From Silos to Services: Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

May 13 2016   3:31PM GMT

Try to learn 1 new thing every 2 years

Brian Gracely Brian Gracely Profile: Brian Gracely

Tags:
Automation
Cloud Computing
learning

Just-One-ThingIn the past, I’ve written a number of times (here, here, here) about how it is getting easier to learn new technologies. It’s true – between free software, tons of online blogs and tutorials, and free public cloud services, there has never been a better time to learn about new technologies.

But cost is rarely the inhibitor to learning anymore. It’s things like time and priorities and motivation. And most importantly, learning new stuff can be difficult. I was on a run recently and I was listening to my friend Jason Edelman (@jedelman8) on the Datanauts podcast. Jason is one of my favorite stories about learning new stuff because he started doing it at night because he was passionate about automation. It was a hobby for a while, but it evolved into his full-time business…..which is going to get really cool very soon (keep an eye on it!!).

As I listened to Jason talk about his journey, it dawned on me that there isn’t a roadmap for this stuff. And even when you think there is a roadmap, it probably has a few dozen forks in it because technology is evolving so rapidly and far too often engineering communities try and solve the same type of problem about 6 different ways.

Is there a Formula for Learning?

As I continued running, I wondered if there was an easier way to help people think about what to learn, or how to learn it. Is there a simplified formula that could be used, similar to how financial planners tell you what mix of stocks and bonds to invest in for retirement?

It’s not perfect by any means, but here’s what I came up with.

  • Take your current age and subtract it from 60 (eg. 60-35=25).
  • Then take the answer, and round it to the nearest decade (e.g. 32=30, 35=40)
  • Divide that number by 10, and then subtract 1.
  • This final number is the suggested number of new technologies or skills you should learn every couple years if you want to stay relatively competitive in technology markets.

Example: Let’s say you’re 35 years old. So 60-35 = 25. We round that up to 30, divide by 10 (=3) and subtract 1 (=2). At age 35, you’re in a peak earning range and upwardly mobile, so learning 2 new technologies (or skills) should keep you ahead of the pack.

Where Should I Focus? 

This is always a complicated question, so let’s try and simplify it a little bit. Instead of choosing a specific technology, focus on a type of technology. For example, let’s suppose that you want to learn about data center automation. Instead of stressing over Chef vs. Puppet vs. Ansible vs. SaltStack vs. whatever, just pick one of them. The biggest thing you’ll learn is ‘how to learn’. Becoming an expert in a year or two isn’t the goal, in fact Gladwell would say you’d need 5yrs of dedicated focus to become an expert (10,000hr Rule), instead the goal is to learn the new paradigm of learning.  The same thing goes for learning a new business skill or other relevant skill for your industry.

Just Get Started 

What I’ve always learned when trying new things isn’t that the new stuff is so hard to learn, it’s your own ability to deal with frustration. There’s some personal ego to get over. But if you can find a buddy to learn with, or a great tutorial, or just that you’re willing to laugh at your early failures, it usually works out alright.

The key is to get started, try not to be overwhelmed, and stay persistent with the baby steps. Our industry is constantly changing, which means that you need to constantly change as well. Learning how to learn is the most important thing you can learn.

3  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Cythera
    What if the result of your calculation is negative?  Should I be forgetting 2 or 3 things each year?  :D
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  • Brian Gracely
    Cythera - if that happens, I believe that means you're winning at life!! :)
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  • Cythera
    I've sent the calculation to a couple of friends, who are rejoicing that they no longer need to learn anything new ...  And, if I follow the calculation I really do need to start forgetting 3 things per year  :P
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