I often hear developers complain that they do not have any time to keep up with technology. I can understand that. There is an awful lot out there and the field just gets bigger all the time. As I see it, the challenge we face as developers is three-fold.
One is picking a technological path. This can sometimes be like picking horses at the track. You start with not much more than a name, then, with a little digging and research, you can find out some particulars that can help you to make your decision. Unfortunately, there are hidden problems that can pop up and cut your horse down in mid-race leaving you standing on the sidelines wishing that you had just backed that other horse that maybe had a less flashy name, but still had backing and jockeys that still wanted to ride him in the race.
If I were to give advice to anyone who is asking which way to go in a technological field is that they need to think about what they would want to do if money was not involved. What would they want to do if they did not need money? For most of the developers and IT professionals I have talked to, they will then tell you that they would still want to code, or build infrastructure. Once you have that goal in mind, you are usually better able to plan what you want to be doing over the next 10, 15, or 25 years.
The second one is a common problem for anyone in any profession. That problem is time. Time is finite, you can’t make it, but you can organize it, like a well-packed suitcase and therefore pack way more in it than anyone would have ever expected.
The way I deal with my issues of time is to prioritize things. I found that I could get used to a more restricted sleep pattern with no ill affects. Coupling shorter sleep times with specific times for sleep allowed me to optimize the productivity that I get from the new time I have. I study, experiment and work on side projects when the rest of my family (and the world around me) is sound asleep, therefore I get the most uninterrupted time to concentrate and learn. For me, early in the morning is my best time, so I make sure that I get up a couple of hours before everyone else in the house. This way I get to do the things that help to advance me and the other things in my life do not suffer.
The final problem is focus. There are so many shiny new toys out there begging for our attention that we end up not really good at playing any single toy, instead, we end up being pretty good at a few or mediocre at a bunch.
My biggest weakness is that I am so interested in so many technologies that I have a hard time picking one or two to focus on. I have not found any hard and/or fast rule that has helped me with this, its just taken determination and a desire to attain a goal that has allowed me to gain the knowledge I have over the years.
We live in a fantastic time. Never before has there been so much sharing of information, so many tools out there to allow anyone that wants to put in the time to become truly extraordinary. No one will hand it to you and if you wait for someone to do it for you, you will spend a lot of time in the dust and the shadows watching the success of others. I have always believed and have, in fact, seen it in action, that anyone can do anything that anyone else has been able to do, as long as they are willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to do so.
It is all out there, go get it… Bing is your best teacher!