This is not going to be a post about technology nor about a technical solution to a problem, rather something equally important that I feel has helped my career quite a lot. Inspiration for this post comes from a question that I received from an attendee at yesterday’s SLDC meetup asking how I keep myself up to date with technology. My expertise lies in business intelligence and databases especially on the Microsoft side of things, and so was this particular attendee’s. However, he had been, or rather his job had taken him on various stints on various technologies for a period of time, and he was now getting back into Microsoft technologies, but was concerned about the amount of learning that has to be caught up with. So back to the question, “how do you keep yourself updated?” and I know that this is a question that lingers in the minds of many. My answer to him was: “Nights”. But I think the right answer should have been: “Passion”.
In technology, I feel, one should have passion. Not the type of “passion” you see on every other CV describing the CV’s owner; but real, undying love for the type of technology you work with. “But I do have passion” some retort when I ask for demonstrable passion from interviewees, “I came up with a great idea for a dashboard for my client, and built this really awesome dashboard that won my organization a lot of praise” — That’s not passion, that’s just doing your job. That’s what you are supposed to do. “But I really really love to work with SQL Server” they’d say; then show me something that showcases it, I ask, something beyond just doing your job. Mostly I don’t get an answer. Well, if you have the passion you need to go beyond.
Let’s bring in an analogy. Marriage. You could marry either because you decide you need to settle down, have a husband/wife to take care of you, and start a family with; or because you are really, madly, deeply in love with that person you are in love with, and you want to spend your life with that person doing every crazy, stupid thing you ever wanted to. Passion for technology, for me, is like the latter option. You need to go beyond the great job you do at work, and explore the technology more; experiment → try new things → fail → fail again → read → learn → succeed → experiment more → teach → write → evangelize. But all this in your own time: A couple of hours in the night, an evening on a weekend, on game night, on a Friday night when you should be drinking the wee hours away, one day of your vacation… It takes a little bit of sacrifice. But it does pay off.
Once you go through a process such as this, you will have a revelation; people start calling you an expert, you see opportunities in your career that you never saw before, you get opportunities that you never dreamed of before. You would see things paying off — It has for me. Several times.
All those people who I know, who are passionate about technology, do the things they do because it comes from within, either because they are hardwired like that, or they have come to realize how much it is important and cultivate the habits. If you were wondering, what these people do; well, here are a few things…
Read. That’s the starting point. Read documentation, blogs, white papers to understand more. Then you can start experimenting; trying out tutorials, or scenarios of your own. And don’t just stop there; put your code into a repository such as Github. You can easily pull these out to showcase at an interview. Write about your experiments, take notes and start a blog to share your learning with the world (and also to showcase at interviews). Talk about your research and experiments; Organize a tech talk for your team, or your organization, or be a little bold and speak at a local community event — you will eventually become known in the technology community, and the technology will automatically get associated with you. The more you write about something and the more you speak about something; the more you understand it and the more that others associate you to it.
So, go ahead and work on it. Do it now. It’s hard at first. Persevere and it will pay off. I promise.