learning over a career in information technology

Just read an article from SmartBrief: Learn-gevity: Enhancing your ability to learn, perform and succeed over time. Not sure I would have normally read this article, but it came across with this hook:

“The half-life of technical skills continues to shrink. According to Josh Bersin, the half-life of a technical skill is just 2 years.”

I mostly agree with this. I’ve been in IT for 15 years. Even something as large as an OS change is a problem for us. I knew Windows 2000 and XP really well, and thankfully the latter hung on for quite some time. But these days, my XP knowledge doesn’t serve me much at all; everything is moved around in modern OS. I remember when we installed our first Windows Server 2012 box and half of us couldn’t figure out how to log out of the damn initial interface! This remains true for other topics such as how we manage things (devops!) and location (cloud!). I think 2 years half-life for IT skills is really liberal, though. I’d push that to 3-4 years, with how most companies operate.

That aside, I love the points about learning. It’s not just about learning, but having a proper mindsight for the rest of my career. I especially take to heart a few of the points the author makes: stop think about being an expert, be inquisitive, stay social, set personal habits around learning.

But I would add one point of my own: Embrace failure. One thing I’ve learned from my previous job experience is to be risk-averse. But that hurts, and I struggle with that on a weekly basis. I want to learn things and get better, but we get better with practice, and not all practice yields success. We have to make mistakes, we have to fall down, we have to get errors and miss things. Doing this on the job is stressful for others, but this needs to be part of the process for learning. It’s part of the scientific process, and it’s part of growing. It’s easy to fail on your own time and get better. But it needs to at least not be overbearingly suppressed in the workplace as well.

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