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Keeping Up with the Times

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Article from ADMIN 65/2021
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A recipe for relevancy: Sharpen your skills, gain expertise, and practice efficiency.

Every week that goes by, I read about some new technology, new device, new app, new security patch, or new something else for me to try. The speed at which developers create new or improved products is at such a pace that I find it difficult to keep up. I just don't have enough hours in a week to try out every new thing that grabs my attention. It's important to maintain one's "edge" by reading, installing, breaking – I mean testing, and exploring the newest gadgets and the latest and greatest things that someone dishes out. Plus, I still need to devote time to my actual day job, a few games, watching Jeopardy, a bit of cooking, family time, and enjoying a few hobbies such as filmmaking and podcasting.

So, my question is: "How does one keep up with this rapidly changing landscape of apps, gadgets, and life?"

My short answer is to focus on a few specific things yourself and then rely on experts for everything else. Is it the perfect plan? No. Is it manageable? Yes, for me, it is. I must draw the line somewhere because I can't spend every waking hour studying peripheral technologies, and by peripheral I mean something that's not in my direct line of sight. I enjoy knowing a little something about a lot of things, but sometimes I must apply a filter on the number of what's covered by "a lot of things."

I admit that knowing a lot of different things kept me employed through habitual layoffs during the time period between 2001 and 2016. I didn't love seeing hundreds of my coworkers walking out the door time and time again over that stretch. I was always happy when my manager would announce to our team that, "There was a layoff event today, but now it's over. If you're still here, you still have a job – for the moment." Not comforting, but I could take a deep breath of relief for having a job for another month.

During these "events," I kept my skills sharp, expanded my value by learning new things, and I even started focusing on making suggestions to streamline, cut back, save money, and do more with less. It must have helped. I stayed employed until I left by my own choice. I spent a lot of time hustling, learning, growing, and trying to keep up with every new technology, every security vulnerability, and every new piece of software that I could download, install, and explore.

During one of the "salary leveling" events, I was glad I had many skills to offer my employer. Looking back, I don't know if I was lucky or foolish, because my salary didn't change for the worse or the better, when many of my colleagues took as much as a 33 percent pay cut to retain their jobs. I decided to ignore everything that was going on around me and focus on taking all the online training for which I was eligible. I felt increasing pressure to stay ahead of the curve and to avoid "pigeonholing" myself by becoming too narrow in my career scope.

My perseverance and expanded training paid off. I began to reap the rewards of a decade of hard work in keeping pace with new technologies by receiving raises, bonuses, and other perks. My career finally began to blossom into something I could be proud of and and garner the salary I thought I'd deserved for years. I was also given more responsibility as a technical team leader, and I had my own high-profile projects to manage. I managed to turn things around for myself by extending my learning and keeping up with the times. Remember that you are not always going to see a payoff right away when you do something in technology, but eventually you will.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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