Keeping up with the Jones (or Gates, or Zuckerbergs…)

In the fast-moving world of technology, it is increasingly important to keep up with technological trends.  What was state of the art a few years ago may already be obsolete now.

I’ve been working in technology since I graduated college many years ago.  I started my professional career as a lowly computer operator, overseeing Informix database backups and working with SCSI drives (that’s “small computer system interface” for those of you who are wondering; I’m not even sure that SCSI is used anymore).  Each of these drive devices was about the size of a desktop PC or even a server.  I don’t remember how much data capacity they held, but I do remember that we did not measure it in GB.

I remember at the time when we took delivery of a one-gigabyte (for emphasis, that’s 1 GB — as in 1024 MB) tape drive that we were going to use for data backups.  We used to take these tiny cassettes, hold them in our hand, and joke, “in my hand, I am holding the Library of Congress.”

My, how times have changed since then.

For me, personally, I’ve had a more difficult time with keeping up with current trends as I get older.  For example, this past year, I was made aware of a relatively new data language called R.  If you’re a data professional, it’s likely something that you’d want to learn (again, there’s that theme about keeping up with trends).  There is a large number of technologies that are getting better, and it is impossible to keep up with all of them.

So how does one keep up with the times?

Personally, I’ve always had a knack for adapting to my environment; it is what has allowed me to survive professionally for so long.  I had been working as a developer for a few years, but when I realized that I was having a difficult time keeping up, I accepted a transition to a different department and a different role last year.  (For those of you who are curious, my role is difficult to describe in three words or fewer; I’ve largely been telling people that my new role is as a “programmer/analyst.”)  Among other things, I had an honest conversation with myself, asking myself what I really wanted to do, what my strengths were, and what I was capable of doing.  My new role better leverages my strengths, and I’ve been busier (and more content) than I’d been in a while.

(It also helps that I consider myself a team player.  When I was offered this role, I was asked if I was okay with it.  My response: “I play for the team.  Whatever you guys need from me, I’ll do.”)

A while back, I wrote about how important it was to get involved with user groups.  I do think it’s important to get involved with things, especially as we get older.  It enables us to learn new things, it’s a great way to network, and it’s a lot of fun.

Change is inevitable.  We need to acknowledge that we are changing, and we need to acknowledge that the world around us is changing.  It is for that reason why we need to stay on top of advancements if we want to survive — both professionally, and personally.