Planning my development and growth - "The List"

Many times when speaking with colleagues and friends I get asked "What should I concentrate on from a tech perspective?". This may be to plan some professional development, or to try and steer your career into where you want it go, or simply to provide some guidance around the myriad of things to look at in the tech world. I like to do this for both personal and career goals, but for this post I'll stick to tech. The technology landscape is huge and it can be hard to focus when there are so may things that are interesting. You do not want to spread yourself "too thin" either, and tackle too many things otherwise you will either never get to it or it will seem overwhelming.

The caveat here of course is that this works for me. It fits with how I personally like to work, how I like to make lists (I use Onenote) and how I like to approach my career.

Doing what works for me.

What I like to do in general is this.

  1. In the months leading up to the end of the year think about the new technologies and trends that may be important in the next year or even years.
  2. In the last month of the year, typically when some time is taken off (but even when I work through), I try to remove myself from most things technical related. This usually includes blogging, lots of social media, working on personal tech projects, constant email checking and those sorts of things. A disconnect. Pretty much a "mental reset" from a tech perspective. For me, this causes me to feel mentally invigorated when I tackle the new year, ready to immerse myself into the tech world again. I will caveat this that I do play my xbox quite a bit still. However, no "technical thought" is really required here. Just gaming for pure release.
  3. Coming towards the end of the year, start collating a list of things (in no particular order) of things I'd like to tack during that year. Technologies, courses, books and anything in between. I do mix personal stuff in here as well, for example, "Setup a vegetable garden".
  4. Revise that list as the year goes on and see how I am going.
  5. Make sure you have a way of storing these lists for later review. Again, I use Onenote as it is really easy and free flowing. It works the way I like to work and it syncs to the cloud meaning I can always review. It is really interesting to see the things I wanted to tackle many years ago.
  6. Finally, do not worry if important events during the year cause this plan or list, to change dramatically. It may be in the form of a career change, job change, or specific personal circumstances. Do not be afraid the remove stuff that does not apply anymore. Be open about things and allow yourself to change direction. I would hate to think I missed valuable opportunities just because I needed to do what I listed down. If need be, delete the whole list and start afresh. Whatever works. Point is, do not force it, just allow it to change and be fluid.

That last point is important. It is not a definitive list. It will change during the course of the year and be revised, in fact it should be revised. Part of this is to "be like water". Go with the flow. If you hit a roadblock, go around it and do not stress. If something you listed looks like it is becoming less relevant, less interesting or not a worthwhile goal for whatever reason. Ditch it. It is your list, not anyone else's and not meant to cause stress when you dont hit a goal, or hit a goal just because it was listed 6-8 months ago.

To that end, I thought I'd share what planned or listed out last year, as part of my goals and direction, what I got to and what I did not get to.

"My List"

What I did accomplish

  • Microsoft Cognitive services
    • Felt pretty good about this one as I really got stuck into it and am still in the process of building an open source fluent API around it. Building the fluent API allowed me to really learn all about it. I did a presentation or two around it as well.
    • One of the outputs is this Fluent API
  • Service Fabric
    • Some courses and proof of concepts. More than enough to know when, where and how to use it.
  • More Angular 2/4/5
    • I had done some professional development and learning on it in 2016 but just playing around with it really. I wanted to do production apps with it and I did just that (and no, I did not "force it into a production app", it was genuinely a good fit :-) )
  • DevOps - Immerse into this apce and become a real proponent for this
    • This year was big for me in the Devops space. I learn't a hell of a lot and am still learning. I did presentations, hosted a Global Azure Devops bootcamp in sydney, and lots of work in this space.
    • This is still ongoing
  • Vue.js
    • Did some professional development and proof of concepts so that I can make proper decisions about usage in comparison with other tools.
    • Some of the output of this is the source code 
  • GCP - Google cloud platform - Did do this but need to do more
    • Did some really interesting work here but only touched the surface. Some of it overlapped with the cogniitive services stuff I did.
  • More docker
    • Yep, more docker. Pretty broad target but I did just that and it has led me to a few areas which I will be covering in the 2018.
  • Golang
    • Began learning Golang proper. I got to beginner level but stalled in favour of some of the other goals.
  • More React
    • I did more on this (as I had done some early learning) but really didn't like it much so didn't do a hell of a lot more. I may be adding more on this in the next year though.

What I did not accomplish

  • Microsoft Orleans/YAMS
    • I have been meaning to do this for a while now and am interested but wary in its future, which is why it has been low on my priority but am still keen on looking more into it.
  • edX course on ML
    • Signed up but personal/family issues dominated a lot of time in 2017 so it fell to the wayside. I will be carrying this into 2018 tho.
  • Unity/Hololens dev
    • Big want to do this, just didn't.
  • Web GL apps - added late in the game
    • This one I dont have any commercial needs but it would be fun so I still plan on doing that. I did a WinJS game a while ago to learn that and it was fun.

You will note that this isn't really career planning. It is definitely not a new years resolution. This is all done in addition to my regular work but it complements it in many ways. It feeds into my professional development and allows me to focus on key areas without just getting stuck into the "next shiny thing". It also forces me to think on the future. The actual list itself aometimes contained links to information as often, I would find something I wanted to learn more about and had a link to some information so included that in my list.

I felt pretty good about what I did as it really helped my career, my interests and helped me to steer in productive and positive directions. Hopefully, this little insight helps you to articulate and find your way to getting the most out of the year to come.

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