If there is one thing I have learned in my years of doing development it is that learning never stops. The minute you stop learning, you are falling behind. Things change so rapidly. What was last years hot technology might already be considered legacy.
The question becomes, how do you keep up? Initially, I found keeping up to be very expensive. Going to conferences, training courses, even just buying books can be cost prohibitive. However, keeping current doesn’t have to break the bank.Over time, I discovered that there were many cost effective ways to stay current. In some cases, I was even able to do a little networking at the same time.
I found several great local meetup groups for just about anything that I want to learn. In addition to learning new technology, I get to network with the people actually using the technology in real world projects. Did I mention there’s usually free food? In fact, I loved the meetup scene so much, I even became the co host of our local Xamarin Developer User Group.
If the technology is Microsoft technology, you simply cannot beat Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). Microsoft Virtual Academy is similar to Pluralsight (another great resource). The key difference is MVA is completely free. The video training is top notch. I have found their jump start programs to be especially helpful. With MVA, you can also customize a personal learning plan. Did I mention it’s free? MVA is great to learn about the new products Microsoft is releasing, and stay current with their offerings.
When the needs go beyond Microsoft products, Pluralsight is a great resource. While not free, for $25 per month (on a yearly basis) you can get unlimited video training on just about any topic you can think of. Pluralsight initially started as a video training site for developers, but has since expanded their offerings to much more than just development. Not up for spending a few bucks on a Pluralsight subscription? YouTube can also be a great resource. While the content quality is hit and miss, there are plenty of hits to be found.
If you have a commute to get back and forth to the office and aren’t already subscribed to a few podcasts, what are you waiting for? Podcasts can be both entertaining as well as informative. Podcasts can be a great way to learn about new technology as well as to stay current with what is going on in the IT world in general. Some of my favorites are Channel 9, Software Engineering Radio, and .NET Rocks!.
Lastly, there is the good old Internet. This resource is vast, but for me, isn’t always my first choice when learning something new. It’s a great resource to supplement others. For me, the Internet takes the place of being able to ask a question in a classroom environment. I can go to a meetup, watch a video, but when I start doing the actual work, questions are bound to arise. This is where a quick search usually moves me beyond the hurdle.
I have nothing against conferences, they are fantastic. Conferences are great opportunities to network and learn about emerging trends. . When it comes to staying current on my own dime, I’d prefer to find a more cost effective method. These are just a few of the many low cost options available. It is simply a matter of finding the ones that are right for you.