Something I started at the beginning of 2021 was setting aside an hour a day during the workday for learning. This tweet and a few others over the last few months then prompted me to write this post, to share my reasoning and why this is a good idea.
“Where do you make time to learn new things?”
There seems to be a common misconception that for you to learn new things it must be out of work hours!
Let’s address this straight away, if you are learning a topic that will benefit your day to day job then any boss (a good boss or company) is going to approve such learning on the job, if you are learning photography and you are a developer then the likelihood that this reflects to your day to day job is probably slim and I can understand why your boss would not maybe fund this time. But then again I would then argue as we have been locked down I expect the majority of us have all done more hours at our desks than our normal allotted work time so maybe that is an angle to still continue that learning photography theme. But the premise of the blog is really to highlight that learning things related to your role or business is going to benefit you, but it will also benefit the business.
I got the idea from several companies that run a learning hour each week for their staff and you basically bring a topic and present on that. I have also seen this called architecture meetings that maybe enable the team to learn about other areas of a product but basically spending an hour learning something new or a different perspective is where the idea came from.
The concept of what I have done and what many other companies have implemented is that learning hours are a way for us to learn something new. Another idea I had was if you could buddy up with a group or a similar person to you and attack a topic together, this would give more benefits as you are then getting different perspectives along the journey as well. Another idea is that whether you are learning on your own, part of a small group or with a team. You can take your learning and consolidate that to deliver that to a wider audience.
My idea was to book out an hour a day for “the learning hour” at the beginning of the year, I just setup a recurring calendar item that spanned the entire year for the same time each day. The rules are you can move the learning hour because if you are like me you cannot commit to 10-11am every day of the week for this task so you can move it around, but you have that hour to perform some sort of learning.
Ok, so hopefully I have explained myself that this is as much for you as it is your employer, and if they cannot see that then maybe you need to find a new one! In this section I mention rules, obviously you don’t need to follow them, but this is what I have done, and they seem to work quite well.
We have our calendar sorted and we have an hour a day to attack our new learning adventure, but first we need to think about a few more things.
Choose what you want to learn?
For me this was an easy task as I was put into a position where I would be focusing on Kubernetes and DevOps in general, this gave me the overwhelming list of topics to learn, I am not going to get into the areas I have been working on but there is a new upcoming post and video series I am working on that shares this learning journey some more.
Think about the learning journey
Now depending on your topic you have to start thinking “well how deep do I need to know this topic” for me I cannot be an expert in everything but I do want to have at least a foundational knowledge of all of the areas associated to DevOps. But then you might be studying or wanting to study for a specific exam and that requires that focus to become a pro and you have the background foundational knowledge to get there. Anyone can pin an idea on the wall and say I want to learn DevOps but you have to really think about that, what level are you wanting to get to and also what are the topics that you want and need to learn to get there. I suggest that getting a foundational knowledge is going to be the first part of the journey, this way as well you can become more of a generalist than a specialist and because I said it on Twitter is must be true.
Decide the best way that you are going to learn the topic or topics
We have our plan coming together we have our topic and we have our level to aim for, now we need to determine the best platform or medium to use to get from A to B. Over the last 15 months of the pandemic I have become addicted to YouTube, lots of great tech content on there to learn from, different perspectives and concise content to get into, some people like and prefer reading. I have also been heavily working through training platform content on Pluralsight and Udemy. Then we also have hands on lab, all of these are just ideas on how to consume content to learn the topics you want to learn.
Think about sharing your learning
The final thing is thinking about sharing your learning journey, this could be a blog, GitHub repository following 100days of something, YouTube videos or all of them. This is how the community gets better and learns more. Those 20-minute YouTube videos I have been watching took a lot of effort to create but they were also great content for me to learn and I would love to give back to the community with my content. I always say that if my blog or YouTube videos help one person then it is worth doing, if we all have that attitude then we will have so much content and perspective out there to learn from. Not only that but a great way to cement your learning is by presenting and teaching others, there is nothing like a breakout session to get you better prepared on a topic!
I have been doing this for 6 months and every day I have either spent watching some YouTube content, reading blogs or hands on in a lab. Hopefully the biggest takeaway from this if you got this is far, invest in yourself with training and learning, your employer should absolutely back you in this venture as well for the win win scenario, let me know what you are learning or what the goals are and how you plan on getting there.