After 7 years of experience in Software Development, I have learned that it is absolutely critical to your career to continually invest in your knowledge portfolio. When I refer to the Knowledge Portfolio, I am talking about your personal bank account of skills and experience that someone is willing to pay for. It is the selling point to our customers. It is the reason why they will choose us over someone else vying for the contract - and let's be honest, we are all selling our skills to a customer whether we carry the title of consultant or permanent employee. When investing in my portfolio, I have learned that diversity and focus are two important things to consider.
When trying to decide what to learn next, take a minute for self assessment. Should you focus your time on a hard skill or is it time to invest in a soft skill. Many of us are eager to learn the latest framework or programming language (both of which probably solves the same problem that the old framework and programming language did), but do we take the time to invest in our softer skills, like how we relate to others? I have just started to read, for the third time, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Every time I read this book, I learn more about myself and acquire practices that I can put into place that will increase the quality of my relationships with others. For those of us that do not work in silos, and we either report to someone or have others report to us, maybe we should consider enhancing our interpersonal, communication or some other soft skill.
Since time is precious, and in short supply, be focused during the time that you have set aside for your portfolio investment. I think that it is completely appropriate to spend the first 5 - 10 minutes of your investment time, planning what it is that you are going to accomplish. Define your goals and how you are going to meet those goals. At the end of your time, critique how you did. Did you meet your goals? How could you have been more productive and what are you going to do next time in order to ensure that you are more productive? This may seem like a tedious exercise, but speaking from experience, I know how much time can be wasted without clearly defined goals of what you are trying to accomplish.
As you know, technology moves pretty fast. If you want to move with it, make sure that you are spending the time necessary investing in your knowledge portfolio.