How do you keep your tech skills and knowledge up to date

I attend Tech events every month (mostly free and some paid for) to learn about new tech and keep up to date, and over the last 4 years attending these one thing I’ve noticed time and time again is that there is rarely anyone who looks like me at these events.

1) Just wondered how you all keep your tech skills and knowledge up to date?

A) Self Study (reading tech books / articles /online tutorials)
B) Attend free tech events and seminars
C) Attend courses, tech events and/or seminars paid for by you
D) Attend courses, tech events and/or seminars paid for by your Employer
E) On the job training only
F) Work on a side project/’tech for good’ to keep skills up to date
G) I don’t keep my skills and knowledge up to date
H) Other (if its this option elaborate)

2) Have you found actively keeping your skills up to date has helped you progress in your career?

Answers on a postcard please (or just post in the comments box below would be great :-))

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Things I wish I knew at the start

Originally written for UKBlackTech Blog on 28th January 2017

As a Java Developer, I believe my University education (B.Sc. Business Information Technology degree) set a good foundation for a career in Tech.  It introduced me to the importance of information technology in supporting business growth, as well as introducing the wonders of the World Web Web.  However, I don’t believe it made me job ready.  I learned far more to prepare me for a real career in Tech from the Internet, than I ever gained from my degree course.  However, there are things that your University degree and the Internet cannot prepare you for, and there are a lot of things I know now from experience, that I wish I knew at the start of my Tech career, such as…

I am a Unicorn…  There has rarely been anyone that looks like me doing Java Development (or any kind of Server Side/Back-end development) in any of the four companies I have worked for in the last 15 years, and it’s always been the same landscape and vibe, so I naturally end up being forced to become ‘one of the lads’.  I have recently had the pleasure of working with four Male BME Java Developers, which was definitely a change in scenery, but I think I must have come across only one other Black Female Java Developer in the last 10 years at my current company, and that was a contractor working there for 6 months back in 2008.

Also I have had to get use to shocked looks and disbelief when I tell people I am a Java Developer.  A regular comment I get is   ‘Noooo way! But you look…. normal’.   I kid you not, I have been mistaken for a PA, Manager, Secretary, Tea Lady, Cleaner and….  Nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but I mean couldn’t it be possible that I can be Black, Female and a Developer all at the same time?

After all these years I finally learned to accept that I am indeed a Unicorn, and I have learned to embrace it.  But I still have high hopes of seeing a revolution lol…  There must be other Black Female Java Developers out there in the UK?  Maybe we’ll discover more of them through UK Black Tech :-).

It’s OK to not know what direction you want to go in Tech… In the first few years of my tech career, tech innovations and updates weren’t very speedy, so your employer expected you to learn everything and anything about a version of a tech product, and be the SME in that product.  Not anymore. Tech now changes quicker than the weather, so you will constantly be researching and experimenting with different tech, and therefore your tech interests and ambitions will change rapidly too, opening up a wealth of opportunities to change direction numerous times during your career, and fall into an area of tech you truly enjoy working with.  So don’t sweat it if you don’t know for sure which area of tech you want to get into from the get go.

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