I attend various IT events both for professional and personal reasons. VMUGs are always fun, and the analyst events can be informative, but the local computer clubs are definitely my favorite events. You get to meet a lot of talented people, and you get to hear a lot of different viewpoints from many levels of IT expertise. Beginners looking to get into the industry, retired CTOs looking to mentor others, and every type of techie you can think of between them can be found in such clubs.
You also learn how to spot the real professionals from the amateurs by attending these types of events. I am not referring to whether or not someone is paid for their work in IT. I have met plenty of amateurs who had the title “Senior Blah, Blah, Blah” of the so-and-so tech department. I have met some outstanding IT professionals who do everything pro-bono for volunteer organizations.
The real difference between a professional and an amateur is not whether or not you get paid. Amateurs do what they like for their own amusement. Professionals deliver results even when it pushes them outside of their comfort zone.
I have written about this before, but I keep running into so-called IT professionals that prove that it needs to be said again: If you have a bias fueled by a zealotry for a brand, or a bias against a brand for that matter, then you are not an IT professional.
You are an IT amateur. You like playing with your favorite toy, whatever it might be. You are a one-trick pony and not a technologist.
Do not confuse what I describe above with a specialist. Specialists know one particular technology very well, and they are just as comfortable recommending that technology not be used for some projects as they are endorsing that same technology for other projects. Specialist understand that no single technology solves all problems.
IT amateurs on the other hand do believe in a “one-size-fits-all” solution based upon a brand of some sort. They are zealots, and zealots cannot be trusted to deliver solutions. Zealots can only be trusted to deliver their preference to you even when it is the wrong solution.
Keep an open mind. Be ready to learn new technologies at any time. Always be willing to give old technologies that you might not like another look. If you decide to be close minded, then you have decided not to be an IT professional. We have enough amateurs out there already, but you can never have enough open minded IT professionals!