Your professional value is highly dependent on maintaining your currency in your chosen subject and other related subject areas. Make formal and informal learning a planned habit.
It is a cliché to state that you need to be a life-long learner, but in the technology field, it remains true. “Being a Learner” is one of the essential 12 behaviors and actions to adopt and practice from Success in the Technology Field that will help you to advance or prepare for a career in technology. The twelve recommendations involve adopting crucial behaviors that apply throughout your career, as well as specific actions you should take at different stages of your career.
Technology evolves at a breakneck pace, with ever-more powerful computing, storage, and networking capabilities. Technology-based products rapidly avail themselves of these new capabilities, and the resulting product-launch cycle continues to shrink. Rapid change does not just apply to technology and products but also related process disciplines. Project management, as a discipline, is quite mature and, as such, relatively static. But process disciplines, including Agile, DevOps, and now DevSecOps, continue to evolve rapidly.
Be a Life-Long “Blended” Learner
Whatever you do in the technology field, the ground under you is continuously in upheaval. In your career planning, you need to address this upheaval through continuous learning. There are particular knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that one needs to understand and master for each position in the technology field. Your individual development plan (IDP) should have elements of formal training, self-study and research, on-the-job assignments to support skills and abilities development, and mentoring. Use “blended learning,” meaning using different training modes, to support developing mastery of a subject.
Focus first on formal education, but then pivot to looking at which formal training and certifications can help you address the KSAs and behaviors you are looking to develop. But recognize that certifications, in and of themselves, do not convey practical expertise. An individual with a particular certification may still lack the complete set of KSAs to effectively fulfill a position’s responsibilities. Most certifications are knowledge-based, but do not focus much on the practical use of skills and abilities. Try to schedule formal training so you can immediately use your new skills in your job. So much is lost if you take a course and then can’t apply any new skills or knowledge for months. By using the skills on the job soon after the training, you reinforce the learning and accelerate the movement to competence in a particular subject. If you can interweave formal on-demand and classroom training with on-the-job experience, then even better.
Recognize the importance of informal learning, using both experienced co-workers and mentors to support you in developing plans for effective informal learning. Ultimately, a great deal of informal learning is about your mindset. Do you have the “curiosity” to seek to understand as much as possible about a particular subject? The more passion you have about a subject, the more the hard work of becoming an expert becomes easier. If you are struggling with having that curiosity, it can indicate that you are in just a job and have not yet found your career passion. Continue to search for your passion as you continue learning, using your curiosity and what you enjoy as guides.
“Being a Learner” is such an essential trait that it is one of the three foundational behaviors you will need throughout your career. As you embark on your career, make it a point to continue formal learning beyond your education. Our field is moving so quickly, and there are always new technologies and processes to understand. Your professional value is highly dependent on maintaining your currency in your chosen subject and other related subject areas. You should have a career plan and related IDP with a tactical set of learning objectives to meet over the next five years. So, make formal and informal learning a planned habit, and you will be prepared for new opportunities when they arrive.
Success in the Technology Field: A Guide for Advancing Your Career
Success in the Technology Field is a practical “how-to” guide for a career in technology. It presents a holistic model, incorporating skills and behaviors that help you define and attain your career goals, whether you aspire to be an executive, a leading technologist, or a successful product salesperson.