Career Tech

I received a text from a friend who works in IT that said, “I spent some time today figuring out a new video software.” It had a link to a fun, short video he had created.

My friend’s job doesn’t involve producing videos, but he and two other IT associates wanted to create a YouTube channel. This is the second project they’ve worked on together as well as starting a podcast.

These group projects aren’t uncommon in the technology world. Techies are creating new social network groups on Meetup.com every day. They gather together and learn how to use software like WordPress, Python, Java, Oracle and PHP. They bounce ideas off of one another about how to start a podcast, how to build video games or how to make mobile apps.

They organize breakfasts, lunches and weekend-long coding sessions called hackathons. They host events for younger generations to teach them about programming. And these technology professionals do all of these activities in their free time. The companies they work for don’t sponsor these events, and they aren’t compensated for participating.

But the time they devote helps to keep their skill set up-to-date. Technology is a field that’s constantly evolving. In IT, if you want to keep up, you must keep learning. It creates job security.

In addition to beefing up their resumes, these activities help expand their network. If there’s a job opening, you can bet someone will look inside these groups for candidates.

These groups can also cross-pollinate ideas with those outside their company’s four walls. They aren’t confined to traditional thinking on how to do things, and they can compare notes with others.

Although other industries may not change as often as technology, there are a number of great lessons to be learned from this group. First, don’t wait for your company to keep your skills up-to-date. It’s your responsibility. Be sure not to neglect your continuing education.

This means you may have to use some personal time or even some of your own money. Think of it as an investment in yourself and your future value.

Once you’ve decided to give this strategy a try, you may wonder where to begin. Meetup.com is one place to look for special interest groups. You may also check the colleges in your area for continuing education courses. Professional organizations can also be a great place to look.

Sometimes universities such as Harvard and MIT place some of their course materials online – for free. There are many other online resources such as LinkedIn and website forums where you can network with others in your field.

At the end of the day, in the world of work, learning is the new loyalty. 

— Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching. She can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.