How can we focus on one toy when there are so many cool toys out there? We technologists are living in very interesting times. Our interesting times, however, are a curse and a blessing.
Oh, the times they are a-changing…. Once, we worked in a cubicle in an office somewhere plugging away at line of business applications. When we left work we were cut off and resumed our lives in what was known as the “real world”. Over time the Internet became ubiquitous and mobile and social media came onto the scene. The business developer and app developer worlds were divided. About 10 years ago the sea change started happening with cloud computing and commodity hardware. In the last few years the changes have been coming faster and faster – like a high-pressure fire hose!
This is a blessing. It’s a blessing because it’s fun and there is so much out there and so much to learn. There are advances in our bread and butter languages and tools, cloud computing platforms, data science, myriad frameworks, IoT, social media platforms and who knows what else. Between Pluralsight, Lynda, edX, Udacity and on and on there are almost too many resources for learning new things or for relearning old things.
This is a curse. It is a curse because there is so much to think about and do and there isn’t enough time to do it. As technology people, we are interested in learning and figuring things out. It’s what motivates us and what keeps us going day after day. I would argue that curiosity is a prerequisite for a successful career in technology. If you are like me, you have more online courses going than time. If you are like me, you spend your nights and weekends flitting from tutorial to tutorial trying to learn everything that’s out there.
So, with this embarrassment of riches, what does one focus on? How does one focus? Start with an idea. Instead of focusing on the technology itself focus on what technology, in the abstract, can be used for. There is a line from Alice’s Adventures Underground (Alice in Wonderland): “take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.” It was meant as a rule for writing poetry but it can be applied here. Take care of the sense: what does the thing do? And the sounds will take care of themselves: the technology – area of discipline, platform, language, whatever – will become apparent.
For example, you have an idea to collect statistics for your kid’s baseball league and make predictions based on past performance and the stock market indices. To do that you can focus on ETL, analytics and app development.
In their own geeky way, our interesting times are fun and, although I have worked in the technology world through a few boom and bust cycles and I sometimes feel like I know it all. I don’t – and that’s a blessing and a curse. And it’s a good thing.