Mastering a skill takes about 10,000 hours of practice, full-time for five years. In our technology world it’s a very long time. Technologies and methodologies evolve so fast that concentrating efforts is risky. As a leader, you must train and become experienced, resourceful and knowledgeable. You can’t build a house if you master the hammer, you need a set of tools and just enough practice with each one.
Generalist is always better equipped
If you have 10,000 hours, then you should practice 10 different skills for 1,000 hours. When an opportunity comes you’ll be ready for the challenge. And you have to be prepared to find this opportunity in the first place. A team of know-it-all can easily get a project off the ground and go a long way. When the project reaches the tipping point where a precise expertise is needed, you can hire a specialist or a consultant.
Too much to learn to focus on one thing
Here is a list of skills for street-smart employees of the software world must understand. Sadly, half of these skills cannot be taught in school.
- Time management and priorities
- Business value
- Corporate politics
- Design and usability
- Motivation and influence
- Infrastructure deployment
- Project management
- Time management
- Customer support
- Risk management
The web is the best place to learn
E-learning became very popular lately and the offering is wide and diverse. Here is a list of awesome online sources to improve your skills from:
- Coursera – Online classes, lectures, exercises and tests
- TED Talks – Ideas worth spreading
- No Excuse List – Learn anything
- Safari Books Online – 25,000+ digital books (free, see below)
A secret for my fellow Quebecers
Here’s a little known secret: Quebec folks can get free membership to Safari Books Online through a BAnQ account. Bibliotheque and Archives Nationales have an online partnership with them and offer the service for free. So to get your free access to Safari Books, you need to be citizen of Quebec and register for a BAnQ account (every Quebec citizen is illegible). Safari Books is a precious learning tool for technologists and business people and it’s unbeatable to learn fast.
Avant d’avoir mon compte gratuit, je payais joyeusement 45$/mois. Le site est d’une valeur inestimable pour un chercheur. Cherchez un sujet précis parmi les 25,000 livres et lisez seulement les pages concernées. C’est tellement facile d’obtenir les réponses que c’est presque de la triche :)
Start a side project and build something cool
I’m a big believer in practice over theory. Theory is good for expanding knowledge but practice is what consolidates skills. My favorite trick to learn something is to get my hand dirty and start a side-project. It allows me to practice what I learn, having a goal is motivating and the project may even be useful to someone. Set the scope according to how much free time you have and build something cool.