Choosing What Training You Need

Recently at a meeting of a Coffee Club in Menlo Park and then at a virtual Skype mentoring session with a student I mentor from a university in New York, I heard the same question: “What high-tech training and skills do I need to learn now so that I can be competitive in the job market today and into the future?”

Everything depends on the individual. It depends on your background, skills, capabilities, interests, and where your strengths and weaknesses are.

As an example, I provide a synopsis of discussions with my mentee from New York – we’ll call him Jesse.

Jesse is working on a graduate degree in information assurance and was expected to graduate in May 2012. We went through all the courses he attended as an undergraduate and then as a graduate and made a matrix of technologies, skills, and capabilities he had and what his strengths and weaknesses were in each area. We also included his work experience from his two summer internships with companies in Silicon Valley and Israel.

We then looked at about 15 job requisitions for computer security or IA engineers posted by financial companies and defense firms, and again created a matrix map of what skills and capabilities these companies were looking for. We compared the descriptions of the positions with descriptions of certifications from the SANS Institute (the foremost computer and information-security institute in the world). This was to validate the descriptions of the job requisitions posted, and we threw out five job requisitions as being too ambiguous.

Once we had these three matrices, we were able to do a visual comparison and see what training Jesse needed to have to provide the skills and capabilities that these companies were looking for. From there it was a matter of adjusting and augmenting his training plan. In the end, this added another quarter of classes and additional classes from different professional organizations (like the SANS Institute and the Association for Computing Machinery) but it provided him with the technical training necessary for the area he’s chosen to work in.

Your training plan should be able to take you from where you are professionally to where you want to go in your career. Choosing what training is needed in your training plan is filling capability and skill areas you are lacking. If it takes time to reach your career goal, set up achievable milestones and be sure to reward yourself as you reach each of these milestones along the way.

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