Knowledge is always subject to degradation over time. But no industry is quite as subject to the tides of change as the tech industry.
That said, it’s not as turbulent as the clickbait articles would have you believe.
“Half of everything you know will be obsolete in 18-24 months!”
“Techies need to upskill every 18 months or be prepared to opt out!”
Okay. But, while there are some kernels of truth there, it’s not that extreme — you don’t need to completely overhaul your knowledge every year. (If that were the case, none of us would have lasted long enough to become Seniors or Tech Leads.)
Staying ahead of tech evolution is simple — if you update your knowledge little and often.
How to keep your expert cred up-to-date (no bootcamps required)
I’ll start by saying: The title of this article? Complete misdirect.
It’s not an either/or choice — not if you do it right. You can evolve and keep your skills fresh while staying efficient and productive day-to-day.
Here’s how. (Got some other good additions for this list? Get in touch, I love learning new tricks.)
1. Watch webinars
Webinars are a great resource for learning new things and getting updates. I watch a lot of webinars put out by Tableau user groups.
You can join webinars live, but I personally prefer to watch recordings, because it means I can save time by skipping ahead to relevant sections. It also means I can re-listen to parts if I need to.
(We have some great Crash Courses too! Every month, a senior consultant at Solita runs a free event in their field of expertise. The events take place live, but you can watch the recordings whenever you like, at your own pace.)
2. Follow smart people on Twitter
Twitter is one of the best ways to stay ahead of tech news and updates. I follow a bunch of thought leaders and high profile people — not just within Tableau, but also general visual analytics practitioners.
And once you start pulling on one thread, you’ll find so many other interesting people and organisations that share tips and useful resources.
3. Experiment in your work
This is probably my top recommendation — where possible, use your client work and projects as opportunities to learn and build on your skills. There is no better teacher than necessity — and I’ve found the fastest way I’ve developed skills has been by getting hands-on with the technology.
4. Take advantage of work learning schemes
While a lot of skill polishing will need to happen on the job or on your own time, many businesses also have learning and development options for staff.
At Solita, we have time available monthly for competence building — which is time we can spend on learning anything we think might be useful or interesting.
In the past, I’ve for instance used that time to learn Python so I could write scripts to automate some of the more annoying (and error-prone) repetitive tasks of my work.
5. Learn from peers
Your colleagues are another great source of knowledge. At Solita especially, you’re always surrounded by intelligent people who’ve worked on all kinds of interesting projects. We have Slack channels dedicated to helping our peers — where we can share work we’ve done and tips we’ve learned, or where we can ask for help with specific challenges.
I like helping others, so I do what I can to help out there when I can. And I know a lot of the others enjoy doing that too.
6. Go straight to the source
If you have the option, why not go straight to the solution provider? For example, at Solita, we have a really good relationship with Tableau and are one of their best partners. We meet them periodically and we also have an open communication channel on Slack, which we can use to speak directly to Tableau reps.
I’ve used that resource many times to find answers — and they also use this link to update us on new features and developments. We get regular updates on what’s coming and their roadmap ahead, which lets us plan and prepare for any changes.
Find what works for you
The element of being open to evolution goes beyond technology. At Solita, we consider it a natural part of our work lives too.
For example, whether you want to work remotely, in the office, or in a hybrid style — or if you want to be an Individual Contributor or a People Lead.
I’ve experimented with Big Career Questions myself. I got into my line of work (analytics and data visualisation) because I came from a background in both business and computer engineering, and I wanted to link those two worlds.
And more recently, in early 2020, I took on a Team Lead role.
It was a good experience, one I’m glad I had. Acting as a coach was quite fulfilling. But, in the end, what that experience showed me was that I really did enjoy working with the technology and problem solving — and I returned to that as Visual Analytics Tech Lead in our Tech Edge team. An advantage of being part of a larger organisation is that there are lots of opportunities to try out new roles that you are curious about.
In short: Work life, just like personal life, is a process of constant learning and experimentation. There are no hard answers. That’s why I really appreciate working at somewhere like Solita, where I’m surrounded by smart, nice, like-minded people who are also lifelong learners and triers.
Think a career at Solita might suit you? Then take a look at our job openings — we’d love to have you.