Career Case Study: Tim Warner

This week, we’ll look at a truly amazing tech individual—@TechTrainerTim himself, Tim Warner.

Tim, you’re a prolific content producer—before we dig in, I’d like to give people an idea of what your average work day looks like, and how much content you produce in a year.

When I’m working on a course, then I typically know precisely what work I’m doing that day – storyboarding, recording, editing, and so on. Fortunately, my individual contributor role means I spend little time on Zoom meetings, which is just fine with me. 🙂

When I’m between courses, I try to be as helpful to as many Pluralsight colleagues as possible. For instance, I might assist our sales teams by conducting custom live training webinars for their clients. Or maybe I’ll help our curriculum managers design content strategy.

You’ve made a number of tech shifts over the years: you were a classic MCSE teacher, you’ve worked in Active Directory, and now you’re well-known in the Azure space. Like, all over the Azure space. Plus, you’ve recently taken on AWS. What drives and enables you to be so flexible?

Fortunately, I was born with a nearly infinite amount of general curiosity. Thus, I’ll dive deeply into whatever professional or personal interest sparks my attention, and move on once I’ve reached a “critical mass” of knowledge.

Over my 20+ years of IT industry experience, my commitment to general IT studies has paid handsome dividends professionally and personally. For example, I consider my greatest strength to Pluralsight is my ability to jump onto just about any subject matter, skill up very, very quickly, and design interesting, effective courseware before the deadline.

How do you think about navigating and maintaining your career? What are some suggestions you would offer to others who want to make sure they’re staying relevant and, just as importantly, happy in their career?

My Grandfather told me when I was a boy, “Timmy, if you can find work you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid for it, you’ve found your professional calling.” This advice reminds me of the difference between a “job” and a “career position.”

One key to my career success was identifying where my natural aptitudes met my interests. Specifically my professional passion is the union between information technology and adult education.

I advise learners to undertake lots of self-reflection and experimentation in order to identify their professional passion. If one of your passions is IT, then great. If not, that’s also great. You will be far more motivated to elevate your career if it’s work you genuinely enjoy.

It’s easy to see someone like you and think, “well sure they’re productive, they must not have a personal life.” Do you make time for friends and family and vacations and all that?

Work/life balance is extraordinarily important to me. So much so, in fact, that I pay out-of-pocket for a small office outside my home. When I arrive home from work each evening I take a moment to cognitively “take off my work coat” and “put on my home coat,” as it were.

I have a lot of empathy for people who were forced to work from home as a result of the pandemic. Number one, some of those people aren’t cut out for remote work – not everybody is. Number two, when your office is at home, it makes work/life balance more difficult by definition.

That’s not to say I don’t think about work problems at times when I’m in “home mode,” and vice versa. In fact some of my most important creative innovations arise out of daydreaming while awake or dreaming while asleep.

Looking from the outside, life at Pluralsight seems pretty dynamic. The company has made a dozen acquisitions, gone public, been taken back private, and doubtless gone through several reorganizations along the way. How do you keep yourself balanced inside all of that? Is it challenging?

I keep coming back to advice given to me by my family and mentors. One of these aphorisms is “everybody is expendable.” That’s a humbling concept that I find inspiring and motivating, not depressing. The truth is I need Pluralsight far more than Pluralsight needs me. Therefore, I do my best to deliver value to the company each and every workday.

If the time comes for me to move on from Pluralsight either by their choice, our choice, or my choice, then I’ll continue to do my best, one day at a time. I have confidence, but thankfully not cockiness, in my abilities.

Do you feel you have a hack or trick to being as prolific as you are? Many people struggle to create written and video content, but you’ve clearly found some kind of groove. What is it that works so well for you?

Trick 1 for me is to remind myself every day that perfectionism is a trap that I need to avoid. I’ve seen too many otherwise successful technical instructors fall victim to a fruitless search for perfection and “analysis paralysis.”

I’ve got years of “stand up” instructor-led training under my belt, and that definitely helps me work faster in a computer-based training context. For instance, I never write a transcript – I plan my course modules, of course, but I simply turn on the recorder and teach the same way I do when I’m “live without a net” in a classroom. Not only do I produce courses faster, I’d like to think they have an immediacy to them that fully scripted content might not have.

Trick 2 is to remind myself every day that there will always be far, far, far more about IT that I don’t know than I’ll ever know. One of my favorite expressions is, “I may not know the answer to your question, but I darned sure know where to look up an answer!”

Ok, you’re an MVP, you’re multi-certified in Azure, got an AWS certification… what’s next for Tim?

My primary professional goal for 2021 is to become as proficient in Amazon Web Services as I am in Microsoft Azure. The A Cloud Guru acquisition spurs me on because their AWS content is top-notch and I am free to dig into it as much as my little heart wants to. 🙂

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