Technology moves at a fast pace. This fact is painfully apparent to anyone who's worked with it for more than a few years - both hardware and software evolve at an incredible rate, as do the skills required to use them. The tools we were using a decade ago are long obsolete, and even the languages we use evolve and are eventually replaced.
You don't necessarily need to learn whole new languages to keep up-to-date - sometimes just keeping abreast of language and framework revisions can help
. Frameworks such as .NET
are actively updated and refreshed, leading to the introduction of new language features (as with .NET 3.5), and new elements within the framework itself. Regardless of your chosen tools, keeping up with current trends and revisions is definitely a worthwhile undertaking.
The trick is, then, to make sure you are aware of any new developments
- and this means you'll have to spend some time keeping track of what's going on in the world of programming.
Blogs and other technically-oriented sites are a good way of doing this - from the official development blogs to the unofficial commentary, ensuring you have a few relevant RSS feeds in your reader is an easy way to keep up with changes.
Getting to grips with something new is an altogether different challenge to that of simply being aware of changes. Reading blogs and news articles will only get you so far - if you want to learn a new concept, or language - then you'll have to dive in and get your hands dirty.
There is a wealth of information on new technologies to be found in books - for every aspect of computer science, for every language - you can be sure to find some resource available in print. I have a healthy library of technical books over a wide gamut of topics, although I must confess I haven't had the time to read all of them from cover-to-cover - but those that I have read have served me well.
As comprehensive as a book can be, technical literature can be a little dry so you need to be disciplined in order to get through them. Reading (even just skimming) a chapter a night is a good way of introducing yourself to a topic, and needn't take up too much time. As you gain a familiarity with the topic you can revisit the book for a more in-depth look at a particular subject, using the book as a specific reference rather than an introductory tome.
You don't need to spend money on books if you're on a budget, either - there is much in the way of reference material and tutorials available online, if you can find them. If you couple this use of reference books with judicious use of online tutorials, and getting hands-on with actual usage of new technology, then you should fare much better in terms of keeping up.Working in technology requires lifelong learning
- there will always be new versions of software, new platforms and new languages to replace the old. Very few developers will have the luxury of working with the same systems for a long period of time - while those maintaining legacy systems or content with older languages may be in a relatively unchanging environment, for most of us there is the challenge of keeping out skills current.
It's tough - particularly if you spend your time developing for a particular platform rather than learning the next, but it's important to keep yourself employable in the future
. If you're in a comfortable development position for a long period of time, you may be tempted to just coast along with your current skills, but should you ever find yourself looking for work, you could be at a disadvantage.