One of the questions I get asked most often, from both industry experts and otherwise, is what my strategy is for keeping up with technology. While there are industry professionals who are experts in this matter and can help with creating checklist style approaches, the following is derived from my experience.
As most modern-day software professionals, my fascination and passion for technology started at an early age. Early enough where I had the opportunity to make software development, logical thinking, and the art of continually searching for and acquiring knowledge a part of my personality. I grew up tinkering with computers, learning how to code, and scratching my forehead trying to wrap my immature brain around the concepts of object-oriented programming, router ip tables, matrix manipulation, and other fun technology related topics. I can first handedly attest to the difficulty this poses for a brain who has yet to be introduced to the !
Yes, abstraction, polymorphism, inheritance, and other fancy words that describe the beautiful world of object-oriented software development sounds scary to those who are unfamiliar with them, but as you slowly delve into these concepts, a true, honest, and remarkable world emerges. In this world, things are black and white, 0′s and 1′s. Things either are, or aren’t. Using incredibly simple building blocks, things such as Facebook, stock exchange trading platforms, and even aircraft auto pilots have been forged.
As you can tell from my digression (something I can’t help but indulge in when on this topic), my expertise is really derived from passion, which is my key focus for this post. I am making passion a mandatory trait to even begin discussing keeping up with technology.
The Passionate Stuff
Once you have the passion, lets move on to the hard work that the passion drives. First follow your favorite companies, professionals, projects such as open source frameworks, etc… on twitter, Facebook, rss and blog feeds, linked in, and whatever other medium suits you. Whenever you encounter a foreign concept, technology, or methodology, read about it! Familiarize yourself with it. If it lends itself to hands on practice, do it! Write software, configure routers, build systems, connect API’s, do all of these things, constantly!
I am not endorsing spending every waking moment trying every thing you run across, use good judgement and focus your education on the technologies that have the highest likely hood of making an impact. Lost about how to do this? Then use a respected companies perspective on the matter.
Thoughtworks employs some of the brightest and most well-known professionals in the industry. Quarterly, their Advisory board meets together to put out a wonderful publication that covers the latest trends in technology, the Thoughtworks Technology Radar. http://www.thoughtworks.com/radar
This publication covers the latest techniques, tools, platforms, and languages to focus on. They rate each item within a radar that describes whether to adopt, try, asses, or hold off. This incredibly useful tool can be use to help guide your education and help you focus on what to keep up with.
Additionally, join local MeetUp groups, linkedIn groups, network with professionals, and solicit advice from experts you work with. Every professional has valuable knowledge and experience you can use to continuously build your own knowledge-base with
Be wary of personal preference though; techies are known to be extremely picky when it comes to technology and usually favor certain platforms over others which can leave you with unfairly biased viewpoints. As Dean Leffingwell put it, technologists can be prideful to a fault! Used in this example, it translates to sticking to their beliefs even though it might not represent the best choices.
Finally, enjoy the ride! It all starts with passion, grows through hard work, and succeeds through enjoyment. Like anything else in life, you need to enjoy what you do to truly be successful at it. If technology is your passion and you enjoy it, just follow the aforementioned guidance to thrive in the field!