This is part 4 in a series on Software Gardening. If you’re just jumping in, you can find Part 1 here.
Light is a critical part of growing any garden. For us as developers, light helps us see things in a new way or with newer technologies or methodologies. At the end of my last post, I said that we need to take the responsibility to do our own learning. So, as developers, our light is Personal Development.
There are two types of skills we need to develop as professional developers. The first is technical. Since you are reading this post, you are already taking a step toward your technical development. Reading blogs is an excellent way to learn about new techniques and skills. Pick a few blogs to follow, set them up in an aggregator, and check them daily. Make a list of topics to follow up on later.
But there is other types of reading in the form of magazines and books. Some will say that hard copy is outdated in this internet age, but I find them invaluable learning tools. Some books give you a quick overview of a new technology while others dig deep into a single topic. Magazines have an advantage over a book in being able to quickly get information about new stuff out to you, but they lack the depth needed for deep understanding.
Podcasts are another excellent form of learning. There are dozens of podcasts that give you broad overviews. One advantage of a podcast is that you can listen to them while on your commute. A few minutes each day is all that you need to learn about something new.
The last place to get technical knowledge is from conferences, user groups, code camps, and training events. Do not overlook the importance of in-person events. The networks you establish will give you contacts when you are looking for your next gig or to find an expert to help solve a particularly nasty issue. Even a Code Camp, that is run by your local community will bring you great topics, friendships, and learning.
The second area of personal development is soft skills. As technologists, we often get caught up in the technology and overlook things like business acumen, public speaking, technical writing, and even things as simple as how to write a good email. It’s these skills that many employers value over our technical ability. But as technologists, we often don’t look to these skills. Whether it’s doing a presentation to our development team or writing an email to the boss’s boss’s boss about our current project, these skills are highly important.
If you don’t have one now, put together a list of topics for your personal study. Set aside some time every week or every day to learn something new. Oh, and remember, this is personal time. It’s your responsibility to keep your skills up to date, not your employer.