Surviving IT was written to be the starting point of your journey to a better career, and a better life. On this page I’ve listed a series of articles, books, and other resources to help you continue your journey.
You can pick and choose from them in any order that aligns with the next steps you want to take. If you feel that more personal development is needed to improve your success in your workplace, check out the book recommendations. If you instead want to dive into learning new tech skills, check out the training recommendations.
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These might seem a little heavy on the “developer” side, but that’s the best place to focus your time if you’re trying to skill up in a fun, enjoyable way. Aside from how crucial it is to have some coding skills, there’s only so much infrastructure training/labbing you can do.
- Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog – A free course to get started with blogging. Sharing your knowledge can raise your profile, expand your professional network, and establish you as a leader in your field. This course will help you get off to a strong start. The course recommends WordPress as a user-friendly blogging platform. I use WordPress for all my blogs and websites. But as a tech professional you may feel just as comfortable using another platform such as Ghost or Jekyll to run your blog.
- A Git Workflow for PowerShell Scripting – A simple way to start a side project is to share your code publicly. Even basic scripts you write can be useful to others. And public feedback helps you to improve your code and make your scripts even more useful to the world. This tutorial gets you started with using GitHub to share your code.
- Raspberry Pi projects (and more on Instructables) – Whether you’re building a weather station, a robot, or just a simple app to blink lights in time to music, a Raspberry Pi is a great way to explore coding, hardware, and IoT.
- 40 Side Project Ideas for Software Developers – These are great learning opportunities for aspiring developers, or those who just want to learn a bit of code to help in their day job.
- Side Gigs, Freelancing, and Going Solo for Technology Professionals – Read before you consider doing paid “work on the side” or starting a business.
Technology moves fast, which means books go out of date quickly. But there are still fundamental skills that you can learn that will not get outdated. The most important one is scripting and automation. For that I recommend learning one (or both) of PowerShell and Python.
Here’s my recommended reading:
- Learn PowerShell in a Month of Lunches – There is no better guide to PowerShell for beginners.
- Automate the Boring Stuff with Python, or Python Crash Course – Both are equally good, but sometimes people find one suits their learning style more than the other. Try the sample chapters first if you are concerned about buying a book that doesn’t work for you.
Personal Development Books
I try to read 3-4 personal development books each year. Working in IT is not just about technology. You need soft skills to be able to understand yourself, other people, and business.
- The Dip – This book has survived many de-clutterings of print books from my house, and I read it at least once every two years. The Dip is a short, easy read that helps you recognize when you’re at the hardest stage of a process that you need to push through (the dip), or when you’re in a situation that will never improve (a cul-de-sac).
- The Four Tendencies – Explains one specific aspect of our personality in how we respond to expectations. Each tendency (Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel) is accompanied by strategies to help you manage yourself and others in the most effective way. You will instantly recognize yourself as one of those types when you read the book (or take the online quiz if you’re skeptical).
- Peak Performance – Covers the topic of maximizing your performance without burning out. Helpful if you are struggling to understand why you keep crashing each time you push yourself hard to learn a new skill or get to the next professional level. Read my review here.
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Accepting that 3-4 hours of deep, focused work is a good day has been enormously beneficial to my work-life balance. Read my review here.
- 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think – You can’t find time. You need to make time. And the way to make time is by prioritizing. Read my review here.
- Remote: Office Not Required – If you want to shift to a remote job, or make the case to introduce remote work at your current job, then this is the book that will prepare you. Read my review here.
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Say no to burnout culture. Avoid working for companies that treat employees as consumable resources. And for those of you who are leaders, create a calm and productive workplace that supports your employees’ health and well-being.
- The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – You will recognize every character in this book from your real life in IT. A motivational tale of a company that turns things around by gaining control of technology and making IT an enabler for their business.
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever – Learn how to enable others to find solutions without taking on the burden of their work yourself. Essential reading not just for leaders. Read my review here.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – This all-time classic is a classic for good reasons. The ideal book for those who struggle with small talk, meeting strangers, and social situations.
- Influence – A favourite of marketers around the world, Influence provides crucial insights and techniques to help you get a “yes” out of your colleagues, managers, and customers.
- Be The Master – Redefine what you see as “success”, and then build on it by helping others. Also available as a free eBook.
- Time Management for System Administrators: Stop Working Late and Start Working Smart – A little dated in some of the terminology, but the concepts are still sound. If you aren’t drawn to try any of the other well known time management systems and advice out there, this one might appeal to you instead.
A short collection of valuable, foundational articles that are broadly useful to people in the technology industry. You can also find more on my blog.
- The Pareto Principle – Also known as the 80/20 Rule.
- The Lindy Effect – Every time you read or hear that a technology is “dead” and not worth your time, consider the Lindy Effect.
- Sick Systems: How to Keep Someone With You Forever – If you’ve ever felt stuck in a workplace that promises to get better, but never seems to improve, then this is the article for you.
- Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued
- How to Remember People’s Names
- STAR Method: How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions
- 30 Behavioral Interview Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer
- Troy Hunt: 10 Personal Finance Lessons for Technology Professionals – Money is an uncomfortable topic for many people, but this blog post goes a long way to breaking down why it’s important that you understand personal finances and how money works in the world.
Reddit can be a time sink, but it also has some good communities that are worth visiting a few times per week.
- ITCareerQuestions – Focussed mainly on IT pros and “how to get into IT”
- CSCareerQuestions – Tends to drift towards extremes (e.g. working for Big N companies) but some nuggets of useful information come up as well.
- Resumes – You can pick up a lot of great resume tips just by lurking here, and also post your own resume for feedback (I recommend you lurk first and give your resume a big overhaul so you’re not just making the same basic mistakes as everyone).
- Homelab – For techies and sysadmins who run home labs for training purposes.
- MealPrepSunday – Save time, save money, eat healthier. I highly recommend this approach to complement your health goals.
- LoseIt – A simple, sustainable approach to healthy weight loss. Judgement-free zone and very supportive.
Apps and Tools
There’s an app for everything, but you don’t need to load yourself up with a million apps to run your life. Here’s a few that I recommend.
- Feedly – Since the death of Google Reader this has been my RSS reader of choice. Useful for following specific blogs as well as broader topics. Integrates nicely with other apps such as Twitter, OneNote, Pocket, and more.
- Pocket – I use this app to collect interesting links and long reads for later reading. I find it valuable always having things to read during those random moments of downtime in the week.
- OneNote – Free note taking app from Microsoft. A great place to store notes, ideas, brain dumps, snippets of code or error messages you deal with throughout the day. I like the tips that Ståle Hansen shares on his YouTube channel for combining productivity systems with OneNote. If you prefer a non-Microsoft alternative look at Google Keep or EverNote. They all do the same thing but in different ways, so pick the one that works best for you.
- Couch to 5K – Want to get fit but don’t know how to start? Follow this plan to the letter and it will ease you into running and help you to form a healthy, enjoyable habit without injuring yourself.
- Spotify – Music with noise-cancelling headphones can drown out background noise and help you focus on your work. I especially like the playlists in the “Focus” genre.
- Brain – Surprisingly effective music to improve concentration and focus. There is a free trial to see whether it works for you. If you’re already paying for Spotify it may be redundant having both.
- Todoist – If you have no task tracking system for work, you can at least manage your own tasks in Todoist. It’s also a great way to manage your personal todos, removing the mental burden of remembering things.
- Blinkist – I use this app to get a summary of interesting books before I commit to a full read. For many books the summary is enough. Some of the summaries have helped me avoid wasting time on the full book.
Here are some paid and free online training platforms for you to consider. I have tried all of them to some degree, and only recommend them here because I consider them solid choices.
- Pluralsight – High quality courses on a wide range of IT pro and developer topics. If you can only afford one training subscription then this one will give you the broadest coverage. (Disclosure: I am a Pluralsight author, but am not compensated for this recommendation unless you happen to watch my courses)
- Linux Academy – Some of the best AWS training around, and the sandbox and hands-on lab environments take away the burden of running your own training environment.
- A Cloud Guru – Another good option for AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure training.
- Datacamp – I’ve been using Datacamp to learn Python and SQL data analysis, two skills that I consider essential for technology professionals. There is real business value in being able to turn data into insights and answers, not to mention the growing field of data science.
- The Odin Project – Similar to Free Code Camp, a free web development training series. The Odin Project covers Ruby and Ruby on Rails if those are skills you need to learn for your job market.