Have you used your local library to learn about tech? Programming? Web site design and construction? If not, why not?
I haven’t been getting those materials from my local library, in Birmingham, AL. They didn’t have what I needed. I’ve bought my own books and training materials. Among them, off and on, was subscription access to Lynda.com. I’ve used Lynda training materials (first for websites, then for ongoing design software training) for almost 20 years. Until the past few years, it was not easy to afford.
Two and a half years ago, while attending a WordPress conference in Toronto, one of my fellow attendees, Alex Sirota, told me that Lynda.com had a library program (He has a write-up on his professional blog.) It’s been a big success for the Toronto Public Library system, with city residents using it to learn needed skills quickly. This is a great example of the idea of “city-as-a-platform”, in which the city/region/state works to make it easier for more residents to pick up in-demand skills.
I’m currently using Lynda.com to learn about systems administration and security, and Windows 7 & 10 deployments. Since my last use three years ago, they’ve added more IT and programming related materials to their existing design-software core. Most of it is introductory through intermediate, but it’s enough to give me direction as to what I should be studying next.
New to Birmingham and want to know where to find the techies? Or you’ve finished a first degree or training course and you want to know how to connect with other people in your field? In Birmingham, here are the three places you need to start looking to find them.
TechBirmingham’s community listings
TechBirmingham, the region non-profit coordinating and promoting the growth of the regional tech sector, has listings of the local tech organizations on its Community page. These include chapters of national organizations, such as the Project Management Institute, Infragard, Code for America, and Women Who Code .
You’ll also find local tech-focused groups such as the Red Mountain Makers and Steel City SQL.
Magic City Tech
MagicCityTech.org is the signup page for the Magic City Tech slack, a chat channel used by tech community organizers to coordinate events, share information and post jobs. An informal watercooler-style back channel, you’ll see everything from good React tutorials and case studies. to job postings for Scada and R programmers. The number of channels has grown significantly in 2017 & 2018
CompTIA has put together some new materials on what to expect when studying for and preparing to take the CompTIA A+ exams. Check it out at http://courses.certification.comptia.org/
The first We Rise Women in Tech conference, June 23 – 24th was organized by Women Who Code Atlanta. I’m in my mid-fifties, and after a mid-life career reboot (second degree), and starting some of the organizations I felt were essential to my – and others’ success in the Birmingham metro region – was only now getting out to my first tech conference. I was looking forward to more of the welcoming environment that I had found at the first Women Who Code hackathon in July 2016. I had to work Friday (the first day), so was only able to attend the Saturday sessions. My notes on the sessions I attended continue below the break.
I teach the Innovate Birmingham Generation Initiative CompTIA A+ boot camp. As part of taking on that role, I wrote and passed both of the CompTIA A+ exams in 2017. These notes will be updated as needed.
Why the CompTIA A+ exam?
The A+ is an entry-level tech industry certification that verifies that you meet a certain level of knowledge about computing hardware, operating systems, peripherals, and networking. It has two parts; the 220-901, which focuses on hardware, and the 220-902, which focuses on operating systems, networking, security and the command line(s).
See? I earned a thing!
If you have been working with Windows computers for while, have learned how to work at the command line, and have been working doing computing support, it will take you a week or so of study after work to prepare for each exam. If you’ve been using Windows (and a smart phone) but haven’t stepped into the back end or explored some of the finer points of the operating system, it will take you longer – but with persistence and focus, it’s completely doable.
Currently, in Alabama (especially in Birmingham), there are more jobs open where the certification is requested than there are people looking for work who hold it. Demand is expected to grow. Entry level positions are usually as a computer support specialist, with progression to system or network administrators, or to business analyst (usually other areas of education or knowledge) common. If you’re willing to put in the time and work (40 – 60 hours for someone with experience, up to 300 hours for someone new to tech), this certification opens doors. The CompTIA website has a career path roadmap PDF available for download. If you have other qualifications as well, it can be the start of a well-paid tech career.
Atari Inc.: Business Is Fun by Curt Vendel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Summarizes the conditions under which Atari games were first developed – and launched an industry. Not as tightly edited as some books out there (was self-published), but has historical details not available elsewhere. If you want to understand the roots of today’s game industry, is an essential read.
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The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tells the story both of Robert Noyce’s life, and the start of the semiconductor industry. I learned that Robert Noyce’s personal management philosophy of giving people the tools they needed and then getting out of the way – and its success at Intel is what set the pattern of Silicon Valley companies and large portions of the American tech and software sectors in general.
Good read – and important if you want to understand the roots of this industry.
Will be giving a talk on the Mediawiki framework Monday, June 29th at the Birmingham Open Source meeting. Working title is “Mediawiki – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly“. If you’re in the ‘ham – come on out!
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Still digesting this one. Walter Isaacson masterfully links Charles Babbage’s original work and Ada Lovelace’s ideas about computing with Hollerith’s punch card tabulation system, Edison’s systemization of innovation and the developments in circuitry control during the 1930s that laid the groundwork for today’s digital technologies. Good book – I recommend it as essential background reading for anyone interested in understanding how innovation happens, in the history of computing, and in understanding trends going forward.
The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It by Scott Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Good read. I finished with a much better understanding of the market and trade dynamics leading up to the 2008 crash.