“Once you stop learning, you start dying” — Albert Einstein
I personally know a few people that expressed their lack of interest in taking courses aimed at improving their skills in their field of work, even though they were free. For me, this just doesn’t make sense.
I believe the road to enlightenment starts when we’re really young, in school. We learn all kinds of topics that constitute our “general knowledge”. This method is specifically designed to offer us a general sense of the world around us in various fields, including biology, poetry, chemistry, literature or physics. Further down the road, as we discover what draws our interest, we become focused on some niche areas of expertise and until we retire, we practice and acquire more knowledge and experience until we can finally draw the line and say “I’ve had a wonderful life”.
This sense of “wonderfulness” doesn’t come only from work. It also derives from the relationships that we’ve built, the hobbies we’ve had and the vacations we’ve enjoyed. From pretty much all the experiences we’ve had during our lives.
Coming back to learning, a pretty large part of our expertise comes from practicing. That’s why doctors are required to practice medicine a few years before they can become doctors. School can only take you that far. You have to walk the rest of the path. So, study for a few years, practice a few more and then become a true master in your field of work. This is the common career path promoted by society.
Here’s where courses come into play. IT is a very vast and evolving industry. There’s nothing permanent about it. What you learn this year might not matter in a few years. Actually, it’s very likely that it won’t matter in a few years. This requires some inner ability to stay up to date with technology and its novelties, because some novelties soon become standards, making older technologies such as Pascal or Cobol obsolete.
Even new software, libraries or frameworks have this ephemeral or volatile feature. You can read the manual and rely on the insights that you have thanks to your experience, to apply what you read into your work, or, you can sign up for a course taught by someone who is already proficient at it.
Throughout the years I’ve had several “Aha” moments while taking courses in testing, development and even IDE proficiency. I was blown away by the levels of effectiveness I was able to jump at, just by applying what I’ve learned at these courses, in areas that I used to consider myself an expert. Learning something new and applying it on my day to day work was the key for my development, and I’m quite confident this applies to most people working in various industries.
Furthermore, I am truly grateful to myself for being curious about new technologies such as VueJS, PouchDB, GraphQL or state-management. Because I realized it enables me to build next-generation type of software, something that will truly stand apart from the ocean of mediocre software and services out there.
This is why, my advice to you, dear reader, is this: Take all the courses that might help you with what you’re working on right now. There are few greater feelings than going home after a day of work where you’ve felt that you’ve been truly effective at what you’ve accomplished. Of course, professionally speaking.
Knowledge and experience have one key feature: they are truly yours. Nothing that can be taken from you is truly yours. But your knowledge and your experience are yours and yours alone. Nothing and no one can take them from you. You might get rusty as the years go by, but when you’ll need them, they’ll be there, within you. Just like you can never forget how to ride a bike, or how to swim. Learning something and practicing it means that it will become a part of you that will always be there. It will take you one step closer to the wise person you (should) aim to be.
The time you invest in learning will bring you great value along the way, so take advantage of it as often as you can, even 20 years after you’ve finished school. That is, if you finished school.