How Does One Keep Their Computer Technology Skills And Knowledge Up To Date?
Hello, my name is Alex - and I'm hoping to land a job in the Tech field after I graduate from Job Corps after my 8-12 months in trade.
One thing that concerns me is how quickly computers and the pieces within them can out pace their predecessors, and how fast 'bleeding edge' can fall behind.
I still have no experience in the Tech field, and I wonder if this job will ask of you to keep up to the current times in Tech; and how someone with experience would keep to date?
This is a great thing to be thinking about! Some things to consider:
- Many employers will have some kind of training budget available, or some resources that you can use. For example, at my company today there's a large book collection, all employees can take free online courses at Udemy, and if there is a technical conference or training session I'm interested in, I can apply for it. This is a great thing to find out about as soon as you start a new job. While you can learn on your own time, getting paid to do paid-for learning is even better!
- Set aside personal time for skill development. It's an investment in your career. Be deliberate about what you're trying to learn and how you're going to try and learn it. I've been successful with setting a standard time (an evening a week, or an early start to my day a few days a week) to work on career-growth projects.
- Keep up to date with what's going on in the industry. I use a free Feedly account to subscribe to lots of tech websites, which is a good way to keep awareness of the kinds of things people are talking about. I also subscribe to development podcasts and listen to them while I'm commuting or doing chores around the house.
- Find people who have skills you're interested in at your company and pick their brains. You might even find a mentor.
- Teach people new skills you're learning. You can give tech talks at work, or propose talks at local meetups, or mentor other people. Having a deadline to have to actually teach people something is one of the best ways to force you to really, really understand it.
- Check out the amazing quantity of free technical content on YouTube. Most of the major tech conferences publish their videos for free now, often the same day. I have a list of conferences I would love to attend if I had time and budget, and then make myself a playlist of the talks that look interesting to me, and then watch them at double speed. It's crazy how quickly you can absorb information in that format, even if you're beat at the end of the day.
- Finally, it's also ok to relax. The bleeding edge of tech industry moves fast, but most companies don't build things right at the bleeding edge. Most of the skills you develop will both be valuable for many years. Even if not, having learned them makes it far easier to learn the next skill. It's much harder to learn the first programming language than the second one. A lot of skills (how to test, how to document, how to build reliable software, and so on) are almost entirely portable from language to language. It's as important to have real, deep skills in an area, even if it's not in the bleeding edge, than it is to be aware of the latest and greatest. It's actually a bit of an interview red flag if people are only talking about the "buzzworthy" stuff.
Good luck! The fact that you're thinking about this already is a great sign.
When working in IT, it's in your company's best interest to keep you up-to-date. Most, if not all, enterprise IT departments invest in their people with yearly formal training. However, don't discount the learning that is to be had by working with your fellow employees. Through teamwork on solving problems and working problems, you'll naturally pick up on many of the latest trends as you'll likely have to do some research to find the best tools and practices for the job.My advice to you is to target a job that you want and train up for it. Employers will want to make sure you have the technical chops to do the job. An entry level certification in your technology field can go a long way to show an employer that you have a technical background and are willing to put in time to be an expert.
some good advice in the earlier comment that you should take into account.
some other things to think about are what applications and areas of technology do you currently use in your daily life. are you passionate about any of these in particular. focusing on applications and how people are using technology can give you a much broader field to work in versus focusing only on the hardware. Use cases will change and if you are in tune with those changes you will find yourself more able to adapt and thrive in those changes.
I commend you for pursuing further training to get into the tech industry. With the fast pace of technology advancement, lifelong learning must be embraced, at any age, to stay relevant and current for the job market., and this applies to most industry not just high tech. You ask a very good question. Many employers offer training and other resources to help their employees keep up with their computer skills, and these resources are the best place to start. But you can also learn on your own using the many free resources out there on the internet. One site that I recommend is OpenCourseWare (https://www.oeconsortium.org/faq/what-is-open-courseware/). OCW is a free and open digital publication of high quality college and university‐level educational materials. Keep learning! You are well on your way with your objective of graduating the Job Corp and I wish you much success.
Josh's advice is very much what I would tell you also. Very comprehensive!
I'll add one more thing, which has helped me in my decades in tech sales: Formally "schedule" time for your self-directed training. Put it on your calendar, just like a face-to-face class, so you don't get your time absorbed on other things. I have a list of training/learning that I want to get to: webinar replays, on-line courses for badges, saved articles to read, etc. I block out 2 hours on Sunday for accomplishing something on my list. That doesn't mean I don't or can't do some of those things at other times, of course. But I keep my 2 hour block diligently....and you'd be surprised at how much that helps me keep on top of my training.
It will also help you to be a life long learner if you build this time-block-for-training habit.
You are already being proactive and seeing upcoming issues, nice. That is a great topic and a big concern in the tech industry. You will absolutely have to keep up not only with your tech field (network, security, infrastructure, whatever) but you will also learn about other fields that you work with.
This industry values certifications, i.e. you go to sessions on a given topic and pass testing. These certifications will basically grow old so you will need to keep up with them. And technologies change and various skills will be preferred over others. Make sure you plan ahead and don't get into dying fields.
Education and skill training is absolutely a constant essential to a great career in technology. All the best!!
Paul recommends the following next steps: