22 Nov 2016

Career: Learning new skills

Learning new skills is essential to stay relevant. If we are not learning new things, we are going backwards. This is not to say you should study at every moment. But, there is a need to learning something new.

Different people have different methods for learning. Some people learn best from reading, others from hands on. Myself, I need hands on and a lot of notes. Becuase a learning method works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. In this entry, I will talk about my experiences. Your mileage may vary.

Context matters

Context is important to retaining information. Raw data is meaningless and easy to forget. We can build connections to data by wrapping it in context.

As we work with a product, we build context around configurations. We give meaning to values and procedures. We build knowledge around the ‘Why’ and not just the ‘How’. Which is what makes use cases helpful to learning. Take the time to understand why a task is performed in such a way. Also what you’re trying to achieve by performing the task.

The lessons we learn from our mistakes are hard to forget. Mistakes are excellent learning tools. Granted, we try to avoid them. Generally when recovering from a mistake, what we learn is easy to recall.

Application of knowledge

A while back I made a post about learning automation. In this post, I mentioned that I was going to learn Python and vRA. Since then, I tried to learn Python and haven’t. Since that post, my knowledge on PowerShell has improved significantly.

I actually tried harder to learn Python than PowerShell. The big factor here is that I apply what I learn about PowerShell almost daily. This is not the case for Python. As I attempt to study Python, I am not able to build the context and apply what I have learnt. This makes learning much harder.

When learning something new it can be difficult to apply the knowledge. What I have found helpful here, is to learn something that relates to what I already know.

Using NSX as an example. I already have knowledge in virtualization and networking. I am able to transfer context and use cases from existing knowledge to my NSX learnings. The second point here is context is transferable.

Written communication skills are not something that came easily to me. As my career progresses, there is an increasing need to improve written communication. Thankfully applying this skill is done frequently. On the other hand, written communication is not a singular skill set. I use this blog as a method to improve my writing, from technical documents to balanced criticism.

Learn lots until something sticks

Many times, you will try to learn something and it just doesn’t stick. The learning isn’t interesting and it feels like a grind. This is likely a good sign to stop and learn something else. That is not to say, don’t come back to it. Just that you might progress better on another topic.

If you’re stuck on something specific, ask for help. If you feel like you’re going nowhere fast. Try something different, then if you feel like it, come back to what you were stuck on.

Even when you get stuck on something and change learning paths. You would have learnt something new, and you never know when that might be helpful.

Conclusion

We all learn in different ways. Generally learning something new is easier with context and use cases. Look for those if you can.

Don’t get discouraged if you picked something that didn’t work out. Knowledge is still gained along the way. Pick up another topic and keep moving.

Thank You For Reading