This guide is designed to help you stay current in the quickly changing world of technology. It’s written in 2019 and focused on the resources and approaches available in 2019.
I plan to update this every year.
Know Where You Want to End Up
This is universally where I tell people to start and probably won’t change from year to year. Start with why you want to learn what you need to learn. Why do you want to keep current?
Do you intend to change jobs soon?
Do you want a raise at work?
Do you want to contribute to open source in different ways?
Do you want to start a podcast or blog?
Do you want to speak at conferences?
Or is it something else?
Leave a comment letting me know your "why?"
This is the critical piece that will inform you on what you need to be learning now for these reasons in the future.
I plan to write a blog post on this that goes into more detail, but I’ll leave one note. "I want to be competitive on the job market" is not an effective reason unless you plan to change jobs soon. You’ll wind up chasing the wrong things with no payoff.
Make a Plan
Once you know what you’re aiming at, then you can start to make a list of the things you need to learn in order to get to your goal.
For example, if you want to speak at conferences, talk to conference organizers and make note of what they and prolific speakers think are things they’d like you to speak on. Also, find a place to learn about public speaking. Ahem Toastmasters.
Your list may look like:
- Reactive Programming
- How to build slides for talks
- How and where to stand when you speak
If you want to work at a big company like Facebook, then look on GlassDoor and LinkedIn to find out who their employees are and what they say the company is looking for. Then, compile your list of skills from what you find.
In many cases, talking to people who are where you want to end up is a good way to start this list.
Also, don’t be afraid to change it if you find something you need to add, move up, or remove on your list.
Know Your Learning Style
I deeply admire anyone who can make it through an online tutorial. I wind up starting them and before too long I’m freestyling way off the beaten path and only come back to the tutorial when I get stuck to see if I can adapt the lesson to what I did.
Other people will devour a book and then sit down to code based on what they learned.
Other techniques include podcasts ((subscribe to ours here))[/subscribe], blog posts, in-person classes, videos, and books.
I also advocate that you get hands-on practice with whatever the skill is in whatever way relates to your goal.
For example, if speaking, explain it. If coding, build a demo app. If interpersonal, roleplay.
If you don’t know how you learn best, try them all and see which ones go together to make the most difference. Most people I know will find 1-3 of these types of resources will play together in a way that works for them.
Leave a comment and let us know your learning style.
Identify and Use Learning Resources
Once you know what to learn and how you’ll best learn it, update your plan with the resources you plan to use to learn.
This means getting recommendations for books or subscribing to Pluralsight and seeing what they offer or looking through podcast archives.
Then, start your learning journey.
Along the way, take notes. I like using sticky notes in books. (I also prefer reading hardcover books.)
For podcasts, I’ll either make a note in a Google Doc or have Siri create a note for me if I’m in the car. Then I look at my notes on a regular basis.
This allows me to consume content and go back to it if I get stuck on a concept I learned from it.
Saw a technique in a video? Make a note! Got stuck using that technique? Watch it again!
Once I’ve started learning something, I start wondering how proficient I am at it.
This means doing something with it.
Remember when I told you to get some hands-on practice? This is the same technique for self-evaluation.
For speaking, can you give a coherent talk on the subject?
For coding, can you build a sample app with a reasonably complex implementation?
For other things, can you see this effecting your life or team in the ways you want?
Proficiency comes with practice. So, try it out, then find the mistakes, update your plan, and keep working.
Sign up for our Email Course on Keeping Current
I wrote an email course that goes into much more detail about how to stay current. It’s 10 emails long and walks you through the various parts of this process.