There Can Only Be One?

I have recently started studying EMC to improve my knowledge in the storage arena. The choice of EMC was simply because the company I work for, though they CAN sell other storage vendors, has chosen EMC as their vendor of choice. Whether you agree with that or not, the fact is that it gains me access to more EMC training materials than other. This is all beside the point though.

Upon learning that I have started studying storage stuff, I have had a number of people, some that are engineers and some that aren't, ask me if that meant that I was getting out of collaboration. Whoa, that was the first thing that you jumped to when I said I was studying a new technology? When I first heard the question, I thought that it was akin to asking someone if they were quitting the technology field altogether because they were studying a car repair manual to learn how to replace the fuel pump in their 1966 Galaxie. I can see where some people are coming from with this kind of thinking: I have spent so much time and effort getting to where I am in the collaboration space, why would I want to think about anything else?

In my mind, everything is coming together at such a rapid rate that any person should understand at least something of what their primary focus touches on. My focus has been collaboration, which has always touched against borderless networks (route/switch, wireless and security), but in the years since Cisco has approved virtualization of their collaboration products virtualization, storage and compute have been just as important. If you happen to be installing on a B-series server environment, this stuff all comes together in a big way. Should I rely on a “storage guy” to understand how the LUNs for my collaboration environment need to be provisioned for optimal performance? Chances are that he might know what collaboration LUNs require, but what if there isn't a storage guy? Do I need to know everything about storage to make the system work like it should? While it would be great if I did, I need to at the very least know how to speak the same language as the storage guy so that I can communicate what my systems need.

Moving on, let's imagine a world where you can no longer do your primary focus for one reason or another. Maybe Cisco decided to close up shop on a business unit, maybe you just decided that you are tired of supporting that technology and need a change. Whatever the reason, if you have been completely immersed in one technology to the detriment of everything else and have come to this point you now have to start from ground zero. Ok, maybe not zero, I'll spot you five points because the fact that you have worked in technology for the past umpteen years will give you a head start. So now you have to start from ground five, where if you had spent some time studying something else, you would already know two things: 1. If you like the other technology and 2. Everything you have already learned about the technology.

Many years ago a college professor of mine told me that when I graduated I should be reading three publications at all times: two that pertained directly to my field of work and one that is similar but covers a different topic category than the other two. He said that this was the only way that you could expect to keep up in a rapidly accelerating world. Here's the kicker though, he wasn't even in IT, he was a marketing professor if I remember correctly. I think that his advice can very easily overlay onto any field, but it fits especially well into IT. I also think that by learning more in storage or data center or whatever while also learning more to maintain my knowledge base in collaboration helps to fulfill the purpose of that advice, keeping up with the rapidly accelerating world. After all, how can you be prepared for what the future might bring if you are only focused on one thing?