(Note: I was asked by the folks at Webucator to comment on what the most valuable workplace skill for 2015 would be. I don’t know if I answered their question, but it did get me thinking….)
It’s a brand new year, and with the changing of the calendar, many of us take the time to make some resolutions for the new year. For me, that means doing a couple of key things. First, I have one big thing that I want to focus on and achieve in 2015. I write this down in big letters, put a picture with it, and hang it up in my office. It’s an old high school sports trick to make sure that you keep your goals in the front of your mind at all times. I see it every day while I work, and see it up close each time I leave my office. It’s a simple and effective way to make sure that I keep my focus on what is important to me in 2015.
The other thing that I do at the beginning of each year is to make a map of where I want my year to go, To begin this, I take an inventory of my skills. This is a simple list of the skills that I have, and if you keep something like this on LinkedIn (or some other social media), then most of the work is already done, because you have your list of skills from last year. Just add the new things that you have learned.
Next think about where you would like to be in the next year or two. This is part of your professional goal for the year. What kinds of things do you want to be doing? Where would you like to be? What technologies interest you? Take some time and think about this, because this is important.
Now we get to the heart of the matter, and we begin to look at the skills that you want to grow in 2015. This part requires some work. It requires some reading, and it requires some thinking. Many people struggle with that “thinking” piece. Most of us spend our days reacting to new events and new information, and just reacting to life in general. For this part, you need to consume information, digest it and it’s meaning, and then reflect on what you have read. It means that you have to slow down, and really think about things.
So where do we start doing some digging for the skills in general demand for 2015? Start close to home and talk to your boss, your co-workers, and technical leaders that you know. All of them have opinions and some idea of the things that will be important for the coming year. Are you still in school? Then ask your professors, classmates, and any technical leaders that you know. This also helps you to network and build positive relationships in your current work environment. People will talk to you, because everyone feels flattered that you find their ideas and opinions important. Listen to them, and take notes.
The next thing to do is a little bit of good old-fashioned web searching. Look for articles and blog posts (like this one) that talk about important skills for the future. I’ve read more of these things than I care to remember, but as I read them I notice some common themes coming to the forefront. Good places to start include Cybercoders, ComputerWorld, Infoworld, and Forbes. Some might find my putting Forbes on the list a little strange, but the real value in software is where software can have positive business implications in the real world. Forbes gives you a real business perspective on things, and that is important in the current software environment.
After doing all of this, I had my list of areas and skills that I think will be important in 2015. I then matched this up against my own skills, and my long term desires. I now have a list of areas that I think I would like to pursue, and the skills that I need to grow to be able to pursue them. With this knowledge in hand, I can now create a second poster for my wall to remind me about the important skills and opportunities that I want to be on the lookout for in 2015.
So what skills do I have in my list? Which skills do I think are important for 2015? I have two big ones:
- Cloud technology – everyone is talking about how “Cloud” makes everything better. Not too many people can tell you WHY, and even fewer can tell you HOW. You will want to learn more about Cloud technologies (like Bluemix, Open Stack, Cloud Foundry, AWS, Docker, Azure, and others), and make sure that you get some real hands-on experience with them. You want to be the guy who can tell people both WHY and HOW.
- DevOps – DevOps is another “hot” area in recent months. There are a lot of vendors with DevOps solutions, as well as some good open source alternatives. That’s all wonderful – but you need to understand the concepts first, and how massive automation can lead to better software development.
So now you can take my two “most important skills” for 2015 and add them to your list of sources. Go and look at other sources, talk to people, take some time to THINK, and come up with your own personal list that fits your current skills and where you want to be. Make sure that you write your list down and make it part of your everyday routine – reminding yourself of the big picture. Let me know what you come up with, because I am always looking for new sources of information and new viewpoints to help me refine MY list.