Keep your tech skills sharp! Practical ways to keep learning tech skills with a busy schedule
Whatever your career may be, improving your tech skills is always a good idea. You will benefit from increasing your marketability and adding greater value to your organization. Among all the benefits, you will be cultivating the habit of learning which is an important skill to keep building no matter what life status you have.
‘Improvement’ may mean different things to different people. For a business executive who is deciding a career shift to software development, improvement may be mastering the basics of programming. Recreating a simple game is already a significant milestone for them. On the other hand, a web developer looking to widen their expertise may see improvement as learning another front-end framework. One thing that seems to bind such learners is a lack of time for independent study due to the demands of their current career.
We believe that a busy schedule shouldn’t hinder you from pursuing your tech goals! Here are some steps you can take to keep learning tech skills amid a busy schedule:
1. Create projects.
An essential principle when learning tech skills on your own is to take a project-oriented approach. This has several advantages. Projects allow you to integrate all the tech concepts you have learned in a way not possible with rote memorization. Not only that, you’ll be able to build a portfolio that would strengthen your application for future jobs in tech. Also, as you might be working a busy schedule, projects give you something to look forward to achieving while learning. Creating projects can help build the motivation you just might need in your demanding schedule.
For example, if you’re just beginning to learn programming, you could set your sights on building a simple tic-tac-toe game for the first two weeks then move on to increasingly challenging projects. Or, if you feel already confident in a particular tech stack, why not apply it through freelancing opportunities? If you’re just starting out, you could ask your friends or relatives if they need a website or an application. Not only have you developed your tech skills, you have also helped someone out in the process through your solution.
2. Refactor your (or someone else’s) code.
In software development, refactoring is the art of re-expressing your code so that it is more readable and less prone to errors. Outcomes of refactoring can include code that is cleaner and more easily extendable. It is not just removing trailing spaces or tabs, though that’s important too. It demands a thorough understanding of the codebase so that any changes through refactoring does not break the programming logic. If you do this successfully, this means that you have understood the programming concepts underlying your code as you are able to express it in a way that’s correct but more efficient. Along the way, you’ll learn new syntactic techniques that would widen your programming skills. Here are some aspects of the code to consider while refactoring:
Think of the above aspects as rules of thumb to consider not only when refactoring but also when writing your code for the first time. If you build in these principles in your workflow, the added steps may promote long-term efficiency in your development process as there are less chances for error. This in itself adds to your skills as a developer.
3. Learn from others.
In concrete terms, this means reading someone else’s code. Visit trending Github repositories. This is a good way to look for inspiration when developing your own projects. If you’re a beginner, you could search for code that achieves goals similar to yours through StackOverflow. No matter your purpose, ask yourself how their code differs from yours or how you would’ve done it. Does their solution apply to your own context? Sometimes, other people have more efficient ways of implementing solutions which you can learn from when solving the same problem. For example, you might discover the advantage of using switch statements rather than if-else statements, or promises and async-await as opposed to callback functions. Another, you might be able to find libraries that would reduce any hard-coding on your part.
With this in mind, don’t simply read the code. Actively engage with it. Try implementing their solution in your own program or app. You can use the aspects of refactoring to evaluate your own solution versus theirs.
If you’re experienced and are feeling confident, you might even contribute your solutions to open repositories and forums. This way, you’ll be able to improve not only your tech skills but also your capacity to work collaboratively.
4. Attend alternative learning opportunities in tech.
There comes a time when you may want to have a structured learning experience like that of the classroom but have limited resources to invest in a degree. No worries. There are plenty of quality and affordable alternative learning opportunities in tech such as bootcamps and online courses. Through these avenues, learning will be more accessible and you’ll be able to fit it into your demanding work schedule. Also, such avenues allow you to be part of a learning community in which feedback is exchanged and encouraged. Some questions to consider when selecting a bootcamp and online course include:
- Is it project-based? The learning avenue should at least enable you to develop one culminating project that would integrate the skills you have learned in a particular course. This is preferable over a tutorial-based course in which concepts are simply demonstrated through code but you yourself are not given the chance to apply what you have learned. A project-based approach gives you a sense of achievement and mastery which is important when building your confidence as a developer.
- Is the curriculum up-to-date? Make sure that the curriculum also uses the latest frameworks and technologies. This way, your skills would be more marketable for companies as software development technologies are constantly changing. You can do this by comparing curricula and syllabi from various alternative learning avenues and deciding which seem more competitive based on general opinions from tech blogs and forums.
- Is sufficient and quality feedback given? Finally, you should select learning avenues in which feedback and consultation are highly encouraged. Letting others see your projects enables you to reveal blind spots that you might otherwise not have seen if you were working alone. More importantly, feedback allows you to reliably measure your progress as you’re learning.
If these above criteria are met, you can be confident that the learning avenue you’re selecting is competitive. In fact, such an avenue may be enough for your career purposes as opposed to options in formal education. Great examples of competitive learning avenues are Uplift Code Camp’s own short courses and bootcamps. Be sure to check them out if you’re looking to fit in learning practical web development skills alongside your current endeavors.
With enough resourcefulness, you should be able to find ways of developing your tech skills no matter your career. Ultimately, it may not be the apparent lack of time that may be the obstacle but keeping up the motivation to learn. Creating projects and learning from others in various ways are great approaches in building in such motivation amid a demanding work schedule. Check out Uplift Code Camp if you’re interested in more career and learning resources. At Uplift Code Camp, we believe that technology should be accessible to all regardless of background, gender, age and ethnicity. We hope that through our resources, you’ll be able to find motivation in taking the next step to launching your career in tech!