A longtime theme of my blog has been learning, because keeping abreast on evolving technology is a necessity for any technical professional worth their salt. Although the never-ending journey to stay relevant can sometimes be overwhelming, there are so many great resources one can use as a jumping off point to learn – videos, meetups, textbooks, magazines, in-person/online classes, mentoring, etc. But, the key to solidifying your newfound knowledge is to do something with it.

There’s no better way to turn theory into practical knowledge than creating something. The best way is through a work project. Not only because you are being paid for your time but the added requirement to get something right because it will be used by others is a great motivator.

This is how I really nailed down my knowledge of AWS (EC2s, ELBs, RDS, EFS, S3, Elasticache, Lambda, Route 53, multi zones, Cloudwatch, Cloudformation, and so on…) and various DevOps CD/CI techniques. I needed to because I was solely responsible for moving DealerScience’s multi-million dollar SaaS with 10s of thousands of service requests/day into the cloud. It was a fantastic project and I’m proud it’s still in use today.

That’s also how I honed my skills with writing web services, by working on DealerScience’s tools as well as building out Babson College’s new web services platform.

You may not always have the luxury of developing new skills with your main employer. In that case, you can always look to freelance. Similarly, you’re getting paid to improve your skills, but depending on the project you may have a more flexible project schedule. My recent work with Connected Commons gave me a great opportunity to flex my JavaScript skills and learn new front-end frameworks outside of my day-to-day development work.

Finally, you can always look to yourself for opportunities to build something. Even with all the experience I have gotten professionally, there’s so much more I want to learn and become expert at. This is why I have my own personal sandbox. Whether it’s a passion project like building a fitness tracker to get more out of the gym, or building out an application from a MEAN tutorial, I always try to solidify my learning by doing.

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