Top 5 recommended IT readings

By - December 11, 2015

It’s Winter here in the U.S. so when I’m not out hunting or playing in the snow with my son, I’m staying inside and reading a lot more. Instead of using my phone or tablet before bed, I noticed 30-45 minutes of reading actual books has helped my sleep patterns and also my general knowledge. Over the last 3-4 years I’ve read more books than I have in my entire adult life, which says a lot about today’s digital age.

Those of us involved in the practice of fixing, implementing, or maintaining technology platforms and products/services know that much of the time can be spent exercising our “Google Fu”. It might be to find an answer to a problem or the best practice on how to implement something completely foreign to you. Searching the internet for the exact answer can sometimes be very difficult and after following bread crumb after bread crumb you find your answers on a website like Yahoo Answers. I’m not ashamed to admit it; things start to get desperate after you’ve worked through all your normal modes of research and communication.

IT people tend to read a lot of forums, community boards, technical articles, blog posts, white papers, and support FAQs on any given day. While it may help us research or alleviate an immediate issue, they are typically very focused readings and are usually rather short – these types of literature are certainly useful but as I developed into my career I found myself wanting something more substantial to read. This blog post isn’t technical, but there are books out there that have greatly helped my career in technical and non-technical terms, particularly focused on what to do for every part of my job and defers the how to those other technical pieces.

Below are my top 5 recommended IT readings. These are books that can help anyone from a tier 1 technician to CIO. I think at any level these books can help understand either the current job you hold, people on your team, or those above you. Since I often have to handle anything from help desk to CIO advisory services depending on the day, these books aren’t focused on one particular area like networking, servers, cloud, etc. Rather, they are books that grabbed my attention for longer than 30 minutes and I actually read through the whole thing. Kudos to the authors on that achievement.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of these authors or publishers.

Book #1 – The Phoenix Project

This book isn’t crazy technical, is extremely easy to read, and keeps your attention throughout the whole thing. There are concepts and workflow management techniques that can be applied to anyone’s work life. If you think you’ve been through a rough project, read this and you might think otherwise.

Book #2 – The Practice of System and Network Administration

Often called the gold standard of system and network administration, this book gives a fantastic understanding on how to build and maintain a system/network. Some might think it is too simple, but there are a lot of times in my job where I need to step back and look at the basics. This isn’t exactly aimed at datacenter type of administrators, but rather typical office admins who often maintain their own respective network. The third edition is also in the works!

Book #3 – Time Management for System Administrators

I could have placed book #2 and this book in the same area, but they both deserve separate mentions. Time is something that we are all limited on and we often have to make choices in our daily work that can have repercussions downstream without realizing it – these may be related to our personal life, a server failure, an angry user, etc. This book focuses on building habits and characteristics that help take the pain out of tasks that we may dislike. Automation comes to mind. Read this book if you want to try and decrease your stress and maybe even have more control over your own schedule.

Book #4 – Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World

Bruce Schneier is known fairly well in the IT security world but before reading this book I didn’t know much about him and this piece was recommended to me by somebody in our Security and Privacy team. The book really focuses on the how and why of security instead of deep technical details that can often throw readers off. We have groups at RSM that create security best practices and guides, but often times reality kicks those off the tracks due to existing policies or other structures in place. There are great stories in this book that provide a different perspective, history, and entertainment, while still being relevant today.

Book #5 – Service Desk Manager’s Crash Course

Hear me out, even if you are some type of architect or engineer who isn’t “customer facing” in terms of external or internal contacts, this book can help. IT people tend to have lackluster customer service skills and I’ve found that those that come from non-technical jobs that are people focused make great resources that are personable and easy to talk to. Waiters and waitresses are some of the best when it comes to communication, confidence, and work ethic. I’ve been on a service desk, managed resources on a service desk, and assisted other service desk managers or supervisors in their resources issues. This book focuses on effectively leading people, delegating tasks, and working with a team. Our own outsourced service desk has implemented many of these strategies with success that helps service our customers for the best value possible.

At RSM we have utilized many of the processes and methodologies in these books, from our outsourced service desk all the way up to our CIO advisory services. Whether it be related to business process improvements or knowing the best way to implement a Unified Communications and Mobile Computing architecture, we can help.  You can contact RSM’s technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us directly!

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