I am not sure how other people have learned their craft and mastered the technology they support, but for me, the learning started after the books ended. I have learned so much more from breaking something and having to find the fix than I ever did from reading a book. Back in the day around 2005, VMware released The VMTN Subscription. This was an amazing program that was something like the Microsoft MSDN subscription. These programs gave you the ability to run any of the core software packages for a year at a time for a subscription fee.