As a follow up from my last post on how to bring a new employee up to speed by helping them set goals, I wanted to talk about how seasoned employees should also make a plan to ensure they are keeping their web development skills sharp and their knowledge current.

As developers, we need to be taking advantage of all opportunities we can in order to keep current. Our field is constantly evolving as new technologies and frameworks are released. It’s important that we at least know they exist. Chances are, you decided to become a developer because you are inquisitive and like to learn, I know I did and I am always looking to learn something new.

Learning is such an integral part of being a developer. I ask about a candidates willingness to learn during every interview. It is interesting to see how people learn and if they can take something new and teach it to someone else. There are so many ways we can learn, some of my favorites are:

Online Tutorials (especially useful for learning something specific)

Books

Online training sites such as Pluralsight and Udemy

Blogs/Tech Sites such as Code Project, TechCrunch, MSDN and the Blogs of Industry Leaders

Blogs and tech sites are a great way to stay current and read up on what is new and happening in the world of tech and development; most of them offer daily emails with highlighted posts and articles making it easier to see the top trending news.

Side Projects

I find that small side projects give me the opportunity to experiment with something new or to try different ways of doing something that I would have never thought of. These projects also give you something interesting to talk about and give your mind different issues to solve than the ones you encounter day to day.

Attending User Group Meetings

I find attending User Groups to be the best way to discover new technologies and what others are working on along with the challenges they face. To find a user group in your area Meetup.com is a great resource, though just Googling “User Group [insert interest here]” should also yield you good results.

Here in the Boston area, the BostonPHP User Group is very active and besides offering monthly meetings on primarily the LAMP stack, they also offer a wealth of other alternatives for learning through Virtual Self Study groups. The idea behind the Virtual Self Study Groups is to work independently though a book, posting your progress, questions and helping others work through it. BostonPHP offers several of these virtual Self Study groups throughout the year and cover several Web Technologies including jQuery, HTML5 and PHP based Content Management Systems (CMS) to name a few. User Groups are also a great way to network and meet other like-minded people in a relaxed yet professional setting, and there always seems to be plenty of free pizza!

One thing that all technology User Groups seem to have in common are professional presentations on current technology with some Q&A time. In an effort to share our knowledge with developers in the surrounding area, Wakefly wanted to try something different. On Tuesday October 6th we will be hosting the first Central MA Web Discussion and game night! We will be combining Tech talks with board games to give attendees plenty of time to discuss, ask questions and network all while having fun playing board games at our office in Westborough MA at 6pm; please check out our Meetup page, join our group and if you are in the area attend if you can, and yes, there will be plenty of free pizza!