The Server Room Show – Episode 69 – Personal Development

What is personal development?

Personal development consists of activities that develop a person’s capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations. Personal development may take place over the course of an individual’s entire lifespan.

Among other things, personal development may include the following activities:

Why is it important?

Today more and more companies expects you to become more than what you have started out with. It means that you are getting hired with one set of skills both soft skills and hard skills but you are expected during your career or time with the company to further expand on what you have already known or to learn new ones (skills).

This is even more true to fields like IT where technology changes around us constantly and knowledge and skills can become if not useless but obsolete quicker than in any other sector.

For example while growing up we were taught Basic and Turbo Pascal in high school. Anyone saw a job offer with those lately? Some skills like Cobol will probably never go away and remain highly demanded but others might get replaced quick by other emerging ones f.e programming languages like C# or Rust. It is true to technologies which can get replaced simply by newer ones like the Cloud, Virtualization and Container technology.

In this episode I will focus on hard skills which can help you build your human capital and employability but everything I outline in general can just as much be applied to soft skills as well or any other area of personal development.

Many companies provide an annual sum to employees sometimes up to the hundreds of euros ( 800 euros per year for example or as little as 50 euros) which you can redeem for educational use or something related to it ( like study materials, online courses or an exam fee or even obtaining a raspberry pi to learn about embedded computing or Single Board Computers)

The Pitch

Think about it like this:

If every day you spend 1 hour surfing the web or watching youtube videos which add very little intellectually or represent not a lot of value in itself * like not something you can use or learn something from it * what would be the outcome or result if you were to spend that 1h every day or just 5 times a week to learn something new or something which can further advance you in anything?

A topic or skill perhaps you are novice in or it is completely new for you but you think or know for a fact that it can help you in the future to get a better job or get a promotion or just simply for the fact that it enriches you.

How much more would you know about this topic or skill being it a soft or hard skill in just a month? and in just 6 months? in a year?

Watching Netflix or Youtube or listening to podcasts are great but if it is done in excess taking a big chunk out of your 24 hour you have for a day well actually from whats left of it after work and sleep and other choirs the more important it becomes IMHO how useful we spend it.

Time is your most valuable resource.

I think of activities which might bring joy and happiness but add little value in the sense of personal development as I think about alcohol. It is nice until you have it / or do it but when you finished with it and assume the amount of time and sometimes money spent on it makes you wonder if you could have benefited better from that investment of time / money because you have little to show for it as a result afterwards unless feeling dizzy and with your body being numb from sitting on the sofa binge-watching 3 hours of Friends in a row can mean something in itself.

As moderation is the key to everything in life better scheduling your free time and on what you spend it on proportionally can go a long way for your future and for your career and as a result for your entire life.

So perhaps just to stick with the previous Friends binge-watching analogy spending 1 hour on the sofa enjoying your favorite sitcom and spending 2 hours on personal development perhaps 4 or 5 days a week can bring huge improvements to your personal worth both to yourself and your actual or future employer in a short / long term just by dividing up your free time in a 1:2 ratio ( 1/3 on fun-fun and 2/3 on personal development) 🙂

The most visible example where the above can be seen is doing sports/fitness activity where just 1 hour a day for even 3 or 4 days a week can vastly improve your health and the way you feel about yourself not even mentioning if you balance it out with a healthy diet — I just wanted to point out this example which You might already know and to show that the same principle can be applied there than what I am talking about here in this episode today just applied on another aspect of personal or self development in life.

Top 3 areas which are already important in IT and will become even more in the future in my opinion

The Top 3 most important areas which IMHO worth your attention to develop your IT skills or explore these more in depth are:

  • Linux
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cloud (AWS, Azure, IBMCloud, Google Cloud)

Forms of personal development for expanding your hard skills in IT

Today there is way more possibilities than just classes in a classroom which you have to attend by a strict schedule with an instructor present. However still one of the best and most effective form and also the most expensive option among the others in my opinion and if your budget and schedule allows it I would take it before any of the alternative options.

In Person Courses or Classes with a certified instructor:
As mentioned above this is my preferred method even if it is the most old school one. It is indeed most of the time the most expensive as well. They call these by many names lately referred to as bootcamp’s or hackathon’s or just simply training or courses and you have to attend them in person. Most often than not these include invaluable add-ons like the interactivity with a certified trainers ( you can ask your questions and get clarifications on points where you might have doubts) it can also serve great as a networking event and socialization with other like minded individuals from the same field of interest and you never know when it can come handy knowing someone from town X working in field Z you did your training course on topic Y together a couple of years back. He or She might be interviewing you tomorrow for a new job or vice versa comes up as a finalist at your workplace and you have a chance to share your opinion on that person during a hiring process.

Books in a form of a certification guide or simply exploring a topic in depth are great resources for those who can and want to study and develop their skills in their own pace and schedule. Learning something from a book might not be the most intuitive and joyful experience for many as it lacks interactivity between an instructor and student and also there is no easy way to ask questions and get clarification on points where you might have any doubts.

You can have the typical physical books if you wish or you can even opt for eBooks or a subscription of catalog service like safaribooksonline now renamed to o’ which is a learning platform providing access to a lot of books and publications in exchange for a monthly subscription. Individual plans start at 49 USD a month but you can save 15% it if you pay in upfront for a longer period f.e 12 months. It was a long time ago when I had a safaribooksonline account provided by one of my previous employer but I remember that the only inconvenience was to read the books either in the browser or in the safaribooksonline app on the phone or tablet at that time as there was no alternative option. However the vast amount of books available was great.There was no topic or interest in IT, I could not find a book or two but most of the time many on this platform. I can definitely say its worth it if you know you will take advantage of all it can offer Vs buying physical or eBooks one by one for pretty much what one month of subscription would cost on this platform. (( i know you do not own the content purchased with a subscription like o’reilly or spotify but this model might work for some in certain scenarios ))

  • Over 45K titles from O’Reilly and 200+ trusted publishers, including Harvard Business Review, Pearson, and more.
  • O’Reilly early release books give you a sneak peek before they go public.
  • 30K+ hours of video from industry leaders.
  • Case studies from top companies help you learn from their successes—and mistakes.

Online Courses

Online courses try to offer the same or similar experience like an on campus or in person training. They even try to mimic the same look and feel of an on site or on premises training course with virtual aula’s and student forums where you can raise questions to the instructors and interact with your fellow classmates. I think that despite all of their efforts they can never replicate the very same feel & experience. The positive is that at least its more affordable and you do not need to travel or stick to a strict schedule to attend as its most of the time on demand with exception where the training or course is not delivered from pre-recorded material but provided live at the moment where a schedule is indeed involved.

I have some experience with online courses from the on demand type and there are all kinds for all price ranges.

One of the known platform is Udemy where everyone can become an instructor and after a short approbation and adhering to some minimum standards you can present your teaching material or course in any language you choose for free or for a fee. You can find courses of all kinds in all topics including IT or Tarot reading on Udemy and prices indeed vary as well as their quality. You can find courses done professionally for like 10-20 euros executed with great detail while others even if they cost more might be lesser in quality or feels more done in a hurry.

Other more filtered and professional examples for great tough more expensive online training courses could be CBTNuggets , Pearsons or Linkedin Learning or when it comes to Cisco and Networking topics I think INE from has incredible quality and professional execution.

These online / video courses combine most of the time whiteboard teachings , recorded and commented screen-casts and screen recordings with lab exercises and workbook sheets including presentation slides. They even come with virtual machines embedded in the course material received to make sure you are up and running as quick as possible to be able to follow along.

Closing Thoughts

Learning is a continuous process of gaining knowledge and skills, which we never ever are stopped because life never stops teaching us. Learning new things is important for our growth and especially for our professional life. Since technology is improving day by day so it creates tough competition, because if we stop learning new things we can deteriorate and in fact move backward, as learning something new keeps our brain cell activity and allow us to grow and succeed at something new let us give ourselves a big pat on the back.

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