I'm sure you've heard the term "drinking from the firehose" used to describe being fed information at an insane, maybe even overwhelming rate. For most people this is probably a bad thing, but for geeks like us sometimes it's just what the doctor orderred. I'm sure you've been there. It's the night before an important meeting and you're going to be expected to be an expert on some cool new area of technology. Problem is, you've never worked with it before and you need to find a firehouse to start guzzling information from ASAP.
I remember this one time when I ran a consulting firm up in Tulsa. We had an opportunity to place a high-end network security engineer within a large company that we'd been trying to find a way into for years. The project was to re-architect and streamline their very large Cisco PIX implemenation. This was our chance. So, I grabbed my good buddy and "go to guy" Chris and we headed off to the meeting with the customer. The meeting went great and the next day my buddy was set to show up onsite and fix all of their problems.
On the way out of the meeting Chris leans over and says "You know I've never worked with a Cisco PIX before, right?" Holy smokes man!!!
I can't tell you how many times I've been faced with this same situation personally. To add a little more stress, imagine that a few hundred people are going to be sitting in a theatre the next day to hear you speak about this cool new technology that less than a week ago you'd never even heard of... So what do you do when you're faced with coming up to speed on a new techology really quickly and you're under the gun? Well, here's this geek's top 5 list for doing just that:
Head Geek's Top 5 Tips for Coming Up to Speed on New Technology in a Hurry
#5 - Get your hands on it. There's no better way to experience technology than to get your hands dirty. This isn't always feasible, which is why I made it #5 in the list, but even if you can just play with it for a few hours in your home lab having some practical experience with the technology will do wonders for both your knowledge and more importantly, your confidence level i.e. technical mojo. Yeah, that's an Austin Powers reference. Deal with it.
#4 - Find an expert and pick their brain. The cool thing about most geeks is that they like to show off how much the know. Yeah, egos don't run small around this crowd. Sure, sometimes this can be just about as annoying as that old lady sitting beside you at the IMAX while you're trying to watch Avatar in 3-D but she keeps elbowing you and making weird snoring sounds (yes, this was my Monday afternoon this week). However, when you're in a pinch and need to learn a lot in a hurry these are the people you want to seek out (the technology experts, not the annoying old ladies). If you can't find one, try doing some Twitter searches to see who's been talking about what you're needing to learn.
#3 - Visit the vendor's websites. Yeah, most of them make finding useful information about as easy noodling for catfish in a hurricane but if you skip all the marketing crap and head straight to their user forums and tech support pages you should be able to find some good stuff.
#2 - Go to the community. Not all new technologies have strong community followings but if they do this is a fantastic place to get information. Chances are you might even be able to get someone to either join your meeting or provide you with some pre-prepared content. Thwack.com is a great example of this within the network management space. If you can't find a community focused on that technology try looking for a parallel or competing technology and you may find something there.
#1 - Find a website dedicated to giving out technical information and education and start guzzling. If it's something within the network and systems management space there's a good chance you'll find videos, webcasts, and blog entries about it on the educational site at http://solarwinds.com/geek. Otherwise, try visiting a site like IT Knowledge Exchange.
Dont' see your favorite tip here? Tell me about it. I'm always looking for more ways to avoid looking stupid...
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