The other day, I gave my grandfather a call. It’s not something I do as often as I should, but when we do talk, we talk at length regarding a variety of topics. Most of the time we discuss his fishing trips and my hunting excursions. This time we had an interesting conversation about technology. He was telling me about some problems he was having with his computer. After I walked him through the problem, he asked me how I became so skilled with computers. I told him that a large part of my job is to stay on top of any changes in the web/technology sector and that it’s difficult because things change so rapidly.
I’ve known a lot of people that worked in the tech sector who are currently unemployed because their skills are no longer relevant. As the new owner of LightSky, I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can as a company to ensure that we don’t become obsolete. Part of that means that each LightSky employee has two hours each day to devote towards “Professional Development”. I’m not too picky about how they use that time. Most use it learning about the latest trends in their particular area of expertise. I’m constantly encouraging everyone to evaluate new technologies for longevity and identify the fads with no long term potential. This good for our business, and it’s good for our clients.
What can you do to stay ahead of the technological curve? Here are some of the ways we do it:
Network - This is the one of best ways to keep your skills sharp. Lively discussions with other professionals can keep you on your toes and on top of your game. The relationships built networking can be invaluable when faced with tough problem. You can brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. Maybe your colleague is familiar with a particular technology or module that may make the solution straightforward. Maybe they have tackled a similar problem in the past and can point you in the right direction.
Blogs - Reputable blogs are often great ways to learn about new trends. Part of how I spend my Professional Development time is going through my RSS feeds and reading articles that pique my interest. Do make sure though that the blogs you are following are reputable and are respected.
Conferences - Conferences are a great way to improve an existing skill set or learn a new one. Depending on the conference, they may also cover common challenges and add to your troubleshooting knowledge. Aside from the educational piece, conferences are also great networking opportunities.
Experiment - I am a Drupal developer at heart. I love Drupal, and am very confident in my abilities. That being said, Drupal may not be around forever. Even if it is, it may not always be the best solution for a particular project. That means that I need to be familiar with a variety of technologies so that I can always offer my clients the best solution. While there is certainly value in having expertise in your chosen area,the more tools in your toolbox, the more prepared you are for any situation.
You must make the choice to stay relevant. That’s the first step. How you do it is up to you.