The Microcosm of an IT Student

As I sit finishing up a final exam, study for an upcoming certification, or hear about a new technology I should be aware of, I've found myself wondering what I should be really expecting when I've completed my IT program. As I learn from books, and practice lab simulations, one word keeps surfacing in my thoughts:
mi·cro·cosm - noun
a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.
Information Technology, from the inside looking out, seems vast. Never have I felt the need to see more, learn more, and explore more beyond the boundaries of the microcosm in which I reside. In respects towards an eventual career, I feel the need to be as properly prepared as I can be.  I've come across all different types of students in this field. There are those who are currently in the industry and are returning to get certified or to earn a degree, and there are also those who've only known the IT world through the eyes of their school's IT program. I fall into the latter category, as every exposure to the networking world I've had has come through some extension of my school's IT program. Living within this figurative encapsulation,  provides an interesting perspective on how exactly a dedicated IT student sees the larger world he's heading towards.

This all is suddenly occurring to me in my second year as we are introduced and exposed to many more technologies than in our first year. Most of our first year we spent learning the fundamentals of traditional networking. This, combined with general education classes, and a few other required courses to advance through the program, doesn't afford time to think about one's scheme in the big picture. Everything is brand new, so you are just hanging on for dear life. Soon you feel like you're starting to get the hang of things and you feel comfortable in at least the introductory form of the subject.  As my second year begins, however, I'm beginning to be much more aware of the difference between myself and someone exposed to the 'outside'. Like hearing fantastic recounts from an astronaut returning from space, one can only ever imagine what it's like out there. I take instructors advice to heart because they've been there before. The most valued instructors are the ones that can teach the reality of the industry to someone who has not yet been there.  It does get overwhelming however, hearing the multitude of things you should prepare for yet have not experienced at the enterprise level. I find myself wanting to venture out more and more to better prepare myself for the moment the bubble inevitably pops.
The most valued instructors are the ones that can teach the reality of the industry to someone who has not yet been there.
The times I've been given the opportunity to venture out and see the reality of things has been some of the most valuable experiences a student could hope for. I remember once, early on, we were able to take a field trip to a virtualized data center. The option to attend was purely voluntary, but I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to see such a fabled environment for anything. I went because I was told it was important, and truthfully at the time I didn't understand half of what I was seeing. Over time, though, I'm glad for the opportunity because now that I'm learning about that very technology, I can put a 'face to the name'.We were also fortunate that our instructor cared enough to arrange such exposure outside of the normal curriculum.  I also feel extremely lucky to be allowed to attend and work at Cisco Live this year. This was an experience that really applied 'scale' to just how grandiose this subject I've been studying in my textbooks really is.  It's moments like these that I encourage every serious student to take full advantage of given the opportunity. Equally, I would like to give thanks to all institutions, programs and instructors that afford such events to take place. It's moments like these that put perspective to the road we are traveling. Without them a student, such as myself, may find it hard to see what lays beyond these walls.

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