Monday, December 14, 2009

7 Job-Hunting Tips during the Holidays

Note: I apologize for the lack of frequency with my posts. I didn't want to go too long without posting, so I decided to write this article containing some great career tips.


Although all signs point to a recovery, the economy is still shaky when it comes to job creation. That said, according to economists and the US Department of Labor, information technology (particularly network management and software engineering) is the #2 fastest-growing career field for 2010 (#1 is healthcare). I still wanted to talk about finding a job during the holidays because:
a) you may be an out-of-work IT professional searching for a job
b) you may be a student who's graduating very soon, so you are searching for a job
c) you may be an IT professional searching for a better job

The Article

This article from MSNBC provides some fantastic tips for searching for a job during the holidays.

My Thoughts

I completely agree with the article, especially the three points: Your Resume is So 2009, Be a cyber elf! Build a better online image, and Rock around the Christmas tree.

In this century, having a professional on-line presence and portfolio (Your Resume is So 2009, Be a cyber elf! Build a better online image) separates the most valuable players from the bench riders in IT. If you don't have any online presence, this is the time to do so. For example:

If you are going to post examples of your work, be sure that you are not violating your company's confidentiality agreements. If you can, modify or "tweak" the project to make it more neutral.

  • Set up a blog with examples of the kind of work you do.

  • Set up a LinkedIn account and use LinkedIn regularly. You can sign up for LinkedIn for free at

  • Set up a Facebook account and use it to publicize the work that you're doing in Information Technology.

  • Use YouTube to make instructional videos or demonstration videos of what you have done or are doing in IT.

Once you set up your on-line presence, mention it in your resume.

If you do have an on-line presence, this is the time to make sure that it's professional. While your non-professional pictures and posts may make your peers laugh (or better yet, may get you an audition to be a participant in one of VH1's fourth-rate "reality" shows), some hiring manager or other manager with a C in his or her title may not find it amusing, and they pass you up for a candidate who can represent the company's brand a little better. It's okay to have a picture of you and your friends skiing in the Rocky Mountains, but it's not okay to post a picture of you and your friends in your undergarments getting drunk in the ski lounge. Start using your social networking sites to highlight your projects, or use the sites as a portfolio of your work.

It's also very important to network (Rock around the Christmas tree), and going to holiday parties give you a chance to expand your social network. The reality is that 80% of the people who found a new job found it through someone in the social network (for the students: yes, your career services department counts as a member of your social network). I'm about to tell you a "well-known" secret - most companies who are looking for employees will use their social (and business) network to find qualified workers before paying money to post an ad on the job websites or the classifieds.

Supplemental Reading

In a few past blog articles, I talk about a few of the tips in the MSNBC article in much more detail, as well as add a few tips of my own. Read my blog posts from January 2009 andfrom October 2008 talking about getting a job in a tough economy.

If you have any tips, please share your tips by commenting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dual Booting versus Virtual Machines


The economy has changed the required skill sets of the IT professional. There was a time where being a specialist in a particular technology was king. Now, IT professionals are expected to be jacks and jills of all trades because companies typically cut IT budgets during lean times, and CIOs and IT managers want to get the most out of their limited budget. For example:

  • A server administrator not only needs to know Windows, but s/he needs to know Linux and Mac, and s/he needs to know how each system interacts with one another. Server administrators are also required to know how to write scripts to perform tasks.

  • A network administrator not only needs to know how to configure a router or design a network architecture, but s/he needs to be familiar with configuring and designing a VoIP setup. Some network administrators are also expected to know how to perform server administration as well.

  • A SharePoint professional needs to not only know how to administer a SharePoint server, but s/he need to know how to administer Windows servers, understand Active Directory, understand Exchange Servers, and perform basic DBA functions on SQL Servers. The pro may also need to know how to write custom code for SharePoint.

  • A developer in a programming language not only needs to be familiar in the programming language, but s/he also needs to know how to perform basic database administration, such as creating tables, views, and stored procedures in a database, and s/he needs to understand basic networking concepts since a number of development architectures are using web services.

When it comes to system equipment, the price of equipment is cheap compared to five years ago; we are getting more "bang for our buck", so to speak. Now that powerful machines are more affordable, IT professionals can position themselves to being jacks and jills of all trades either by setting up their machines to dual-boot between two (or more) different operating systems or by setting up virtual machines running different operating systems.


Dual-booting allows the user to set up the machine to run more than one operating system and choose which operating system one wants to run. Typically one would set up dual-booting to run two different operating systems, such as Windows and Mac OSX or Windows and Linux. However, some may set up dual-booting to run different versions of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows 7, or Windows 7 and Windows 2008, but that is typically done by students who are simultaneously taking a class in a desktop operating system and a class in a network operating system.

NOTE - depending on how the boot loader is configured, you may automatically boot into one of the operating systems by default if you don't press a key sequence to allow you to choose which OS you would like to use.
Typically in dual booting, your disk is partitioned in a way where one partition is for one operating system and another partition is for the other operating system. Your system is now set up to allow you to choose which operating system you would like to run.

The selling point of dual-booting is performance. By dual-booting, you get full access to the memory and processor as well as other peripherals (video, network card).

There are a few downsides of dual-booting.

  • Having to reboot your machine to switch operating systems may become a nuisance after a while. For example, say you have a dual-boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9. If you're working in the Windows system, and you need to go to your Ubuntu system while you're in the middle of working in your Windows system, you have to reboot your machine, choose to boot in Ubuntu, do what you need to do, and reboot again to return to Windows.

  • If you need to change your dual-boot setup, it requires a lot of work. For example, say you have a dual-boot system with Mac OSX Snow Leopard and Windows 7. If you decide that you would rather dual-boot between Mac OSX Snow Leopard and Fedora 12 (instead of Windows 7), you need to do a little bit of work. You may have to repartition your disk, or you may have to reinstall the OSes. If you have to switch back to a MacOS/Windows dual-boot from a MacOS/Linux dual-boot, you'll have to re-do everything.

  • If your disk partition runs out of space, you're out of luck - unless you want to reconfigure your partitions and reinstall your operating system(s).

Virtual Machines

NOTE - you still have to abide by the software licensing rules when using virtual machines. For example, if your Windows 7 software is licensed for one machine, the virtual machine setup for Windows 7 counts as one machine.
There are numerous software packages that will allow you to set up a virtual machine, which is a software "emulation" of a computer that runs exactly like a physical computer with the operating system running on it. Since IT departments are expected to do more with less because of budget restrictions and requirements to reduce the company's carbon footprint, virtualization is fast becoming a popular solution.

The selling point of virtual machines is convenience. If you are running one operating system but you need instant access to multiple operating systems, you can easily do this with a virtual machine without having to reboot your main machine. If you no longer need to use a particular operating system, all you need to do is delete the virtual machine rather than having to reconfigure your disk partitions and reinstall software.

Another selling point of virtual machines is you can set up a virtual "network" (for a lack of a better term) instead of running multiple machines. For example, if you are studying for your Windows certifications, you can set up one virtual machine to be the Windows server, and you can set up another virtual machine to be the Windows client that logs in to the server's domain.

There are a few downsides of virtual machines.

  • Because the virtual machines are sharing the resources with the main operating system, performance is not as good as running a dual-boot or standalone machine running the same operating system.

  • You may lose access to peripherals depending on the virtual machine software that you use. From my experience, I haven't had problems with VMWare or Parallels, but I've read about some instances of issues with the virtual machine software recognizing USB ports.

Dual-boot or virtual machine?

The decision to dual-boot or set up a virtual machine depends on the situation. Personally, I prefer using virtual machines over setting up dual-booting because of the line of work that I do. On my Mac OSX Snow Leopard machine using Parallels Desktop, I have the following virtual machines: Windows Server 2003 running SharePoint Server and SQL Server 2005, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows XP, and Ubuntu 9. When I'm done with an operating system, I can just delete the virtual machine with ease. I also have the virtual machines so I can set up a "mini-domain" between the Windows XP machine and the Windows Server 2003 machine.

That said, there may be situations where a dual-boot is better than a virtual machine. For example, I have students who are simultaneously taking courses in Windows and Linux. In some of the cases, especially with absolute beginners, it's easier for the student to have a dual-boot system instead of Linux or Windows running in a virtual machine because of the additional learning curve involved with setting up the virtual machine so the student can participate in the lessons.

Additional Reading

This article by darthpenguin provides additional insight on choosing whether to dual-boot or set up a virtual machine.
For those of you in the Mac world, this article by Robert Movin discusses the debate between dual-booting and virtual machines on a Mac.

Additional Information

Below is a list of desktop virtual machine software.

  • Virtual PC, Microsoft

    This free software from Microsoft allows the user to run multiple versions of Windows on the same machine. You can also run other OSes from Virtual PC with a little jury rigging.

  • VMWare

    This commercial software is frequently used throughout the industry for creating virtual machines. While it's a fantastic software package, it does cost money. VMWare Workstation costs about $133 USD, and VMWare Fusion (for Mac) costs around $56 USD.

  • Parallels

    This commercial software package is frequently used on Macs for desktop virtualization. While this is also a fantastic software package, it does cost money. Parallels will run between $70 - $80 USD.

  • Virtual Box, Sun Microsystems

    Virtual Box is a free, open-source software package from Sun with software versions for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. I have students who swear by VirtualBox. However, based on personal experience, I found that VirtualBox is a real "resource hog", so you do need a very powerful machine to run this effectively.

  • Hyper-V, Microsoft

    This software comes with Windows Server 2008. The selling point of this software is it's written more for server virtualization. I wanted to mention this since there are students who are learning Windows Server 2008 and they are using this as their main OS for their machines.