A Pragmatic Philosophy(IV)

Your Knowledge Portfolio

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ——Benjamin Franklin

Your knowledge and experience are your most important professional assets.

Unfortunately, they’re expiring assets. Your knowledge becomes out of date as new techniques, languages, and environments are developed. Changing market forces may render your experience obsolete or irrelevant. Given the speed at which Web-years fly by, this can happen pretty quickly.

We like to think of all the facts programmers know about computing, the application domains they word in, and all their experience as their Knowledge Portfolios.

Building Your Portfolio

  • Invest regularly. You must invest in your knowledge portfolio regularly. Even if it’s just a small amount, the habit itself is as important as the sums.
  • Diversify. The more different things you know, the more valuable you are. …. The more technologies you are comfortable with, the better you will be able to adjust to change.
  • Manage risk.  Don’t put all your technical eggs in one basket.
  • Buy low, sell high.
  • Review and reblance. This is a very dynamic industry. That hot technology you started investigating last month might be stone cold by now.

Tip 8

Invest Regularly in Your Knowledge Portfolio

Goals

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Learn at least one new language every year. Different languages solve the same problems in different ways. By learning several different approaches, you can help broaden your thinking and avoid getting stuck in a rut.
  • Read a technical book each quarter. Once you’re in the habit, read a book a month. After you’ve mastered the technologies you’re currently using, branch out and study some that don’t relate to your project.
  • Read nontechnical books, too. 
  • Take classes. 
  • Participate in local user groups. Don’t just go and listen, but actively participate. Isolation can be deadly to your career; find out what people are working on outside of your company.
  • Experiment with different environment.
  • Stay current. Subscribe to trade magazines and other journals. Choose some that cover technology different from that your current project.
  • Get wired.

It done’t matter whether you ever use any of these technologies on a project, or even whether you put them on your resume. The process of learning will expand your thinking, opening you to new possibilities and new ways of doing things.

Opportunities for Learning

….and somebody asks you a question. You don’t have the faintest idea what the answer is, and freely admit as much.

Don’t let it stop there. Take it as a personal challenge to find the answer. Ask a  guru. Search the Web. Go to the library.

If you can’t find the answer yourself, find out who can. Don’t let it rest.

Critical Thinking

The last important point is to think critically about what you read and hear. You need to ensure that the knowledge in your portfolio is accurate and unswayed by either vendor or media hype.

Tip 9

Critically Analyze What You Read and Hear

Care and Cultivation of Gurus

  • Know exactly what you want to ask, and be as specific as you can be.
  • Fram your question carefully and politely.
  • Once you’ve framed your question, stop and look again for the answer. Pick out some keywords and search the Web. Look for appropriate FAQs.
  • Decide if you want to ask publicly or privately.
  • Sit back and be patient.

Finally, please be sure to thank anyone who responds to you. And if you see people asking questions you can answer, play your part and participate.