Studies - What You Need vs What You Want |

Studies - What You Need vs What You Want

Submitted by zeroslash on Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:45

Who is this post for?


If you work in the IT industry and you seem to can't find the time to study your laundry list of technical books and video courses, read on.


The situation


In the world of tech, there's this implicit rule that you need to keep on learning. Everybody knows that if you're not keeping up with your studies you will fall behind sooner than you will realize. There is some truth to this, but there are fundamentals and building blocks that haven't really changed over the years. But I'll save that for another day. In this post, I want to talk about the constant cycle that we all go through. The need to adapt, to keep up and stay relevant. It takes a lot of our time. Reading, researching, testing it out in the lab. Given that, I think it's worth giving it more attention. I will try to give some of my thoughts but I understand this can be a complex topic and may be followed up with another one in the future.


My views


If you're still reading up to this point then you're probably sick. You're sick and tired of this endless loop, or you're sick and have long been absorbed by the system. Either way, it doesn't matter. I didn't mean sick in a negative way. It's just the way it is. This is how the world spins today. But you don't necessarily have to be like everybody else. That's a decision that you would have to make yourself. Nonetheless, this feeling you have, I understand where you are coming from. 


We all do have certain technologies which we would like to dive more into, and the best way to apply our new found knowledge is to start doing it at work. Unfortunately, we are not always presented with this opportunity. There is always a certain balance. At work, we sometimes find ourselves spending a little bit more time than necessary on specific things of interest. But then the reality is we still need to work on the things which are right in front of us regardless if we consider them interesting or not. We sometimes "drift" with a certain bias towards interesting stuff.


So the situation is familiar, wherein we do have kind of a long-term plan for our studies but then we end up working on what's required to perform the job. What's in front of us, what needs our immediate attention. This becomes more of a challenge as our industry makes big shifts in terms of technology and more companies come into play. Inviting us all to try them out and learn their technology. This keeps happening over and over. But we need to learn how to judge which of them will be a better knowledge investment. And this is really critical as we are putting time and energy to learn them and we need to take into account whether they are worth that investment or not.


Here are my 3 steps for selecting a technology to study:

  1. First I'll have to convince myself that the technology is really good and makes sense for me. This is purely based on my opinion the basis for this judgment is my experience.
  2. Second I need to be able to deduce that the technology has a future and I will be able to leverage it for long-term.
  3. Last and probably the most important one to me is that the skill I acquire should be portable. Meaning if I move jobs or work wherever, I will still be able to make use of the skill. I don't want to invest in a skill or technology which I won't likely be using if I move jobs.


These are not strict rules but instead, serve as my guidelines. Also, another thing that I do is keep watch on rising technologies. This helps me understand where things are going and helps me decide where to place my bet. Yes, it's still sort of a gamble, as you never know which one will rise to the top. But the important thing is whatever you plan to bet on, aligns with your personal plans and beliefs. It's not about just going for what's hot in the market. It's about whether it plays nicely with your preferences, and where you want to be in long-term. Who knows, this could even trigger your thoughts into thinking whether your current job aligns with your goals. Is your current role serving its purpose in helping you achieve the life that you want? You might want to sit back and think about this for a moment. Whatever the result is, the only thing I wish is that you are happy with it because, at the end of the day, that's what matters.