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In the past, professional development consisted of reading books, magazine articles, bulletin boards and attending conferences. Your company could finance you a week off for training. You could even take a college class on weekends or evenings. Things moved at a slower pace back then, both in terms of tech churn and staff turnover.

Today things change fast – very fast. For example, Kubernetes v.1 first appeared in 2015. V.19 was released in late 2020. On average, that equates to a version check mark every six months. New versions of Java are arriving at the same rate.

Compare that to the versions of the Windows operating system. Windows 1.0 appeared in its rudimentary form in 1985. Windows 10 appeared 30 years later in 2015, which averages a version check mark every three years.

The pace of change in the computer industry has accelerated tremendously. In a complicated, highly integrated cloud native environment, an unforeseen change can wreak havoc.

I know this from personal experience. I had a whole bunch of Kubernetes deployments that worked perfectly fine, until one day they didn’t. It turns out that Kubernetes upgraded the API group for deployments to apps / v1 in version 1.9. Any manifest file that used any of the old group IDs, such as extensions / v1beta1, apps / v1beta1, or apps / v1beta2 would explode in recent versions of K8. I had a lot of repairs to do to fix things.

New technologies often arrive and established ones change rapidly. Developers need to keep pace, which can require a whole new approach to professional development.

Modern approaches to professional development

For many, the conventional wisdom of “going out to work out” still holds true. You attend a crash course in which you receive a PowerPoint deck, PDF, and 3-5 days of lectures and labs. You are supposed to gobble up information for productive purposes.

And, unless a project allows you to practice your new skills, you will either have forgotten everything you have learned or things will have changed so much in the meantime that what you learned months ago is outdated. These are real dangers, and they happen all the time.

Take control of your professional development

So what to do? Step into the movie bar scene, Goodwill hunting.

Everything you need to stay ahead of IT is here. It’s just a matter of getting the job done.

The film is about a working-class genius named Will Hunting with a photographic memory capable of absorbing large amounts of information. In the scene, a graduate student tries to embarrass one of Will’s friends in a bar by engaging him in an in-depth discussion of economic trends in 18th century America. But Will steps in and, of course, has read his fair share of 18th-century American economic theory. In his big speech to the graduate student, Will says, “You lost $ 150,000 on an education that you could have gotten for $ 1.50 in late fees at the public library.

The point of the analogy is this: Everything you need to stay ahead of IT is right at your fingertips. It’s just a matter of getting the job done.

An abundance of resources at your fingertips

Conventional methods of professional development have become ineffective. In-house training for employees is now rarer. It’s up to you to identify the resources you need to stay up to date.

Fortunately, almost everything you need to know about a given technology is available online. There are countless tutorials available from vendors, foundations, and organizations that produce a particular technology. There is good reason to believe that, given the many resources available virtually free of charge, you should not depend on a third party to provide the materials you need to advance your professional development. It is a waste of time and money.

Want to learn more about Kubernetes? Check out the tutorials published by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Want to know more about Envoy details? You can check out videos from recent KubeCon conferences. Want to learn how to manage transactions under a microservices architecture? Database and NoSQL vendors like MongoDB and Couchbase have a suite of online videos that show how to do just that. These are just a few examples of the thousands of educational resources available.

Put it all together

To be professionally viable, you need to stay on top of the trends and technologies in your field. Unemployment lines are filled with people who learned a technology years ago, stayed stagnant, and then found themselves out of work when a company’s tech stack changed. Some companies are ready to help those who are in the throes of obsolescence. A growing number are not. In many ways, you are on your own.

To stay relevant, take full responsibility for your professional development. The resources are there for you. Go for it.

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