Yesterday I wrote a little about skills from the corporate side of your career. What is important, valuable, and helpful to your organization. Today, as we close down 2020, I want to look a little at the skills that will help your career, whether at this organization or another one.
When I speak with people about their career path, I often hear them speculating on which technologies will be hot, which ones will ensure a long and financially rewarding career. The answer isn't the same for everyone, and I'm not sure there is any technology that's can guarantee it will boost your career, but I do have a few thoughts.
First, you will want to evaluate yourself and understand your skills. How skilled are you at T-SQL or SSIS or security or anything else. Write down skills, evaluate yourself, and also evaluate if you like doing that work. I know when I've done this, I sometimes realize I'm doing things I don't enjoy far too often.
Next, get some goals about the type of work or employer you are dreaming about. Ask friends about their workplaces, look at job postings, and network with others about the work they do. Be sure to check Glassdoor or other ratings services, as no one wants to go work for an employer everyone dislikes.
To grow your own skills, I know most people want specifics, so here are some. For development skills, go through the Advent of Code or Exercism and show that you can solve problems. Don't look at the answers, and don't look at anyone else's solution until you have one. Write down how and why you solved something, save it in Github, and blog about it. Whether you share this or not, it's good practice for you.
For development or admin skills, learn about DevOps, Continuous Integration, and Continuous Delivery. To do this, you'll need to learn some scripting and various other organizational skills. Tackle a sample project, and learn to implement it, ensuring you can deploy code to one other machine using these principles. This promotes lots of good, core software development skills that anyone wants. You can use the cloud or not, but many things are not that different in the cloud, conceptually. The syntax varies, but a lot of what you learn can be reused.
Lastly, work on your soft skills. I recommend blogging, but learn to make a presentation to a friend, at a user group, or even to your dog. Record yourself if you do the latter, and ensure you can concisely and clearly explain concepts. Learn to respect others, listen more than you speak, and critically evaluate ideas, code, and thoughts, without attacking or complaining to others.
Ask lots of questions of others, in forums or live. Learn to learn, learn to share, and learn to improve your code or admin practices. Refactor things periodically and improve them. These are the ways in which you can grow your talents. You can do this at work, or at home. And if someone doesn't want to use your refactored code at work, that's fine. You know when you've written something better, and it gives you stories and content for interviews. It isn't time wasted, as learning to do something better is always good for your growth.