Tools Are Not Skills

In 2009, I was in animation school. One thing that our teachers repeatedly emphasized was how fast the field of computer graphics evolves. If you want to stay employable, you have to constantly learn new tools and techniques. You have to keep up.

In 2011, I switched career paths and enrolled in a software development bootcamp, where I heard a similar story. Software changes fast. Tomorrow’s new frameworks and libraries will make today’s tools obsolete. You have to keep up.

Over the past couple years, as I’ve transitioned from software into data science, the story is the same. Things change fast. You have to keep up.

And it’s true, of course. Things do change fast. As anxiety-inducing as it may be, it is true. But that’s not the whole story. Underneath the rapidly changing toolkits are core skills that become more valuable over time, not less.

In animation, there’s the skill of visual storytelling. In software, there’s the skill of designing robust abstractions. In data science, there’s mathematical reasoning.

And for all disciplines where the tools change rapidly, there’s the skill of learning how to use new tools as needed.

Tools are just a means to an end, but the cultivation of skills in pursuit of mastery of one’s craft is a worthwhile goal in itself.