About Me

Long time MCT and technical trainer. Windows wonder and CompTIA capable. I freelance for clients big and small, Military and Civvy street. Consulting and teaching my way round the world, you can browse my CV / Resume here

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wow such generous dogecoin to the moon


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mike@michaelwhitehouse.com

Tel: 07970012133

 

Friday
Dec062013

Traveling to London for Business and Serviced Apartments

London,

A city that is not a city, London, has in the past, been compared, not to other sprawling metropolis like New York or Hong Kong, but to a collection of villages that have slowly molded together over the years. I believe this label, for such a diverse and exciting city, is more than accurate. The West/East, North/South divide slices the city into large component parts. The city then finds itself subdivided, filtered by the people who live there, the restaurants you eat at, the tipple you’re most partial to and the job you commute to. A city where you can walk around, taking any turn that grabs your fancy, and find yourself in anything, from a second hand book shop, to an al fresco movie showing attended by viewers sitting in inflatable hot hubs (the latter, surprisingly, happens quite often).

         Anyone who as met me in my personal or professional life knows that I spend most of my time on the road, flying around Europe and bouncing between various cities in the UK. Invariably work takes me to London, so much so that now I don’t see myself as a tourist but as more of a semi-resident. I have my bars and my hangouts. My favorite places to eat, places to take a walk and my favorite book shops. I can tell you how to hunt down the best coffee, have zone 1 and 2 of the tube map seared into the back of my brain allowing me, like any good Londoner, to stumble back home after one too many refreshments through the rabbit’s warren that is the tube (often resulting in waking in the morning not quite knowing how I got back).

Yet where is back? Where is home in London when I’m here? London is the only city I spend a lot of time in where I don’t stay in hotels. It just does not make sense anymore. Hotels in London during the week, well, any hotels that a regular business traveler would want to stay in, can run to £200+ a night for a central location.

What do you get for this? Admittedly, sometimes, quite a bit, there are some fantastic places to stay. However, there is a better option.

         In nearly two years of bouncing in and out of this city I have been staying in serviced apartments. In fact, I write this from one now. I’m sitting on the sofa on the 12th floor of Discovery Dock East in Canary Wharf looking out onto an amazing view over the south of London. I have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a balcony, full kitchen, internet access and in the basement, a swimming pool and gym. Yes, that’s a swimming pool and gym in an apartment block a two minute walk from Canary Warf tube station.

What is this costing?

A heck of a lot less than the equivalent hotel, that’s for sure. This is only one of the many villages of London though, it’s my little village. I like the towers and I like the quiet. It feels like home for me and more of a 21st century town than anywhere else in the UK. What if you want something else? Chic Mayfair maybe? Perhaps the seat of power in the middle of the City Of London or, perchance, some night time pleasures up in Shoreditch? I know someone who will have it covered.

   


         Protem apartments (0845 519 7956) are the guys I have used now for the past two years. Sure, they have a great website for browsing around the many (and I really do mean many) apartments in the capital. But, I take great pleasure in telling people I have an ‘apartment guy’ in my phone, on call for all my London business residency needs. This, I find, is the best thing about having Protem in my phonebook and online. I no longer have to think about where to stay and to have to struggle to find the best hotel deals. With so many hotels in this city to stay and so many websites promoting them, how do you really know if you are getting the best deal? Booking.com, Hotels.com, Laterooms.com and many, many, more. If you want the best deal, booking a hotel is not an easy feat. 

It now takes me less than five minutes to complete the whole process. I just shoot off an e-mail with the dates I need to my apartment people at Protem and they sort out the rest; providing easy credit card booking and nicely formatted directions to where ever I end up staying.  There’s also the advantage of late night check-ins with many of the apartments (which I cannot say the same for some hotels). Quite simply, all I need to do is tell them my budget and where I want to stay. Absolute magic!

         Plus, when you have your own place for a week or two, rather than a hotel room you can cook J and actually invite people over for a drink and a film. Asking any of your friends to come back to your little - and it will be in London, unless you want to pay through the nose - hotel room is just plain creepy.

         So put away the Hilton rewards card and the Club Carlson member’s card and give Protem a call next time you come down to the big smoke or drop them an e-mail for what you are looking for . Tell them Mike sent you, they will look after you. I promise you won’t go back to a pokey hotel room when you can have a place like this for less money and less stress.

 

Sunday
Oct272013

Why IT?

Hello everyone,

It has been a while since I have been blogging on my website. Too log infact. Life has been a bit busy for me at the moment. As a freelance IT trainer and consultant when work picks up your feet rarely touch the ground, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the term. Since the last time I posted back in April my star alliance account shows 24 flights around the continent. Birmingham and Frankfurt airports become more like home than anywhere else. You know you fly too much when you start to get on first name terms with the people who work at the airport. Its time to take stock and focus for a moment while not fighting with security in Brussels airport when they confiscate your Swiss wine on a connection back from Geneva.

Exams,

It has most definitely become the season of exams, MCSA+MCSE 2012 fully passed along with Exchange 2013, VDI/Hyper-V and soon to be private cloud with System Center 2012. My first teach of the Exchange 2013 configuring course seemed to run without much of a hitch a few weeks ago at EZE Training in the Midlands. My delegates both loved and hated some of the new features of Exchange 2013, what seemed to get the best response was the new auto-translation features in MailTips. Exams never stop within IT, moreso when you have to teach the qualifications afterwards. Amazon have had more than a pretty penny from me for a new collection of future doorstops. What do you do with your old IT books? I find it hard to throw them out since they cost me so much in the first place. Maybe one day I will combine them all together to make some sort of furniture, maybe a coffee table.

Why IT?

So, the title. Well this is a work in progress title for a small side project I have been working on in the last few months. 'Why IT?' is hopefully going to evolve into something of an ebook for people who are looking to move into IT. I have questions regularly from people looking to get into this industry and how to go about doing it. Many a time this has come up in base level courses like the A+ and the Windows 7/8 courses. There is much to learn when approaching the subject, from exams and study to how to deal with recruiters. This is a lecture that is built into my head and has evolved over a number of years to become a talk of maybe about 3 hours with many a whiteboard scribble while students franticly try to keep up with notes. So I decided to distill it into a book. So far there are about 40ish A4 pages on the subject and probably is about 70% complete in terms of content. This need a lot of proofing, grammer and spellchecking before being at a level for general release.

Because I have been away for so long from the site I think it is about time to include the first sample. CTRL+C CTRL+V below. Please excuse all formatting errors and grammer errors, I am aware there is alot more editing to be done, this is just a taste. 

 

Why IT?

So you want to work in IT? Have you asked yourself why? Successful people in this industry come not from those that see a technical career path as a series of jobs that may lead to a better quality of life or more money in the bank, a more secure future for your family or a better car on the drive. The most successful technical people I have met over the years are the people who would be doing what they are doing for a salary, even if there was not one there. This is more of a lifestyle choice than a job. Unlike working 9-5 in the coffee shop or behind the counter at the bank your life will be affected outside of work. The best eat live and breath technology on a day to day basis, they have the drive not for work money or power but for a driving interest into how things work and how to deconstruct and analyze problems to work towards a solution.

            The path of some IT learning centers / academies (more on these later) will show an employee unhappy in the day to day grind and paint a picture of IT as a magical land full of opportunities  and promise where anyone can forge out a path as long as they are willing to put their mind to it, push themselves, gain the needed qualifications and employers will rain down money and job offers from a great height. This is not the real world but a fantasy painted by highly paid marketing and sales teams looking to sign you up for the first available course. Why would you take their advice on this matter? They are not IT people themselves and normally have no vested interest in technology or what you want to become or why. You wouldn’t ask a Pilot how to make the perfect cup of coffee, why look for career advice on a technical path from a marketing team or a sales team? (if you are looking for the perfect cup of coffee at home you are looking for and areopress)

 This is not all doom and gloom though, there is truth in the information peddled to you.  Demand for IT workers is on the rise in the UK / Europe / USA and most other first world economy’s as we move toward a service based economy and away from traditional man power. More so with the increased remote working community, working like I am from a small coffee shop in Birmingham City Centre.

 (data for it job demand graph)

Wages are not on the small side either, starting out will be hard and if you may even be forced to take a pay cut for 12 months to get your foot in the door (time in the trenches) A new hire 1st line technical support / service desk role can realisitcly (outside major population centres i.e. London / NY / Paris ) be looking at pulling down not much more above the minimum wage and having abuse thrown at you on a daily basis for good measure.

            This will not last long though, I promise, if you put your mind to it and really live this way of working a ladder will be placed in front of you climbed by many before you and well tested will be your route to wherever you want to go in life.

Lets have a look at a breakdown of some of the advantages of joining the growing ranks of technical people in the world.

This industry is not going to flounder…. Ever

{wiki link} The miners strikes and closure of main coal mines in the UK caused in a very short time massive amounts of disruption both on a business to business level and socioeconomic level for many towns that were built upon these pits for Jobs and security for the surrounding communities causing devastation for not just a few families but for 10’000’s of families across the country. Bringing up this subject for many blue collar worker from working class towns in the UK will raise a lot of sore memories that they would prefer not to repeat. Yet it serves as a good, if sweeping example of market forces and government intervention to increase profitability of a country in a capitalist model.

            To use {wiki} Joyce Applebys definition of capitalism; An economic system that relies on investment in machines and technology that are used to increase production of marketable goods. If we take this as a core aspect of the modern global economy (unless for some reason you are reading this book in the DPRK) IT and technology is built right into the economic development of the economic system we live by day to day. Technology drives profitability and evolution of products and services. It raises people from poverty by allowing certain actions to be cost effective in the execution. Demand for skilled people in technology will only rise either as the economy rises and increased production levels for a marketable product grows. Or will maintain a higher rate of momentum during downturns as technological answers are sought to increase efficiency within a company.

            Just as the steam engine was the core of the industrial revolution, your laptop and the software that runs on it is the engine of the modern world. Capitalism needs IT, IT needs capitalism. TLDR, you are pretty secure in your line of work unless the Soviet Union with government controlled and directed economy suddenly makes a revival.

Mobility

Where do you want to work? It may be a fantasy to think that you could forge a career working from home or working from a beach with a laptop and an ice cold G&T. Yet with IT it is perfectly possible, depending on what path you choose later on that is.  Want and office job with a commute and a 9-5? Not a problem either, you are not tied to one location or even one employer. Freelancing and contracting is not for everyone and is most definitely not something to be looking at for a first role in IT yet if you are looking to move around a bit, see some of the world or work in a different country then there is going to be nothing much stopping you. Thanks to the global companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, IBM, HP (this list could take up ½ this chapter so I will stop here but you get the point) wherever you go you will encounter the same systems in the same configurations with the same skill sets in demand, you will be an essential worker with knowledge that every industry requires from foundries to lawyers to racing teams. Go forth, travel and move around there is nothing stopping you now.

Money in your pocket

I already mentioned that starting out with your time in the trenches on the lower end of the IT jobs ladder will not pay much more above the guy with the job of making your morning Starbucks. (Not that working in Starbucks is a bad career, take a look at this list  http://www.cnbc.com/id/43896634 ) Wages in IT are not all the bad and the sky really is the limit, take a look around on http://www.cwjobs.co.uk for contract roles in London for skilled IT guys with 5-10 years of experience under their belts. At time of writing this is around £400-600 per day. Not bad if you can fight your way to the top. Get grounded in a company like Google with generous stock options and retire in 10 years is not a far off dream.

Challenge

IT does not sit still, and this could be a down point for many people wanting to forge a career in technology. This is not ‘pick up bolt, add nut, turn and tighten, repeat’ Its more ‘pick up bolt, add nut, turn and tighten, repeat, pick up….. what do you mean the marketing team removed the bolt? Legal says they want to have the nut square now and are wondering how to replace the word nut with spiral tightening device in 1000 documents??? Oh, and you want me to explain what tighten means to the CEO because he built the company before the time of the nut and bolt meaning he refuses to use them….. Right, let me yet get my coffee fix and ill be right on it’  IT changes and evolves on a daily basis, not just via advancement of technologies but the changing business needs of the company you are working with. You will never have 2 days that will be exactly the same. The more complex something becomes the more things can go wrong. Prime example the Saturn V {wikilink} was expected to have over 6500 components fail on every launch yet still get to the moon and back, now that is a redundant and complex system.

Its not all roses though, there are the downsides

Disrespect, Insulted, Bottom of the pile, and just general abuse

You will have all of the above thrown at you on a daily basis when you first start, you are the IT guy everything is your fault. If the user has mad a mistake or cost the company money and they can blame it on IT they will. If something has gone wrong through no fault of your own you will be shouted and screamed at. You are the IT guy and is your fault that they cannot work out how to use Excel to a level that would add an efficiency advantage to the business. To give you an example of a time I would not care to repeat my first Job in IT at the age of 17 was 2nd line technical support for a well known manufacturer of Home and Enterprise networking equipment. 2nd line because the 1st line support was based in India so the average customer was already spitting fire by the time they got to the team in the UK. (they had called from the UK, been directed to India, spent a minimum of 1hour on the phone with an Indian support agent only to be transferred to the UK with an English accent enough to anger the most passive of home users). Add to this a quota for 2nd line agents of 36 calls a day if you are not careful it can have a serious effect on your mental health and is not for everyone.

You take your work home with you

This is more of the way of life than anything else, you will take your work home with you, and you will be thinking about how to extract the information you need from an Oracle Db to get it to cross reference with the companies internal bespoke solution coded by a 3rd party who no longer exists way in to the early hours of the morning. There is also too much going to keep up with in the office, podcasts, news streams, twitter interactions, forums and wikis will all become normal evening for you when you need to add to the internal toolbox that you are building.

The Study

Because of the changing nature of IT and the constant evolutions of both certifications and software you will find yourself with a small mountain of books to read on a regular basis. If you don’t like to read and evolve your skillsets then this is not the path for you. Books don’t come cheap either, £30-40 for a single technical manual that you will skim read for just the points that are relevant to your role are more the norm than the exception. You can be looking at spending £300+ on books every 12 months. If you have a forgiving and understanding employer they may cover this cost for you if you can prove a business case for the knowledge acquisition.

Still want to join us?

Time to read on then, pick your path and work your way in. Grab it with both hands and build yourself a career path that has as much future and potential that you put into it. The road will be long and hard, this is not an easy task. Changing into something new never is. IT is just as hard as any other professional qualification maybe even more so. Remember, that just because you can take apart your computer at home, overclock your CPU, install a new PSU and add a couple of flashy lights this does not give you the title IT technician. In the same way that driving your car into town does not give you the skills to drive the Le Mans 24hr.