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(Source: Flazingo) (Source: Flazingo)

A-B-L: Always Be Learning
If the salesperson's mantra is Always Be Closing, modern IT pros should adopt and adapt it for their own career: Always Be Learning.

If you're not learning, you're frozen in IT time. The technology world has always been one of change, but the pace and frequency of that change has never been greater. The last couple of decades have featured wave after wave of new technologies and their often disruptive effects, not just on lifestyles and business models but on job descriptions, career paths, IT organizational charts, and even IT budget and decision-making power. And there's little sympathy for the IT pros in the middle of all this Change with a capital C.

How do you ensure you're not just maintaining but capitalizing on this rapid-fire change? A-B-L: Always Be Learning.

Consider the expanding, evolving world of big data, which occupies an interesting place in today's IT landscape: It's both a significant driver of this aforementioned world of change, and also a significant product of it, a result of recent, sweeping shifts in IT like mobility and cloud.

Big data, as both a cause and effect of technological change, is impacting your career, whether you realize it or not. Even if you're not actively seeking a big data role, massive amounts of information -- and massive business interest in that information -- is affecting IT. Marketing departments have more say in technology acquisitions and decisions, CEOs want insights (and typically don't want to hear about the IT challenges impeding the speedy delivery of those insights), and meanwhile aging infrastructure and applications wheeze under the weight of these new and increasing demands. More such change is on its way, too: the Internet of Things (IoT), as a prime example, will fuel continued change and continued data growth in the not-so-distant future.

Like many explosive -- and, yes, trendy -- technology developments, big data has also spawned its own industry within an industry. That industry is hiring and it pays well, by the way.

Back to that whole learning thing: Big data is definitely creating tremendous opportunities for the IT pros that know and understand it. That could be in a new role such as a data engineer or simply in a revision of an existing job description -- one that makes you more versatile and less dispensable to your employer and will likely generate unexpected opportunities down the road.

Where do you add these magical skills, especially if your employer isn't offering training in them? The Internet, of course. Education and skills training has experienced its own share of change lately, and there's plenty of upside for the knowledge-thirsty IT pro: Loads of readily available, online classes for developing new skills across the technical spectrum. Best of all, many of these learning opportunities come at no cost to students -- so the only thing you're really putting on the line is your time and energy. Admittedly, those are not finite resources -- but you can tackle new learning and career advancement chances with minimal risks.

This is plenty true of the still-young big data universe, whether you're looking to just get a basic primer on the big data landscape or become a serious (and in-demand) expert in Hadoop, data mining and visualization, or other areas. Keep in mind, too, that it's not merely about specific technologies or programming languages. It can be just as important to learn and hone related subject matters that help in developing deep understanding of what all that information really means, a less tangible skill set that employers and CIOs are likely to emphasize going forward.

Read on for 10 online courses for developing big data skills. Have your own big data curriculum? Share it with us in the comments below, Professor.

(Image: Flazingo)

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