This will come as no surprise to you – in a recent Randstad Technologies’ survey of IT professionals – encompassing everyone from CIOs to system administrators to developers – keeping technology skills fresh is one of their greatest challenges. Coupled with pressing job and personal demands that leave little time to devote to honing existing or acquiring new skills – the pace of technological change has never been greater. It took nearly forty years for the telephone to reach a 40% penetration rate – it took smart phones just 10 years to reach that 40% rate! With the growth of social, mobile, analytical, and cloud (SMAC) related technologies and the low barriers to entering the market, the pace of change shows no signs of slowing.
The dynamic rate of technological change breeds new opportunities for the people who keep refreshing their skills. From our experience, we know that employers are looking for IT professionals who take the initiative to keep their knowledgebase fresh and build new skills. You need to make the case that you’re leading the charge to bring innovation to your organization. So with everything else on your plate, how do you approach learning?
First, take the time to think through which skills and knowledge you need to acquire. What are the important trends you find interesting around which you would like to build skills? What insights do you need to further your career? Make a list and prioritize your areas of focus. A recent Randstad survey confirmed what you probably already know – IT professionals are do-it-yourselfers when it comes to acquiring new skills with the Internet as their primary source of learning. However, it’s best not to lock yourself in to just one skill-building tactic.
The more obvious tips include:
- Some on-line courses are better than others. Do your research before you invest your time – and money. Don’t write-off attending in-person training. For some it’s a preferred way to learn, and it might help you expand your network.
- Acquire certifications if available.
- Attend those trade shows and conferences that most closely relate to your areas of interest.
- Identify and read the relevant trade pubs and books. A good first step is to create a Google alert and select those sources that consistently provide high quality information and insight into the technologies of interest.
Some steps you can take are less obvious – but could prove invaluable.
- If you work with vendors who provide services in your areas of interest, leverage their knowledge. Get their insight on how they keep their skills fresh. Have them recommend resources.
- Consider putting together workshops with your co-workers and colleagues. The best way to learn a new skill is to have to teach it to others and sharing sessions with your peers increases the chances that the curriculum will be practical.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture – your evolving career. Lifelong learning is more than a sentimental goal or character-building exercise. In today’s rapidly changing technology landscape, it might be the difference in a fulfilling career – or getting stuck.