My Top Tips for Continuous Education

I recently attended a great DevOps MeetUp in Dublin in order to hear Technologists from all areas of IT talk about the recent trends, tools and techniques that are driving this movement forward. And then it occurred to me. I was probably the oldest person in the audience.

But so what?

Before I answer that question, let’s go back a few years within my profession of IT. Way back in the day, knowledge was power and if you could control information then you could control almost any situation.

Developers were kings and a pretty rare breed indeed – sounds familiar

Specialist IT skills came from college, specific training classes, day to day experience and working with mentors. Eventually, this experience gave you the skills which made you stand out as an expert. This, in turn, got you noticed in your career. Hopefully, then you gained promotion, edged your way up the management chain and became a great leader.

But how do you stay at the top of your game?

Well, I once worked for a CIO at HSBC and this guy was the most knowledgeable leader I had ever met. His technical skills were as sharp as the day he started coding and his leadership skills were developing through maturity, experience and confidence.

I got to meet his wife and she revealed the secret of his success to me. Every night, before sleeping, he would read a technical or business publication (this was the days before the internet). And thus he would constantly educate himself. In fact, he didn’t wait for his skills to go stale and then ultimately be replaced by a younger model.

It wasn’t until I was at the MeetUp that I realised I was doing exactly the same thing as my previous mentor but by using different techniques.

So I thought I would give you my top tips for “Continuous Education” – apologies to the DevOps aficionados.

  1. Free or Nearly Free Online Training: This is readily available but make sure that you give yourself time to complete a class. I use Udemy but don’t pay the full price, sign up & wait for a discount offer and Coursera which is free.
  2. Twitter: Yes, if you find a topic that you are passionate about, you’ll end up researching it, tweeting links, getting into debates and generally extending your knowledge.
  3. Facilitate Meetings at the Office: I might be the CTO but I still facilitate meetings, value mapping sessions and workshops. The very fact that you facilitate means that you have to be engaged. And if you can use mind mapping techniques to chart out the meeting, you’ll retain a lot of knowledge.
  4. Amazon Kindle: I never used to read that many books. Just carrying them is a faff. But I bought a paper-white kindle and started by loading it with many free publications (e-books & PDF’s). Now I’m buying books on all sorts of subjects and reading them whilst traveling.
  5. Presentations: If you can get a speaking opportunity, then take it. I learn so much by just researching my talk that I practically have to edit the material down so as not to overrun. Plus the questions from the audience keeps you on your toes!
  6. And Finally – MeetUps: These are absolutely free and take just a couple of hours of your time in the evening once a month. Check our for a wide range of topics that are available. It’s quite mind boggling but also fun.

I’m sure that there are many other ways that people have to continually learn (and I would love to hear about them). But it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to practice Continuous Education and I’m pretty sure that you too can enhance your career.

Or maybe you would prefer to be replaced by a younger model πŸ˜‰

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