How to Stay Current in Software Development

How to stay current and update skills with never ending changes in our industry?
First and most important, keeping up requires time commitment outside of your day work. If your employer invest into your knowledge and send you to classes or conferences consider yourself lucky because it is not your employer responsibility to keep you up-to-date with latest and greatest. And it is still not sufficient. It is you own professional grows and your own responsibility. So you have to allocate 2-3 hours daily outside your work. It maybe not so much – for me it is breaking down to 2 hours during commute to office and back when I can read and 1-2 hours almost every night, depending on what I am working on.
Go deep or wide? For example, you are rock star ruby developer, you can spend those 2 hours reading more about ruby and libraries, how to squize last bit of performance with ruby and so on. I use another approach. I already spending 8 hours a day working with my primary language, tools and databases. Why not spend time on something different and get fresh perspective? For example, for our ruby developer I would suggest to play with java, for person familiar with Oracle work on MongoDB and so on. For myself I currently working on BigData and Cloud Computing. So you have to identify areas you want to learn more about. Your daily work also should be covered, because you don’t want to miss important development in your primary area of expertise.

After you decided when and what, we should address how. I list what works for me related to my area of interest but this quite generic.
How to keep current list:

  • Meetups. Local meetups are a great way to learn new things from experts and meet fellow engineers. Meeting usually held monthly. Different topics and knowledgeable speakers. Meetups exist for all area of interests in technology and in most metropolitan areas. If you don’t have one in your area – start it. Check out about meetups at and what available. My favorites in New York City are: Web Performance Meetup, CTO School, MongoDB Meetup. Check them out and discover new for yourself.
  • linkedinLinkedIn updates. First, try to build your network with fellow engineers. A lot of us tweet and post linkedIn updates about new projects and experiences. I found a great deal of interesting articles and resources from my peers in the field. Second, subscribe to LinkedIn “The most shared news on LinkedIn”. From there you can follow industry news and reports published by leading magazine and online publications – techcrunch, wired, itword e.t.c. LinkedIn groups are another source of current and relevant information. Enroll and be active on this groups.
  • rssRSS Feeds. Subscribe to professional Blogs with RSS Feeder. I use Google Reader. Here is the list of blogs I am following as of now:
    • Oracle Blog – a lot of coverage of Java
    • Enterprise Software Development with Java
      This is a blog about software development for the enterprise. It focuses on Java Enterprise Edition (J2EE/Java EE).
    • IBM DeveloperWorks – Great resource on programming and software development. Covers a lot of ground

    • Java Code Geeks – Java developers Center
    • - Facilitating the spread of knowledge and innovation in enterprise software development. Very informative resource.

    • Code as Craft – Etsy engineering blog – I love when company have engineering blogs. sign of healthy engineering culture to me.
    • Coding Horrors – interesting read
    • Martin Fowler writing on software development, which primarily focuses on software design and agile methods.
    • Choose which one you want to follow and spend some time every day reading. As you read, you will discover even more great resources.

    • Google Alerts. Let google do the leg work of finding information on the web. that what is google for. Subscribe to Goole alerts and receive daily news for your topic of interest. Very powerful source.
    • Books. Don’t forget this traditional resource of learning. I found that early release program from several publishers are excellent resource to stay current and get in-depth information on a subject. Manning MEAP program, O’Reilly Early Release and Pragmatic Bookshelf are excellent.
      I have to note The Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Fowler) books – very deep and detailed books about different aspects of software development. From the web site:

      “Martin Fowler has been a pioneer of object technology in enterprise applications. His central concern is how to design software well. He focuses on getting to the heart of how to build enterprise software that will last well into the future. He is interested in looking behind the specifics of technologies to the patterns, practices, and principles that last for many years; these books should be usable a decade from now. Martin’s criterion is that these are books he wished he could write.”
      So check out this publishers and browse books at your local book store.
      With these resources, you can keep your skills sharp and learn new development almost for free. Please share what is your favorite method of staying current in today sea of information.

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