So, according to these prices, it will cost $157 AUD ($147 USD) to get the MTA and $618 AUD ($580 USD) to get the MCSD.

Note that these prices may change, so it’s best to do your own research.


I hope that this answers your questions on the Microsoft C# certification. If you have any other questions, share them in the comments section below!

Career Action Tip: If you’re a C# developer or wish to move into this area, consider getting the MTA or MCSD to improve your career.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

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4 Examples Of Long Term Career Goals Mon, 23 Jun 2014 11:20:24 +0000 4 Examples Of Long Term Career GoalsSometimes you’ll get asked about your long term career goals. How do you come up with them? I’ve shared some examples of long term career goals in this article that can help you decide on your own goals.

Why Long Term Career Goals?

Long term career goals are goals that you set for your career that have something to achieve in the long term. For your career, long term is probably anything over five years.

While it’s easier to set short term career goals (get a promotion, pass an exam, finish a project), long term career goals are harder. They require you to think of where you want to go in your career and what you ultimately want to do.

The reason for setting long term career goals is to define where you want to go in your career. It’s hard to know if your career is successful if you don’t know what success is, in your own terms.


Where To Use Long Term Career Goals

Long term career goals are used in a few places. While short term career goals are used perhaps on your resume (in an Objective statement) or in a cover letter, long term career goals aren’t.

The main place where I think long term career goals can be used is in job interviews. A common question in job interviews is around your long term vision or what you want to do with your career. Have you ever been asked that? I know I have.

If you know what your vision is, your long term goal for your career is, then you can answer this question easier. Knowing what you want to do 5/10/20 years in the future is a good thing.

That’s not to say it needs to stay that way. Long term career goals can change, of course. They are just focused for the long term. My career goal has probably changed twice since I started working in the IT industry.

Another place I see long term career goals being used is in conversations with other people, such as co-workers, bosses, or friends. People can sometimes ask you, “where do you want to go in your career?” or “what’s your career goal?” or something to that effect. Knowing what your long term goal is makes it easier to answer that question.


Think Of What You’re Doing Now and Where You Want To Be

I think the best way to come up with a long term career goal is to think of where you are now in your career, think of where you want to be, and then fill in the gap.

Well, actually, the long term goal is more of the “where you want to be”, and filling in the gap is how to get there, but it can help to think like that to come up with your goal. It can help you decide if that’s what you want to do and how to get there as well.


Examples of Long Term Career Goals

Alright, so now let’s take a look at some examples of long term career goals. I’ve listed in some roles here, which can be substituted for other roles that fit your desires.

  • “Effective and experienced project manager capable of delivering multi-year projects”. This demonstrates the kind of role you want to move in to, and the level of experience or responsibility needed for it. Multi-year projects are not simple as they take a few years to deliver.
  • “Team leader for a large team of software developers.” This could be for someone who is a software developer and wishes to move into a team leadership role, focusing on larger teams. Many skills need to be learnt for this transition.
  • “Become the most knowledgeable and effective Java developer in the area.” Becoming knowledgeable is a good aspiration, and knowing the development language inside and out is a great goal to have, especially for your local area.
  • “To gain the Expert level ISTQB CTEL certification for software testing.” Getting a certification in your focus area is a common goal, but you also need to determine why you want it. This certification is for software testing, but you can rewrite it for other areas of IT.

So, there’s a few examples of long term career goals that work for the IT industry. You can take those and rewrite them to match your desires. Remember, these are just examples of long term career goals. Goals are quite personal and you should put in your own plans into these goals.


I hope this has helped you come up with your career goals. Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments field below!

Career Action Tip: Review your long term career goals to see if they still align to your desires. If you don’t have any, come up with a long term career goal based on this information.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!


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