Technology (and especially software) is constantly changing. Just because one database, framework or programming language is popular now doesn’t mean it will be in 5 years, or even 6 months. A career in technology is a career is constant learning.
So how do you keep up with the latest? Here are a few pointers from my own experience:
Follow Hacker News (news.ycombinator.com)
I’m not saying you need to be on top of this constantly. But this is the pulse of the tech/startup world. Many experienced developers, tech CEOs, and entrepreuers post and comment on here.
It’s important to see what stories are getting lots of comments, and get a feel for the general setiment of the community. Also — new frameworks or technologies are often posted here and talked about.
Follow your niche field
For me this is Python. I’m also interested in Entreprenuership. So I subscribe to these two newsleters and at least browse through some of the content every week:
I know what you’re thinking: Email is the worst. And you would be correct in thinking that. These newsletters are one of the far and few email subscriptions that are actually meaningful and helpful. I recommend you find one similar in your niche field.
Go to (some) conferences
Technology conferences are a dime a dozen these days. What technology are in you into? Kubernetes perhaps? Mesos? Or maybe just all things Big Data? Or maybe you are really into Blockchain. Regardless of what it is, there seems to be a conference for everything.
Honestly I usually don’t learn a heck of a lot from the conferences, but they are a good way to see what other people are thinking and where the industry is going. It’s more of a “meet & greet” and making sure I’m ahead of the curve rather than anything else.
Unfortunately, a lot of of them are charging in the realm of multiple hundreds of dollars to attend. In my opinion, most of them aren’t worth paying money for (with the exception of PyCon, of course).
However, some conferences such as DeveloperWeek offer free tickets if you are a developer. The idea is that the companies and recruiters pay the big fees for the chance at recruiting talent (you!).** Look for these “developer deals”, and take advantage of them.**
Also — if you work for a company that is hip enough to pay for your nerd conference, definitely take advantage of that as well.
Speak at Tech Meetups
This is a good one. It will a give you a chance to give back to the community and practice public speaking. Which — if you plan on running your own business someday or even just being in a leadership position — is key.
Some Meetups, like the Austin Python Meetup have the regular talk, and then “Lightning Talks” afterwards. A Lightning Talk just it’s typically 5–10 minutes in length. Lightning Talks are a great way to get comfortable speaking in front of the crowd.
Use Open Source, and Contribute to it
Many people and organizations are relying on Open Source today, yet less than 1% of users actually contribute back to Open Source.
I totally made that quote up, but its probably pretty close. I know — contributing to Flask can be intimidating. The regular contributors to popular Open Source projects know their stuff. In fact — if companies see you are a contributer to an Open Source Project, they may let you skip the demeaning “Live Code Interview” process altogether.
You don’t need to start with a big project, start small and work from there. Also many projects have tags that specifically call out good tasks for people new to the project — start with those.
Don’t fall for all the new shiny things
This world moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it — Ferris Bueller
Ok so there is always some new shiny thing that promises to be THE BEST DATABASE EVER. You should definitely play around with all the new fancy things, but be wary about using them in Production. Learn about it and figure out what it can do that your existing stack or programming language can’t.
You know what powers most of the forward thinking technology companies today? Unix. Know when Unix was invented? The 70’s. Same goes with MySQL, Regular Old Bash Scripts, and even (gasp) C++. Yea, C++ might not be “cool”, but there is a reason why it still plays a big role in many of the tried and true tools that are taken for granted today.