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Learn or become irrelevant

I can’t seem to remember much of yesterday. I know it was stressful. I know I was looking at code until my eyes blurred. Then I broke for some continued professional development (CPD). What is CPD? CPD is the training and education you receive while at work. It could be night school, seminars, or online learning. As a programmer, my industry changes and moves so quickly that I must constantly educate myself else risk becoming irrelevant. Here’s some CPD I received while working at The Learning Company eons ago:

  • First Things First Time Management Seminar by Covey Leadership Seminars
  • Systems Testing & Quality Assurance Tech Seminar by Advanced Information Technologies
  • Software Project Management by Educational Services Institute in association with The George Washington University
  • Basic Supervision by Keye Productivity Center a Division of American Management Association
  • E3s QA Day – An all day QA Conference and open forum with influential persons and trend setters from the gaming industry‚Äôs quality assurance field (sponsored by Advanced Quality)
  • How to Develop and Administer a Budget by Fred Pryor Seminars
  • Bondware training by Nashville-based EdgeNet

I met Sid Meier at E3’s QA Day. That was very cool!

I once helped a client improve a website that tracked their client’s continued professional development. The idea behind the site was to make sure that the user didn’t cheat the system by turning on the lesson then walking away to watch television. It was quite a challenge! It also inspired me to make sure that I was continually developing my own skills.

Continued professional development can be returning to your roots and reviewing the basics. For instance, when I teach someone to juggle, after getting them to juggle three balls, I often have them return to only practicing with one ball. This gives the the opportunity to relearn with a better understanding of the end goal and helps break bad habits formed while trying to learn the concept of the end goal. It’s amazing what habits and prejudices we form and accept as rule when in fact those premises are wrong. For instance, I’ve been working with ColdFusion since version 2 became version 3. Adobe has just released the ColdFusion 9 beta. There are plenty of habits from CF3 and CF4.5 revolving around best practices and crossbrowser compatibility that no longer apply to current versions of ColdFusion. For instance, I still twitch at the suggestion of using CFGrid even though I shouldn’t. I’ve been working with PHP for a very long time. My habit had been to declare public methods for classes with var until I took some time to re-read some documentation on classes and learned that var had been deprecated for public. Breaking habits is only one aspect of continued professional development. New technologies, better techniques, improved optimizations form all the time. We must set aside time to learn otherwise the experience we have gained over the years will be declared irrelevant due to the lack of inclusion of the latest buzzword.

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