Attack of the programming languages and frameworks.

“Help! I can’t make a decision on what to learn”

Nathan Pennington

Rarely does a week pass when I’m not asked if I've seen some new JavaScript library or framework. Actually, some of them are new and some of them have been around for a while. A friend will tell me he has just completed a project using a particular technology stack. Then, I hate to admit I immediately go look it up and start thinking “I wonder if I should be using that too”. After this, the hunt starts for YouTube video tutorials and a few articles confirming that this is in-fact what I should be doing. I’m in search of confirmation that everything else I've been using sucks and this is the one technology which is better than the rest. What’s wrong with this?

Its exhausting! It’s an exercise in tiresome repetition and a great way to not learn anything well.

Most developers I know enjoy their work. They may not like their current project, but in general they like what they do. Despite whether they went to school to study computer science or got their entire education from Stack Overflow, the good ones will spend time outside of work improving their skills and trying to stay current with technology trends. But how do you choose what to learn when there is an endless amount of technology options out there? How do you stay current when you work a full-time job and live in one language or framework all day everyday? Here are a few suggestions I would like to make to help put your mind at ease.

Don’t worry about what you don't know.

There is a lot you don’t know, and by the time you learn something you will discover 3 other things you don’t know. Technology never stops moving . Do not torture yourself by worrying about it.

Every developer gets the same 24 hours in a day as you.

I used to think I was behind everyone else until I realized this obvious fact. Technology can move as fast as it wants, but individuals only have so much time available. There are not legions of developers out there learning day and night, leaving you behind.

Logic is logic.

If you are coding, regardless of language or framework you have the training to pick up another technology when time permits. All languages use loops, variables, arrays, functions…etc. You just have to learn new syntax and ways of doing things.

“But you still haven’t told me how I choose what to learn!”

I've narrowed this question down to three sub questions I think you should be asking yourself.

What does my employer want me to learn?

Ask yourself what you need to learn to move up or around in your current job. This may or may not be the most interesting technology to you but if mobility at your job is important, learning C# when every application your company builds is in PHP will not help your chances.

What are people hiring for in the industry?

A keyword job search on Cybercoders or any other tech job forum will tell you what people are hiring for in the development world. You can easily see areas that are in high demand and get an idea of where trends are headed.

What do you have a personal interest in?

Hopefully you are one of the developers that I mentioned above. You like coding and you are going to have something you want to learn regardless of the previous points. Whatever it is, start building something with it now. Your personal satisfaction is what drove you to study and its important to maintain that.

In closing I would like to say “be knowledgeable”.

I love to read articles on programming and web development. I follow a few awesome blogs and take the occasional tutorial. This is mostly just to keep my mind aware of what is available. If a problem surfaces, often I’ll recall something I read in passing that might help me solve it. I think this is the best any developer can do while working and keep his sanity. Try to stay knowledgable and sleep well at night. Tomorrow is another day.

    Nathan Pennington

    Written by

    Freelance Software Developer

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