Five Things Today’s IT Workers Must Do

Bill Gates said the West is lacking talented IT workers. Representing the East, India is also heading towards a severe shortage of highly-skilled IT manpower. So now there is a great and broad chance for you, who live and breathe IT, to fill the gaps.

But keep in mind, that what the world is lacking is highly-talented IT workers, not average or even below average ones. Hence you must prepare and build yourself to be outstanding so the world chooses you.

Here are five quick tips for you so you won’t be just another IT worker:

1. Get Updated

The word “information” in IT is there for a reason. IT evolves very quickly. Things you learn today may be obsolete tomorrow. That’s why you must always update yourself with new information, knowledge, and skills if you want to keep up with others in IT industry.

2. Get Certified

You have built solutions in .NET Framework for 5 years. You think you are already a .NET expert, but does the market think so too? Larger companies usually recruit only certified workers. Some companies don’t ask if you are a graduate of Harvard, but they do ask if are a certified Java developer. Get certified and you will likely find your value much higher than before.

3. Get Connected

Gone are the days when a programmer sat in the corner, facing only his monitor and keyboard, typing cryptic codes only a computer could understand. Now you might still sit in the corner, facing your monitor and keyboard, but you must not only type cryptic codes. Instead get connected to other people. Share your knowledge, receive others. Today there are many ways to get connected even if you are not physically in touch. Online chatting, forums, blogs, wikis, and telephones to name a few.
Humans are social-beings. Naturally they enjoy doing things with others. Being an IT worker shouldn’t make you a nerd. Meeting other people lets you learn more and opens even more opportunities.

4. Predict the Market

Face it, there are way so many information and knowledge related to IT you won’t be able to digest them all even if you learn 24/7. Who cares if you are an ultra fast learner and able to learn at least 1 new technology everyday. There will be hundreds more the next day.

So be wise, learn only things you will need. Or better, learn only things the market will need. There are many languages to code in .NET: VB.NET, C#, Managed C++, J#, A#, APL, Chrome, NetCobol, F#, KPL, DotLisp, Ruby.NET, etc. Do you have to master them all? Will people seek you because you know a lot of programming languages? Predict the market. Find out what the market needs today or will need tomorrow. Master it and you will find yourself most welcomed.

5. Open Your Mind

Just because you are a developer in Microsoft platform doesn’t mean you only need to know the solution offered by Microsoft. There are a swarm of other vendors and technologies out there for you to explore. A vendor may be good in providing business solutions, but not in technical or other solutions. You can develop a solution using Oracle backend, Microsoft .NET framework as a frontend, and Linux in the middle for example. Do not limit yourself to certain vendor or technology. Your vendor and technology today might die tomorrow. And it is not uncommon in the IT industry.

Open your mind to innovation too. You don’t always have to think the way other people thinking. Think differently. Create new thinks. You could be the next Linus, Rasmus, Larry, or Bill, who knows.

Also open your mind to the world outside IT. Learn business, management, psychology, art, design or whatever knowledge relevant to what you want to achieve in the future. If you are a programmer but you don’t enjoy your job, don’t push yourself. Move to something else. You don’t have to make a radical maneuver. If you still want to be in IT industry but you hate coding, you can be a system analyst or database administrator for example. Or if you have a good managerial or business skill you can apply for a managerial position instead.

Enough for the tips, next things you will need are the perfect opportunity and a good luck.

Change Your Fonts, Change Your Mood

You must already know Arial and Times New Roman pretty well. If you are a programmer, you must also know Courier inside-out. They are the main line of Microsoft‘s fonts pack. Microsoft Word defaults to Times New Roman. Excel’s default font is Arial. Notepad has Courier New (or Lucida Console in later Windows versions). Have you been tired of them after seeing them for 1, 3, or 10+ years? I do. If you are like me, then please continue reading.

Change Your Printing Fonts

You have a wide choices for printing fonts. If you have a fine quality printer, chances are all fonts will look crisp and great on papers, even the good old Times New Roman. But sometimes you will need variation to fresh up your eyes.

Basically, you can use either serif or sans-serif fonts as your printing fonts. If you don’t understand the difference, serif fonts have structural details on the end of strokes that make up letters and symbols (definition quoted from Wikipedia). If you still don’t get it, observe the picture below (also captured from Wikipedia).

Serif and Sans-Serif

There are some pretty good alternatives to Times New Roman. I personaly like Palatino Linotype and sometimes Georgia. Bitstream Vera Serif looks pretty good too.

Change Your Screen Fonts

Screen fonts are used to render the text you see on your computer monitor. It can be anything from GUI elements such as menus or labels, to the text displayed on your Web browser. Windows XP mainly combines Tahoma and Trebuchet MS to render GUI elements which are pretty much okay for me. Internet Explorer uses Arial and Times New Roman as its default fonts (that is the fonts which are used when the Website you visit doesn’t specify a certain font), and this looks rather ugly for me.

Unlike printing fonts, you usually have fewer choices for screen fonts. Not all fonts will look good on screen since monitors have much lower resolution than average printers. Usually, serif fonts won’t look good on screen since the serifs parts may be rendered poorly. So you better stay with sans-serif fonts here.

Microsoft has several fonts which are designed specifically for screen fonts: Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. They are made so they look crisp on monitors and easy on the eyes. Generally, we won’t get tired quickly when reading text on-screen using the mentioned fonts.

I used to like Verdana so much, but now I use Bitstream Vera Sans as my default font in my Firefox browser. The Bitstream Vera Sans font is also optimized so the rendering quality is great on low-resolution devices such as monitors. The following are the pictures of my Website rendered with Bitstream Vera Sans (upper) and Arial (lower).

Bitstream Vera Sans and Arial

Do you like it too? I will show you later how to install and use the Bitstream Vera fonts.

Change Your Code Fonts

Are you a programmer? Do you mainly develop on Windows platform? If the answers to the both questions are “yes”, then you must be very familiar with the Courier or Courier New fonts. The Courier family font has been used widely in Windows development environment. There are some popular alternatives for this code fonts, mainly the Lucida Console font.

You cannot pick any fonts as code fonts since programmers will need monospace (aka fixed-space) capability to ease indenting in coding. If you are bored with Windows’ standard fonts, you can try Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. It is designed for programmer to optimize the clearness of codes. Take a look at the following picture comparing Bitstream Vera Sans Mono (upper) and Courier New (lower).

Bitstream Vera Sans Mono and Courier New

About the Bitstream Vera Fonts

You read them several times. I use the Bitstream Vera fonts. They look good, but you can’t find them in your font selector dialog box. Why? Because they don’t come with Windows. Bitstream Vera fonts are released under an open source license and published by the GNOME Foundation. Since they are open source, everyone can use and modify them freely (as in free speech). There is a TTF (True Type Font) version for use with Microsoft Windows which can be downloaded here.

Installing and Using the Bitstream Vera Fonts in Windows XP

Here is a guide for those who are unfamiliar with basic fonts operation. This guide is for Windows XP, but should work under different Windows version with some adjustments as well.

  1. Download the TTF package. They are packed in several formats: zip, tar.gz, and tar.bz2. Choose the zip package if you are unsure.
  2. Double click to open the zip (or whatever) package. You will see some files beginning with “Vera”, copy them to any folder you want.
  3. Open Control Panel, switch to Classic View, then double click on Fonts.
  4. Choose menu File > Install New Font…
  5. Navigate to the folder where you copied the Vera fonts earlier in step 2.
  6. Select them all in the “List of fonts” box and click the OK button.
  7. They are installed and ready to use.

Here is another guide to change your default browser font. I use Mozilla Firefox 2.0, but you can do this also in Internet Explorer.

  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Choose menu Tools > Options…
  3. Click on the Content tab.
  4. Under the Fonts & Colors group, click on the Advanced button.
  5. Set Bitstream Vera Serif, Bitstream Vera Sans, and Bistream Vera Sans Mono to the Serif, Sans-serif, and Monospace combo boxes respectively.
  6. Click OK several times to close the Options dialog box.

Many applications allow you to change the fonts, just explore, change some fonts to brighten up your mood. Have fun.

not the last of his kind