Keeping Your Skills Current

There was an article on ageism in Silicon Valley last year that garnered a lot of attention.  Whenever such articles appear, invariably some variation on this advice is given, either in the article, or in comments:

Keep your skills current. This means keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in computing, programming techniques, and languages, and adapting to change.

But what does this mean? Practically? How do you do that?

In some cases, it’s relatively easy. Over the last decade, the Java world has featured an endless stream of new frameworks. If you are a Java developer, you could just read about the latest framework, maybe fool around with it a bit, and you were good to go.

But as a C++ developer, it was never clear to me what I should have been reading to “keep my skills current.”  C++ hasn’t evolved all that quickly.  And the places I worked often didn’t want to use “newer” (i.e. post-1998) constructs in C++, for reasons of backward compatibility, cross-platform compatibility, etc.

So every now and then I’d read a book on something outside my domain. I would find it interesting, and then six months later I had forgotten everything about it (I did that twice with SQL, actually). Because there was no opportunity to use what I learned in my daily job.

In retrospect, not knowing what  “keep your skills current” meant, for me, was an indication that I was working in a area with little or no opportunity for me to grow as a software developer. Which was a problem.

to be continued…

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