The Long and Short of CPM Value

It hasn’t always been easy for Tasmanian IT professionals to advance their careers through ongoing education but, according to Ben Short, ITPA’s new Certified Practicing Member (CPM) program has extended the opportunities and benefits of doing so.

Having been a long-time member of SAGE-AU before it became ITPA, he is now helping to blaze the way for industry professional development by being an early adopter of the CPM status.

Short said that while he was able to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems locally back in 2004, quality post graduate studies were a bit harder to find on the Apple Isle.

“In Tasmania, it is difficult to continue learning through IT training courses, particularly associated with qualifications,” Short said. “Most courses are held interstate and that makes it somewhat cost-prohibitive.

“I do attend training and workshops when they are made available and make extensive use of online course facilities such as CBT Nuggets and Microsoft Virtual Academy but in terms of diversity of content and face-to-face contact, there are limited opportunities that are cost effective.”

Taking the short course

It was for these reasons that he was quickly on-board when ITPA started their short course program, in alignment with the introduction of a CPM status. It gave him a much easier, more affordable pathway to ongoing professional development in practical technologies.

“ITPA’s short courses are covering topics that every IT professional should remain abreast of,” Short said. “Tying that into the CPM program is an added bonus for members.

“Having that CPM status is a great way to show my employer that I am working hard to maintain and improve my skills.”

Based in Hobart, Short currently works as a Senior IT Support Officer for the Tasmanian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Having been hooked on technology and computers from a very early age, he said that he “can’t recall any time when I didn’t think I would end up with a career in IT”

“I have memories going back to four or five years old of playing Dark Castle on a cousin’s Mac Classic and QBasic Nibbles on an XT Computer owned by an uncle,” Short said. “It was towards the end of primary school and early into high school when perhaps I really got into computing.

“It started with a BBC Micro computer network and early i286 computers on a Lantastic network and things kind of went from there. By grade 10, I was providing computer support for the teachers and by this time the internet was starting to appear.

“From those early years, I had a strong suspicion that there was always going to be jobs available in IT. I’ve been geeking out with technology ever since.”

From little things, big things grow

Short’s professional career started with the Tasmanian Department of Education in 2004. As many fresh-faced IT graduates have done in the past, his career start working on a corporate IT helpdesk and then onto 2nd level support.

“Over the course of five years, my role shifted towards tier 3 client support before starting in infrastructure as a support officer, mainly dealing with file and print servers and back-up management,” he said. “In early 2009, I joined the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services as a Senior IT Support Officer within the server team and have been there ever since in an infrastructure support and operations role.”

Take the challenge

When it comes to challenges he sees currently being faced by the IT industry and the professionals who work within it, Short laments government policy set with minimal industry consultation and insufficient value placed on significant generational changes occurring in the industry.

“Government regulation impacting core data management issues like privacy, encryption and information disclosure are current hot topics,” he said. “I don’t think many people have a full appreciation of the impact data has on their day-to-day lives.

“Governments are trying very hard to put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to regulation of the IT Industry and unfortunately there seems to be very little consultation with independent industry associations - such as ITPA - when it comes to formulating effective, affordable good policy.”

“We’re now reaching a generational shift where our youth have never experienced the world without the internet, ubiquitous computing and handheld devices.

“This generation is now entering the workforce and I believe they will cause a huge shift in how the IT Industry will work in this country, but what that change brings with it, I am just not yet sure about.”

In terms of challenges for people working in the industry or looking to start a career in IT, Short believes that professionals need to market themselves better as highly skilled professionals.

“On the whole, I don’t think employers appreciate how much IT now underpins everything they do on a daily basis,” he said. “Nor do they adequately acknowledge the skills and value of the people who keep things running smoothly for them.

“Many organisations just expect their IT people to pick up on new technology by osmosis or some form of magic absorption rather than paying for the appropriate training and qualifications.

“Changes in technology are advancing rapidly and IT staff need regular forms of training to keep on top of new concepts and solutions, just as you would expect doctors to have training on new medical technologies or accountants to keep up to date with the latest information from the ATO.”

Which bring us back to ... CPM

To this end, Short was keen to encourage other ITPA members to join and support the CPM program to help participants lead the way and stand out in the employment market.

“I think ITPA’s CPM program can be extremely valuable for organisations to have confidence that their IT employees are maintaining their skills and exploring professional development,” he said. “I am proud to be one of the pioneers and would like to think that as this program progresses, employers will look for people who are ITPA-certified in the same way that accountants have a CPA status.”

Dreams and reality

Short indicated that his dream job would be something like a technology evangelist or in an advocacy role. He wants to leverage his training and practical experiences to communicate technical thought leadership that is valued his peers.

He was, however, hard-pressed to pinpoint his favourite technology or gadget.

“I like all sorts of technology, so it is incredibly hard for me to say what my favourite is,” Short said. “In terms of gadgets, the one I find myself using every day contains no electronics at all - check out the - The Everlast Notebook.

“I picked up from Kickstarter and have done away with the 2-3 notebooks I used to use, along with notepads, post-its and other writing media. Paperless Office? Kind of.

“What I’d really like to see though is true convergence of mobile device platforms. The Superbook came close but was Android only, and Ubuntu tried to fund the Edge Phone, but to have my entire phone and computer in my pocket so that it was just a matter of docking to displays/keyboard/mouse etc. would be fantastic.”

He’s also a fan of amateur radio and photography.

“For the last couple of years my main hobby has been around amateur radio,” Short said. “Contrary to popular belief, this is not an old man’s hobby. There are lots of fantastic new facets appearing, particularly with low power digital transmissions and satellite communication.

“Other than that, I often wish I had more time to get out and take more photographs of the stunning Tasmanian wilderness – something that I used to do much more of.”