Running a Business While Keeping Up With Changing Technology
For those of you who have read any of my tutorials on Envato Tuts+, you know that I spend the majority of time working with WordPress. If I’m not building custom solutions for others, then I’m often writing tutorials in order to teach others how to do the same things.
One of the great things about the WordPress community is that they hold WordCamps across the world all year long. And though how frequently the WordCamps are held often depends on where you live, I’m fortunate to live in the United States where there are plenty of WordCamps all year long.
Aside from my local meet-ups (which is a whole other thing in the WordPress community), I’ve had the pleasure of attending and speaking at a number of different WordCamps.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at WordCamp San Diego, and the experience was terrific.
Usually, I talk about more technical topics, which is fine since that’s generally the type of thing that I enjoy and how I work with my clients. But for this particular conference, I had the opportunity to talk about the following topics:
- Personal Growth
- Running a Business While Keeping Up With Changing Technology
And I had the opportunity to tie them both together.
Below, you’ll have the opportunity to view the presentation. It’s roughly 30 minutes long, so I’ve included the four most important notes of the speech after the video. Even if you don’t watch it, then perhaps the four points below will help illustrate the points I was making and you can incorporate them into your work.
Running a Business While Keeping Up With Changing Technology
I will say, though, if you’re interested in hearing a bit of my history as it relates to music, playing the guitar, chasing a dream of being in a band, finding my way into technology, and how both stories intersect, then be sure to watch the video.
As promised, here are the four main points that I wanted to drive home towards the end of my presentation.
1. Principles and Foundations Over Technology
During your career as a developer, it’s more than likely you will end up learning a variety of principles that transcend the technology that’s being used for any given project.
When this happens, you’re able to pick up a new language and new tools much more quickly than when you first start. And this is a natural progression of you growing in your maturity as a software or web developer.
If you’re a manager and you’re someone who’s responsible for leading a team of developers, it’s important to note that developers need to know the best set of tools available.
This doesn’t mean they need to have free rein to try out everything that comes out, but they should be familiar with things as they are released through reading them, perhaps writing code samples, or even potentially attending a conference.
Ultimately, you want to give them room to stay up to date. Their contributions to the business through this new technology can help save the business money while driving its product forward.
Finally, if you’re responsible for communicating the business needs to the developers, make sure they have an understanding as to why they are working on the project they are assigned. It’s not enough simply to build something. It’s helpful to know the purpose one’s work will serve.
As mentioned in the section above, it’s important to make sure that you stay up to date with the technologies that are on the horizon in our industry. However, I’d argue that it’s more important to understand the underlying principles of the paradigms with which you work.
When you do, you will have an easier time understanding the problem to solve. And when you do that, you’ll be able to pick a technology that truly helps you solve the problem, instead of selecting a new utility just because it seems like the hot new thing.
2. Go Deep Rather Than Wide
When you, as a developer, enter a space in which you’re trying to solve a problem, pick a set of tools that allow you to do just that.
Don’t waste your time trying to evaluate every option available because nothing will serve all of your needs. Instead, they will serve a variety of needs. Try to find the one that serves yours the most. Next, use it to the best of your ability and to its maximum potential to solve your case.
A Personal Note
When I first went into self-employment, I divided my time between standard web projects, Ruby on Rails, and WordPress. Then I stopped everything except WordPress and have focused on it explicitly.
Doing this has resulted in more success, I’ve been more profitable, and I’ve enjoyed more of what I do on a daily basis (including writing for Envato). I attribute the majority of this to opting to go deep rather than wide early on and learning from the mistakes of not doing so.
3. Stay Aware of What’s Out There
Technology moves very quickly. We know that if for no other reason than the variety of articles that we publish here on Envato Tuts+. And as I mentioned earlier, I’m a fan of going deep rather than wide when it comes to what I do for a living.
In other words (and to use a cliché), I’d rather be an expert than a jack of all trades and a master of none. Then again, I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m working towards it on a daily basis as much as I can.
Anyway, stay up to date with your technologies and other technologies just in case, so that you’re aware of what’s available. Besides, if you’re able to learn the underlying principles, you should be able to pick up the changes relatively quickly.
But if you don’t bother following along with what technologies are arriving, how will you know what serves you well? Of course, this raises the question of how we can actually keep up with all of this.
4. Connect With Those Who Know More
This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s important to try to surround yourselves with those who know more than you do about a given topic or about the topic that you’re interested in learning.
Now, more than ever, we have the ability to do this. Sure, we can still pick up books and read them (and I certainly think we should not forget to do this), but we have other resources at our disposal, as well.
For example, we have things like:
- developers’ personal blogs
- the ability to write our own blog and invite comments
- newsletters to which we can subscribe
- peers on Twitter with which we can interact
- online courses
- local meet-ups
- and the list goes on
I know, it can be intimidating to introduce yourself to someone or to put yourself out there and ask for code reviews, advice, or more information around all of this. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the easier it gets, the more educated you become.
The more educated you become, the better of a developer you’ll be. It’s a process, to be sure, and it’s not necessarily easy. But I believe that the payoff is well worth it.
Thanks for taking the time to watch and/or read the content of this topic. If it’s something you’d like to discuss further, then don’t hesitate to let me know.
Furthermore, if you’re interested in seeing more videos like this, then let us know as we would be interested in sharing more of these kinds of talks with readers or who are interested.
For those of you who are interested in WordPress, you can find the rest of my courses and my tutorials on my instructor page. Please feel free to follow me on my blog and/or Twitter at @tommcfarlin, as well. In both of these places, I talk about various software development practices and how we can employ them in WordPress.
Finally, don’t hesitate to leave any questions or comments in the feed below, and I’ll aim to respond to each of them.