If you’re a working parent, you’re probably familiar with the frustration of managing a job, a team of kids, your own social life and other commitments.
Keeping up to date with ever-changing technology sometimes can become an absolutely impossible task. You work your 8 hours a day, you don’t have any time, you can’t spend your weekends learning new technologies, because you’ve got other stuff in your life. How do you stay up to date with that?
Regardless of your situation, the following tips can help you to be well-informed of what’s happening in web development industry, but first, let’s figure out why do you need to stay up to date.
🤔 Why do you need to stay up to date?
In the web development industry, not every job is permanent. You can find yourself in a situation where it’s going to be very hard to get a replacement job. You look at a job board and see things like SASS, ES6, Redux when you spent all your time working with jQuery.
While your clients may not know any technical terms, they still use HR websites, Facebook, Instagram, where they see all these features and think that this is what they need. Not all old code can do these modern features and techniques. So you need to be aware of these new things in order to be able to reasonably explain the situation.
Another reason is just the performance in general. At a certain point, this new technology is going to make your job as a web developer better, not to mention actual business benefits that you’ll get from that. You can roll out updates a lot quicker and be more flexible and that’s a huge competitive advantage.
You can be stuck in the past with a huge technical debt behind you. And that’s a very real concern especially with some of the legacy tech. If you’re not taking the steps to at least keep up with the modern tech, you run the risk of getting surpassed by the fast new agile startup.
Another point is maybe after a couple years of doing something in the exact same way you start to get sick of it. Because it’s not challenging, you’re not coming across new techniques or trying to solve any new problems, you’re sort of just going through the motions of building a WordPress theme, making it responsive and so on and so forth…
Remember the feeling of sheer joy when you finally got Angular’s two-way binding to work. Wasn’t it like magic? You feel like you have superpowers. It’s just fun to learn new stuff.
☝️ So, the takeaway from this is: the industry is not going to wait for you. It is in your interest to always be staying up to date.
⚠️ Be ok with not knowing everything
To be honest, I think it’s absolutely impossible to feel like you have a handle on everything every time. The best advice here is being fine with not knowing everything. There’s still going to be large gaps in whatever you learn and that’s not a bad thing at all. You’ll always have things to learn. Everyone has this feeling. You just need to accept the fact that part of your job is going to be dedicated to staying up to date.
🔪 The cutting edge of technology
In general, the cutting edge is not necessarily the place where you want to be. When something new comes out, don’t immediately jump on it. Just wait a little bit, give some time for other people to figure it out.
For example, when the first version of the library comes out, absolutely everybody jumps on that train. It’s probably not something that you should be doing too. Those people that are working on the cutting edge, they are trying it out, learning all the quirks and nuances of the library. At a certain point, this technology either goes away, or it’s going to be mature and more stable. That’s exactly the point where you can start picking it up. Because if you jump on the train too early, you’re going to be dealing with deprecated and new APIs and things changing all the time, which is incredibly frustrating.
Right now the big frameworks are Angular, React and Vue. Would you’ve been able to predict that Vue will grow so much over the last eight months? Of course, now you can certainly see that Vue will not just disappear overnight or decline in usage. Today Vue is being picked up by millions of people who are actively learning it and there’s no harm in doing that.
📚 Determine your learning style
It all comes down to who you are as a person. There are several different processes to augment your learning to make it a little bit favorable. You have to understand how you learn best.
Everyone has a totally different learning style. Whether it’s videos or blogs or whatever, you need to figure out what works for you.
I learn best from video tutorials and pickup code concepts best from just reading the docs. Some people prefer to read books and long articles. But I’d suggest first try different mediums, find the one that you like.
🚧 Focus on fundamentals
If you double down on fundamentals and stay up to speed on core language skills, you’ll be able to switch over and do just-in-time learning, pick up a new library in a couple of days or a week, depending on how big is the library. Understanding core language concepts are going to make usage of the library much easier because you’re going to be able to recognize the patterns and techniques used there.
Focus on the stuff that you can take with you from project to project because you don’t want to learn things more than once.
☝️ The general takeaway is: maintain your core web development skill set in whatever language that you’re using and then when it comes time to pick up something new, dive in, read some blog posts, watch a video course on the topic until you have a solid grasp on how things work there.
🔬 Get your hands dirty – Write a lot of code
Start getting your pen to paper as soon as possible and just write a lot of code. It really doesn’t matter if your code doesn’t follow some best practices. After some time you’ll find yourself knowing all the pitfalls and the big picture will come into view.
🗺️ Strategies for learning on the job?
Perhaps many of us don’t have the ability to work nights and weekends. Keeping that in mind, you need to find the way to learn on the job. Of course, everyone is swamped with work, but you still need to find ways to learn.
For instance, I wanted to learn Vue and we didn’t have any client projects that could use Vue. I spent one hour a day to build a little help-desk app for our clients to use. Of course, this could have been done with a regular WordPress instance, but I decided to do it with Vue. That way if my boss was asking me what am I working on, I could easily answer that I’m building this little help-desk website for our customers. I put commonly asked questions there so our customers can quickly find answers to their questions. Things like that show your initiative to make things better and also the ability for you to learn some new stuff. And also I got paid for the thing I was building. Isn’t it cool?
Find a little side project at work and hone your skills there. You need to build something that is fun to build and looks good because you need to be invested in the thing that you’re building. It really doesn’t matter whether your boss knows about it or not. The amount of time that this is going to take is not super extreme but it will push you forward.
You can find time to learn at work whether that’s a big project or small tiny things that you inject into your existing projects. it doesn’t fundamentally change the project itself. What matters is the end result of your work. People are going to care whether you stuff works or not and whether you doing your job on time or not.
You need to think about your dev career. How will it look in a couple of years if you spend all your time not progressing forward? You could be potentially hurting yourself long term. There are time and possibility for everyone to push the needle forward.
There’s so much stuff out there, where do I go?
Most likely you’ve already bookmarked some popular tech websites that you visit regularly, but if not, here I’ve put together a list of relevant resources that will help you to keep up with new and upcoming technologies.
- WebDev Reddit can be a good way to find out what’s going on in the fast-paced, constantly-evolving landscape of web development. Sometimes it’s a good idea not to go too deep into comments there, cause you’ll regret it later. But even just getting the latest news there is a great way to stay on top.
- Follow people on Twitter. That may seem like a counter-intuitive advice. What? Twitter? That’s a huge distraction from productive work! However, following topical conversations on Twitter is a good way to learn some new stuff you didn’t even know existed. It doesn’t take too much time, just a passive observation of a discussion can contribute to you improving your knowledge in certain areas.
- Listen to podcasts. If you have some time during your commute you might put on your headphones and listen to a web development podcast. Sometimes, what you need to get excited to learn new thing is to listen someone who has already used it. There are some great ones out there like ShopTalk, Developer Tea, Friends Talk FrontEnd. If you’re into Ruby, React, Angular, you’ll certainly find some interesting shows on DevChat.tv
- Meetups are also a great way of connecting, networking and learning.
There are some meetups in every corner of the world.
Of course, if you have kids it’s not really great to go out and drink beer all night, but you still can find a time for at least a couple meetups per year.
If you’re someone who is brand new to a meetup, it’s really important to talk to people, ask a lot of questions. There are often extremely smart people at these meetups that love to talk about the stuff that they know.
There’s nothing the speaker likes more than people come up to them and say that it was a good talk. Going out and talking to a speaker is never a bad idea.
If you have a little bit more introverted personality, just talk to the person you’re sitting next to. You can ask them where they work or what do they work on. It should be a good conversation starter.
Just meet somebody, find something interesting and come out of there learning something.
Hopefully, that gave you some ideas on how to stay on top of technologies. In general, do not feel ashamed of not staying up on things, but you should become aware of the global state of things in the industry.
If the entire community is moving towards a particular technology and you’re not, it could become a problem in the long run.