Experience vs formal training

W StewartW Stewart Member Posts: 794 ■■■■□□□□□□
So the senior admin at my current job with his 23 years of experience didn't seem to understand that asterisks in a traceroute may be due to icmp being blocked on a router in between and not necessarily because of latency issues, or that ssl is just an encryption protocol and doesn't actually listen on port 443 until it's combined with a service like http or a vpn, or that dropping the memory cache in linux doesn't really free up ram and it only increases cpu load, or that an ssl handshake failing in nagios (which listens on port 5666) has nothing to do with sshd being in the hosts.deny file. I knew all of this stuff with my 3 years of experience which got me thinking about the current state of IT and garbage IT professionals.

While I believe experience is important in IT, it's possible to spend 23 years doing stuff the wrong way. I think too many professionals rely on experience in the sense of(I did it this way before so this must be the right way to do it), rather than actually trying to gain an understanding of the technologies they use so that they can do things the right way. I don't think it's a lack of passion for the business on his end. He's the type of guy to stay late working on projects and to work on projects at home as well. He's just not as thorough as I am in learning stuff and has most likely leaned on his experience a little too much which can be very limited depending on the situations you've dealt with and how your perceived those situations.

Maybe more formal IT training would ensure that more IT professionals knew some of this fundamental stuff. I think certs have definitely helped me understand the basics but I don't see any reason why somebody with 23 years in who seems to actually enjoy this career field hasn't picked up on some of that stuff. He claims to have held almost every major cert there is to get but he skipped the comptia certs because he didn't think they were worth anything.


  • ITforyearsITforyears Member Posts: 35 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I think formal training is important to keep up the skill sets. I started out in Cobol Programming, then ADA; then moved to Banyan Vines and Novell Networking. I been involved with Windows since day 1.

    I just started into the Linux OS this year, mainly because of my SANS training with its Linux VMs and that was a major learning curve but due to my IT background, I was able to grasp the concepts in the short training time span provided.

    I wouldn't knock the senior admin because I do not know his role and obviously so much has changed since he first started his IT career.

    Even though I do hands-on, my role is more managerial so I am not as skilled as my workers and we meet to teach one another as well.

    When I was in the private sector, I did not have any certifications but IT degrees and experience. Now, working for the government, I have earned ten certs in six years and it has been well worth it. The government has paid for those certs, so I have taken full advantage of it.
  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Great topic.

    I think that formal training helps and so does experience icon_silent.gif

    But like all things in life - it depends on the quality of the effort placed by the individual. I have mentioned before in these forums, experience is important but it depends on the type of experience - spending 23 years working in the same company, in the same way, and on the same technology may not necessarily be transferable to another company or be valuable. And, if the individual isn't passionate about his/her craft and doesn't explore the changes in his/her profession - well - it's just the wrong type of experience.

    Similarly - others have mentioned formal training such as certification is dependent on what the individual is willing to put into his/her education/training. As you recall, this often comes up when we discuss online versus brick and mortar degrees. If the individual is truly dedicated to explore his craft and to learn - then training where and how you get it doesn't matter.

    Your comment that "did it this way before so this must be the right way to do it" really resonated with me. I often struggle with that sentiment from others. And in business, that can be a death-kneel.

    @ITforyears - I couldn't help chuckling at your mention of ADA and COBOL. Glad to see that there is someone else on this forum who may be older than myself - icon_smile.gif
  • Dieg0MDieg0M Member Posts: 861
    I had a similar situation. I worked with a guy who had a lot of experience in the field but after a few weeks working with him, it was clear to me that he was lacking some pieces of knowledge in a few core networking topics. I think it is important to keep updated in your certification path to never be in this situation. However, don't under estimate the amount of knowledge someone with experience can offer to you and your team.
    Follow my CCDE journey at www.routingnull0.com
  • xnxxnx Do they matter? UKMember Posts: 464 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Some of these 'experienced' people may have been very knowledgeable before, but most people's brains will only retain information that's relevant or useful.

    Working on the same equipment and people at the same company for many years doesn't really seem like proper experience to me...
    Getting There ...

    Lab Equipment: Using Cisco CSRs and 4 Switches currently
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,426 Mod
    I'll be the devil's advocate here (because I've been in your situation before, trust me!).

    I know some serious experts with 25+ yrs of experience, working for major vendors, doing amazing things, yet they may not know ALL the answers to all the questions that you presented here. Sure they will know that SSL is a protocol, but maybe not communicate it to you properly. But do you know what they know? They know the Internal design of IBM AIX kernel, they know how to troubleshoot serious performance problems in EMC Storage with replication clustered in a Geo Cluster (spanning multiple OS's), they know how to present a proper business case to C-Level executive, some even speak 3 languages.

    The point I'm trying to make here is that, everyone forgets some stuff, and some things do change. The way Linux handle memory now can be confusing to some, and it wasn't the case with some UNIX variants, and IT WILL change in the next few years.

    I feel your frustration, because it sucks being lead by incompetent people but unfortunately this is the reality of our industry (and other industries as well), we just gotta do our best and move on the to the next exciting job. There are some environments filled with VERY competent people that make us feel that we don't know anything (been there too!).

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  • PristonPriston Member Posts: 999 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I think you need both experience and formal training. But not just any experience and training, you need the right experience and training. As a rack and stack technician I see far too many CCIEs with years of experience ask me to cable something for them and then ask me why it's not working. It's usually something simple, like they forgot to set the port speed or they forgot to no shutdown the ports. I see far too many of these people who don't even know how to run a cable. Sometimes people just know a lot about one thing in IT and are clueless about everything else around it.

    To really excel in IT you need to build a foundation, you can't ignore the basics.
    A.A.S. in Networking Technologies
    A+, Network+, CCNA
  • W StewartW Stewart Member Posts: 794 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Thanks for the feedback. I figured there had to be a side to it that I wasn't seeing. If it's any consolation, I did learn from him that i/o can affect load avg. I guess the real frustration is that there were at least 2 or 3 situations in the two weeks that I've been there where I was trying to explain to him why something couldn't have logically been the cause of an issue and he didn't seem to want to listen or comprehend what I was telling him. I ended up being right but the situations usually played out in such a way that he never had to acknowledge it. I feel like if there were any other linux admins there, they would have realized that I knew what I was talking about. As a linux admin I'd expect him to understand that blocking ssh in the hosts.deny file wouldn't have anything to do with a nagios check listening on port 5666 regardless of his experience. Maybe my expectations are a little too high but he doesn't stack up to the linux admin or the senior admin at my previous job.
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    There is a difference between 20 years of experience and 1 year of experience 20 times. If you aren't learning and progressing in that time it really doesn't matter how long it is. The training doesn't have to be formal as long as you are learning in my opinion. I've learned more reading links off Google then any formal class I've ever attended.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • stryder144stryder144 Senior Member Member Posts: 1,684 ■■■■■■■■□□
    @networker050184 - love the 20 years experience or one year experience 20 times line. Very well said.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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  • petedudepetedude Member Posts: 1,510
    Any completed formal training such as college coursework, training classes, or certifications provide one very critical element to your skillset.

    External validation.

    That is to say, someone with hopefully few/no connections to you, impartial and unbiased (or less biased) has put you through a prescribed program to verify you have attained a particular designated skillset.
    Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
    --Will Rogers
  • N2ITN2IT Inactive Imported Users Posts: 7,483 ■■■■■■■■■■
    The flip side of this is the highly decorated paper warrior, who can't deliver worth a chit. That's equally crap and IMO far more common than the veteran system admin who hasn't adapted.

    Million dollars worth of certifications and education and 2 cents worth of delivery.
  • AverageJoeAverageJoe CISM, CDPSE, CISSP, SSCP, CYSA+, SEC+, NET+, A+, LINUX+, PROJECT+ Member Posts: 316 ■■■■□□□□□□
    The unfortunate truth regarding IT is that we're always chasing it. No one knows it all, and what we do know is always liable to change and generally becomes obsolete pretty fast. Nothing is sacred. To some of us who have been around a while, one day we were troubleshooting 8088s with 20 MB hard drives, programming in Ada, building loop-back cables with 25-pin connectors, and soldering capacitors onto boards in cathode ray tube monitors. If you blink or take a break, you can miss out on an entire generation of hardware or software. If you specialize you wind up losing touch with things outside of your specialization, but if you don't specialize you can wind up not knowing enough about anything. And then, sooner or later, you probably wind up a manager in charge of some smart-alec techs who see your focus on "the big picture" (budgets, audits, stockholder returns, etc.) as making you a garbage IT professional.

    I love computers and IT, but some days I wish I learned a slightly less dynamic trade.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • philz1982philz1982 Member Posts: 978
    Don't confuse facts/knowledge with skill. There are plenty of facts/knowledge I don't have, but I can go Google like a champion and find the facts I need. Now the skill of applying these facts is where things get dicey. Just because I know the command syntax for a (pick your device here) does not mean I know the best way to set one up.
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,426 Mod
    W Stewart wrote: »
    ... I guess the real frustration is that there were at least 2 or 3 situations in the two weeks that I've been there where I was trying to explain to him why something couldn't have logically been the cause of an issue and he didn't seem to want to listen or comprehend what I was telling him. I ended up being right but the situations usually played out in such a way that he never had to acknowledge it......

    I hear your frustration, he is being ignorant, close-minded, and he is not acknowledging your expertise nor taking them into consideration, and his ego is getting in the way!

    I have to deal with this as well...it's hard, but I think the only way to deal with it is by being diplomatic and trying to look for your own best interest first and foremost. It's the part of our job that I really dislike.

    Check out my YouTube Channel!

  • W StewartW Stewart Member Posts: 794 ■■■■□□□□□□
    This is all just coming from my observation. I don't doubt experience can be helpful as I've had some experienced guys at my previous job that really knew there stuff, but this guy just seems to be pretty inefficient at troubleshooting issues and seems to be lacking in areas that I considered common knowledge. It's not like all of these situations didn't apply to the job that he was hired to do. It just seems like nobody else around here is really knowledgeable enough to tell when he's wrong about something so they just go with it.
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