This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with the
legendary Ed Tittel, recipient of the 2004 Best Networking Professional, Career
Achievement Award, from the Network Professional Association (NPA) in
cooperation with NetWorld+Interop. Ed is a 20-year world-renowned expert in
training, certification, IT technologies with over 130 books to his credit,
innumerable articles, and an extensive background in program development, senior
management, speaking, teaching, editing, consulting, and research.
Q: Ed, I wish to offer my congratulations on your outstanding achievement in
winning the highest international award in the networking sector, the 2004 NPA
Career Achievement Award presented at NetWorld+Interop. This lifetime award for
professionalism is particularly noteworthy since the networking sector
encompasses literally all of computing from mainframes to micros, web
applications, development environments, operating systems, satellites, wireless
computing, security, and the Internet. What was your reaction and that of your
family when you received the news of this prestigious honour? How does this tie
into the “words of wisdom” of your former mentor, Dr. Brown, at the University
A: Thanks to everybody who must have voted for me, everybody's reaction
(including my own) can pretty much be summed up as "stunned disbelief."
Sometimes, one sees such things coming; this one took all of us completely
unaware. The way it ties into Dr. Brown's sage advice is that I finally found
something I could stick to and excel at, that also gave me the variety and
ability to tackle different subject matters that I craved.
Q: Over your very successful career, which achievements have given you the
A: You mention how many books I've worked on in your intro. Of the 100-plus
titles, a few really allowed me to repay some intellectual debts to those from
whom I learned the most. I'd put several of my Course Technology textbooks in
that category--most notably, Networking Essentials and Guide to TCP/IP. I'm also
perhaps perversely proud of an extremely handy little flip-open reference book I
conceived, designed, and executed called The Hip Pocket Guide to HTML. I'm
totally thrilled that my concept for the Exam Cram series, born purely out of
frustration at having to haul huge, heavy study guides around in 1996 while
preparing for Windows NT 4.0 exams, turned out to resonate so well with the
whole IT community, with over 300 ISBNs issued since its inception in 1997. The
Pearson folks tell me that this series is the 2nd best selling computer book
series of all time (only to …For Dummies, for which I've worked on many titles
as well). Other than that, my interest and willingness to keep learning new
stuff and to help others do the same gives me the biggest boost around.
Q: What more do you hope to accomplish in three, five, and ten years?
A: I'm pretty happy where I am right now, so in the short term I'd like to
keep on keeping on, so to speak. Looking 5-10 years out, I'd like to get invited
to participate in some advisory boards and start voicing interests and concerns
on behalf of the IT community in the areas of professional education,
certification, and credentials maintenance. I'd also like to help out with some
standards groups, particularly for items related to professional development and
education, and do some writing work in the public interest, so to speak.
Q: What has been your philosophy with the best selling Que/Sams Exam Cram
series and how is the book series evolving for the future?
A: Starting from the original series concept, developed in 1996-1997, the
goal has been to make delivery of information about concepts, skills, abilities,
tools, and technologies as straightforward and direct as possible. "No fluff!"
remains our rallying cry, and we've kept seeking more ways to add value (more
question banks, better errata, more online support, and the best coverage
possible) to those books. As exams increasingly become more performance
oriented—as so many seem to be, these days—we plan to adopt simulator technology
for companion materials, and get our authors to lead students through skill- and
problem-solving drills as well as reviewing key terms, concepts, tools, and so
forth. It's an interesting challenge, and a lot of fun to keep up with this
fast-paced industry and the even faster-paced technology it uses.
Q: Describe your future work with InformIT.com and the value to working
A: We do a lot of surveys on various networking and IT subject matters, and
try to help identify useful resources of interest to practicing professionals.
We revisit our work on a once to twice-yearly basis to make sure things stay
current, and we keep adding more topics to our already sizable list. This pays
off for IT professionals in lots of ways: we try to anticipate the market to let
them know where opportunities might appear; we track trends and hot spots to
tell them where they are happening right now; and we try to cover IT
certifications that offer the best chances of enhanced employment
Q: What changes do you anticipate in your work with TechTarget.com and
A: At TechTarget, they're moving their writers and experts into increasing
interactivity with their membership: to the articles and tips I write, they're
adding quarterly Web-based lectures/chats; in terms of answering questions and
responding to concerns from members, they're making it easier for them to make
inquiries or voice issues than ever before. It should be an interesting growth
experience for all of us.
As far as Certification magazine goes, I'm getting more involved in
day-to-day news and events tracking. I'm writing a once-a-month information
security newsletter for them now, in addition to my regular contributing editor
submissions. We're working together to develop new coverage areas and
departments to help IT professionals use what they learn (or earn, when it comes
to cert credentials) more effectively on the job.
Q: How have your views on certification changed since last October 2003?
A: Not very much, except to observe that a person's ability to represent him
or herself to current or prospective employers is more important than ever.
These days, it's clearly not enough to just earn certification; it's also
essential to understand its potential benefits for employers, and to be able to
explain those benefits to current or prospective employers more or less on
demand. I'm also seeing an interesting move, both inside many certification
programs and in the development of a new class of credentials, to help IT
professionals develop important soft skills like communication, interpersonal,
and management capabilities that can only help with career and personal
development, both in the short and long terms. I also think increasing moves
toward performance based testing means that "paper credentials" will be harder
to come by, and that should hopefully increased the value attributed to
hard-earned credentials by those who earn them, and those who hire certification
Q: Please comment on the top four areas of your choosing:
Area 1: I've been writing a book recently on various kinds of unwanted
software—things like adware, spyware, and malware (viruses, Trojans, worms, and
so forth). I'm appalled at how pervasive this stuff has become on the Internet
and in the workplace, and I'd love to see the kinds of changes built into our
infrastructures necessary to anticipate them and to deflect as much of that kind
of stuff as possible. I'm heartened by recent changes at Microsoft in the area
of security, and hopeful that things will get better soon, after having gotten
so much worse in the past three years. But I also hope ordinary computer users
will learn and develop the skills necessary to practice "safe computing" as
Area 2: I'm very interested in seeing more effective ways to use the
Extensible Markup Language (XML) for all kinds of data capture and
representation. For example, as somebody who regularly works with a protocol
analyzer, I'd love to figure out a way to use XML to represent multi-layered
protocols and the data packages in which information travels at all levels. This
could help to eliminate platform or application dependencies that get in the way
of data exchange and better understanding nowadays. I can think of other areas
(EDI, security, databases, medical records, and so forth) where significant
XML-based activities are underway, and hope we can all start realizing the
benefits of that kind of thing in the next few years.
Area 3: I'd like to feel like I understand enough about Windows to really
manage my own servers and desktops like I did in the days of DOS, Windows 3.X,
and early Netware (up through 3.15, let's say). I'm not sure if that means I
need to learn more about internals on many different fronts, or if I need access
to (or maybe just even knowledge about) better tools and utilities. I keep
slamming up against the limits of my own knowledge, and I'd like to figure out a
way to stretch those boundaries out a little further.
Area 4: I'm fascinated by the increasing overlap between entertainment and
sophisticated digital technology. I've been learning more about acquiring,
managing, and handling large digital music collections, and what's involved in
converting analog recordings into digital formats. Likewise, I'm also digging
into various forms of visual entertainment, and figuring out how to bring
computing and the family entertainment center together. So far, I think Apple
still beats Microsoft three ways from Sunday, but the Media Center PC initiative
and MS's willingness to keep trying until they get it right gives me hope that
ordinary people with modest budgets can use digital entertainment technologies,
manage large personal entertainment collections, and make all the pieces and
parts work without killing themselves or going broke in the process. This is
going to be one of the most interesting life changes that most adults will have
to grapple with in the next 10 years.
Q: If you were to design the “perfect” college IT program, which areas would
A: These days, I don't think anybody can claim to be educated in IT without
some working knowledge of operating systems, databases and data modeling,
networking and communications, information security, and various forms of data
representation (most notably, XML). Thus, I'd like to see programs spend two
years (4 semesters) teaching the fundamentals in all those areas, along with
access to more specialized training in the third year for interested students.
I'd also like to see more emphasis on internships or business engagements that
give students the chance to see how IT is used in the "real world" and that give
them the opportunity to try out and practice some of what they're learning in
the workplace. Mind you, this is not a computer science or computer engineering
program, where emphasis on programming languages, logic and device design,
communications theory, and various types of mathematics would be absolutely
essential—this is an undergraduate business school or liberal arts IT program
that's intended to help future IT workers master the basic subjects, skills, and
abilities they'll need to do their jobs once they go to work full-time.
Q: Ed, again congratulations on your recent Career Achievement recognition
for your many remarkable contributions over a long and very successful career!
A: Thanks very much. I appreciate the signal honor that my peers and
colleagues paid to me by selecting me for the award, and want to thank them and
the NPA for their roles in the process.