Staying Current with Recent Technology

The Stale Programmer

As a software engineer, it is important that you keep yours skills fresh.  There are always new technologies and frameworks coming out at an alarming rate.

These new frameworks may make our lives a lot easier… IF we know how to use them.  But a lot of us graduated college at least a few years ago.

How do we keep our skills up-to-date?  Because, let’s be honest, a lot of technology companies look for young talent because of the new skills they get from recently graduating an educational institution.

I’ve seen far too many people in my career become ‘stuck’ in their current position.  They can’t find other opportunities due to not keeping updated with current technology.

Old

Like it or not, it’s how the industry works.  So you can either complain about it, or you can do something about it.

Manual Ways of Staying Updated

There is no way you can keep on the bleeding edge of all the technologies out there.  It’s simply impossible.  No one in this day is going to know the latest developments in all the software technologies out there, such as databases, web development, testing methodologies, blockchain, security, and many, many more.  There’s just not enough time in the day.

That means you have to specialize at least to some degree.  And if you aren’t being intentional about it, you are going to specialize only in what your job pushes you towards.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind.  You are going to standout in some technology or framework just due to your everyday use of it.

Specialize

If you want to learn something new the manual way, you might attend college or a specialization course.  Going back to college is certainly one extreme.

You may take courses on Coursera, Udacity, Pluralsight, or one of the other paid or free MOOCs out there.  This is a great way to keep your skills fresh.

Going to meetups in your area is also an option.

My problem with these options is they are all manual.  I don’t necessarily have time during my day-to-day job to stay updated with all things technology.  That means I devote time outside of work staying current.

It just so happens there is a semi-automated way of doing this!

Automating the Learning of New Skills

Before I go too deep into this, it’s worth mentioning this is not going to make you an expert in any topic.  Not even close.

This method will simply make you aware of new techniques, frameworks, and skillsets that exist out there.  If you are at least aware of new developments, you can do a deep dive in anything that interests you.

RSS Feeds

I have found several software sites to which I subscribe.  Every time they post a new blog post, I get a notification in Feedly.

I don’t always read them (especially those that post tons of content like HackerNews), but I at least have the option of learning something new without going and searching for it.

Here’s the current list of tech blogs I read:

I’ll get updated content every day from these sources.  Whenever I get a few minutes, I’ll sift through one to learn something new.

Podcasts

I have a pretty long commute (usually 40-50 minutes one way).  This leaves me with a considerable amount of time in the car.

Rather than listen to the radio, I listen to some tech podcasts that keep me updated with current trends in software.

Podcast

The best podcast I have found for this is Software Engineering Daily.  This podcast presents tons of different material, from Bitcoin and Ethereum on the blockchain, to Kubernetes, to Javascript frameworks.  I have been able to have a semi-intelligent discussion on Ethereum having no information other than listening to this podcast.  It usually comes out with new content every day, Monday – Friday.  That’s a lot of content!

I also enjoy listening to Soft Skills Engineering.  They come out with a new episode once a week.  It covers soft skills (who would have guessed? 🙂 ) rather than specific technologies.  They answer two readers’ questions and have a lighthearted attitude that is enjoyable (in my opinion) to listen to.

The best part about these podcasts is my Google Play app auto-updates them every morning before I head out to work.  I just make sure I turn on my phone’s WiFi for a minute or two before I head out the door.  I then usually have new content to listen to on the way to work.

Conclusion

People ask tons of interview questions.  One that I’ve heard is ‘how do you keep updated with current technology?’  This is such a good question in my opinion.  Even if you are currently a rockstar developer, in ten years, you may be antiquated if you don’t keep up with new technology.

It gets frustrating sometimes.  There’s just so much out there!  But the best find their own way to keep learning new things.

Using automation can make this a much simpler task.  The suggestions I make above won’t give you a deep dive of new topics, but at a minimum, you will at least know new buzzwords and that certain technologies exist.  And that’s a great step forward rather than knowing nothing about new developments.

With the right keyword, you can Google your way to learning an entirely new topic that may make your development life much easier.

Keep learning!

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What apps do you use to listen to podcasts?