Shop Talk: 2021-05-24

The Recording

The Panelists

  • Kevin Feasel
  • Mala Mahadevan
  • Mike Chrestensen

Notes: Questions and Topics

Technologies to Learn

Chris Voss e-mailed (shoptalk at tripass dot org) with a great question:

When it comes to deciding what technology or data skill you wish to learn next, what’s your process? Do you base it on what looks great, what could be good for a given task at your job, what tool or language appears to be most in demand? With all that considered, how much time then goes into such external learning? I know it depends, but I wonder what everyone has to say.

I’m going to keep some of my powder dry because this makes up a fair percentage of my upcoming Dataminutes talk, but here are some quick thoughts:

  1. Build a not-to-do list. It’s easy to add things to to-do lists, but a not-to-do list is even more important. Doing this gives you focus. So what goes on your not-to-do list? That’s for Dataminutes…
  2. Think about how good you are at your current job, in terms of knowing what you need to know as well as job security. If you’re at risk, focus your learning time on what makes you better at your current job. Keeping the job you have is important, as it’s much easier to get a new job if you have one than if you’re out of work and looking.
  3. If you’re in a pretty good place job-wise, think about what you want your next job to be and spend some amount of time on that. You shouldn’t spend 100% of your learning on “the next role,” but this is a continuum, in that as you get more comfortable in the current position, you should be able to branch further.
  4. Spend an hour a day at work learning. If you need to (and can!), set up a daily meeting on your calendar during a time frame when you aren’t that busy, and use it to learn. Bias toward things helpful for your current position, so that if pressed, you can bring up specific cases where the time you spent learning directly and positively affected the company.
  5. Don’t forget about learning for fun. That may also be part of your “next job” learning, but it can be enjoyable to learn something simply for the sake of learning it.
  6. Go outside your comfort zone. Nobody respects a Fachidiot.
  7. Also, don’t forget about leaving your normal realm. I’m assuming that most of the Shop Talk audience is technical people, like application developers, database administrators, and the like. Pick up a book on literature, history, or philosophy.
  8. Your brain needs breaks, too. Specifically, physical activity is really good for giving your brain a break. If you spend 8+ hours a day sitting in front of a screen at work and navigating logic problems, it can wear you out to keep trying to solve similar logic problems at night. Switch it up a bit and you’ll find more success long-term.

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