Once you’ve reached the point where you’re a proficient programmer with a good understanding of a useful tech stack, you’re now faced with the sisyphean task of Keeping Up with New Tech.
Polishing your professional skills becomes trendsspotting, starting with daily Hacker News browsing sessions to find out what’s going to be the new hotness, and then making sure you know everything about it. Or it is really? Frameworks and tools keeps multiplying like rabbits, and anybody claiming they’re up to date is profoundly delusional: something new probably came up as they’re saying it.
I’ve been thinking about how futile it is to feel like you’re missing out on something great in today’s tech landscape. There was an era when you could know everything about a programming language, but this time is long gone. What you really need is to stay sharp and keep exercising that learning muscle so you’re ready when something hard gets thrown at you. Every software has its quirks, and your job is to learn them and be productive, not to be perfect the first time you’re touching it. You’ll never be 100% ready for a new task, so they’re no point in sacrificing all your nights and weekends to this.
Let’s face it: as an interviewer, would you be more interested in a candidate that messes with the insides of old NES games for fun, someone involved in their community with a blog or open source software, or yet another person which only has a bunch of buzzwords to offer? If you try to be close to the trend in the hope you’ll stay relevant for the hiring market, it’ll only make you identical to everything else, and it will lead you to burnout. Good teams include a mix of people with different ideas and interests, and not just an army of clones.
I’m leaning more and more toward the idea that you should embrace your weirdness, run with it and have some fun. I’m prone to being too serious at times myself, but learning a bit more about making game or electronics is not a life-long commitment. It’s merely a good excuse to go out of your comfort zone and learn a new and interesting skill. Besides, you never know what could come out of it…