As I think about heading into the fall conference season (and seeing so many familiar faces!!), I realize that I'm going to be asking myself a set of familiar questions.
- Who am I?
- What skills do I need to improve on in the coming year?
- Who do I look up to in the community and want to connect with more regularly?
As I am preparing for some major life changes, these questions feel even more relevant, both professionally and personally. Let me dig in a bit.
Who am I?
This first question helps me think about where I am at this point in my life and career. Now more than 25 years after college and having grown through numerous jobs, marriage, and family, where am I now? What skills do I bring to the table in any given situation? Am I using those skills to the best of my ability given whatever circumstance I find myself in? Are my contributions beneficial?
There's great power in being able to take time and reflect on who you are now, in this current time and place. For me at least, I can get stuck in the "go, go, go" of life and forget to stop and really consider where I'm headed, and if those around me are happy with that journey, too.
My guess is that your life has some regular rhythm and markers, appropriate times when it makes sense to sit and reflect on a question like this. For me, life is happening fast right now despite me, and focusing on work and life isn't always easy. So, heading into this next season of travel and connection, it's been a good time to ask the question.
What Skills Need My Attention?
After some time for reflection in both work and personal life, some areas that require focus and (possibly) change will inevitably come to the surface.
Over my career, one particular skill that always needs some focus is… well… focus! There are so many changes, new shiny things, and conversations happening in all corners of my tech community. It's easy to say "yes" to everyone that asks for help, because I love helping and learning. But with each "yes", the list gets a little longer and I tend to get more distracted, "because I want to learn all the things!!"
More specifically, I'm realizing that there are real-world PostgreSQL skills that I haven't invested in and need to deepen my knowledge. Sometimes it's easy to have head knowledge that doesn't translate fully without more hands-on experience. As I head into this conference season, I've started to take note of talks that I can attend, experts that will be present that I can learn from, and opportunities to dig deeper.
Who Can I Connect with More Regularly?
Having considered all the above, it becomes a little bit easier to identify folks in my various communities that can help me grow in each of these areas. This is the reason we have conferences, blogging events, meetups, and other ways to connect with those around us.
But it's not enough to identify people that you want to connect with. You must do it, somehow.
Every speaker I know will clearly indicate you how to connect with them, either at the conference or asynchronously after the fact. Speakers are present to do this work because they want to help. True, they might not become your best friend, and you need to have awareness of how much you ask of someone (speakers are not free long-term consultants), but all of them expect people will follow up later.
And the best speakers, honestly, will know how to connect you with the wider community and point you to resources for growth. They don't live in a vacuum.
So don't be shy. Take a chance and connect so that you can grow beyond your current station of your professional and (maybe) personal life.
For various reasons, this is where my mind is at this moment in time. There's a lot to reflect on and there will be a lot of time to make personal connections in the months ahead. Maybe this isn't exactly what you need to be thinking about right now.
But, if you're in a season of reflection and change like I am, potentially heading to some of these conferences in the months ahead, I hope that hearing my thought process can help spur you forward, too.