How do you keep -your- IT skills relevant without burn out?
I was having a chat with my Dad recently, about how those who work in IT keep their skills up to date. He is now retired but had spent 25+ years in the IT business so I always value his opinion. What occurred to me while we chewed the fat was the following.
<cliche quote>If there is one thing we can be sure of in IT, it is that change will happen and faster than we think.</cliche quote>
But seriously, how the heck can we keep up? I mean seriously every few months the next new “big thing” hits the ground in the shape of a new method, new tech or even a new tech start up. Regardless of what it is if you are even slightly serious about your IT career you have to pay attention and at the very least be aware of what it does, how it does it and what impact it has or will have.
Then you have the obvious learning on the job, finding those unique tips and tricks that only come from experience and lets not forget courses (if you are fortunate enough to be sent on one) and the endless certificate treadmill.
As we all know IT by nature requires you to stay relevant that’s why most of us are in the job right? We enjoy gadgets and technology we get excited by the “latest thing”. But this in itself does not give you all you need to be able to keep up.
Unless you are one of the very blessed few who can absorb information like a sponge, or perhaps have no other commitments in life thus giving you time to learn all this stuff what can we do?
Well what occurred to me is that the speed of change with the average business is quite a bit behind the bleeding edge of change at the forefront of IT itself. How many of you have seen large quantities of businesses suddenly adopt the latest tech overnight? There is always a lead time, sure some businesses are very “agile” and at the least take a look at whats hot and try it out, but in my experience so far the speed of change is slower than the propaganda and noise would have you believe.
If you have been in IT for at least a while you should already have the ability to identify (or have a good idea) what new tech is going to be “big” and therefore earmark it as one to watch and one to learn, but you don’t necessarily need to know it all -now-.
Here is my little epiphany, there is always going to be gap between new tech emerging and the time you really need to get to grips with learn and understand it. Finding that sweet spot that is just ahead of the speed of business adoption but not placing yourself so far ahead you are chasing your tail with the number of new things to learn. This of course requires some experience and practice but I think it all it requires is you yourself paying attention. Watch the trends, listen to trusted and respected peers and the customer. Just because it’s the new thing doesn’t mean they need it (yet).
There are also regional differences, the US typically is faster to adopt tech than the UK or EU so that is something to factor in and comes with experience.
As a good friend told me, you don’t need to be an expert in these new things, you just need ot have the basics down and then when things get mahoosively popular you can concentrate on the advanced stuff.
Please feel free to comment on this post I would be keen to hear what you think and how you keep up with IT without burn out.