by Leon Rosenshein

Just Keep Learning

The only constant is change. That's true for many things, including being a developer and a developer's career. Lots of things change. The computers we use. The tools that we use. The language(s) we write in. The business environment. The goals we work toward. And on top of all of those external changes, we change too. While there's an unbroken line of "me" all the way back to when I got that first part-time developer job in school to now, I'm not the same person I was then.

I started my career writing Fortran 4 on an Apollo DN3000 computer and C89 on an SGI 310 GTX on a 5 computer network using 10Base5 Ethernet. You won't find anyone using any of those outside of a museum these days. Today we're running a 2000 node cluster using Kubernetes, C++, Golang, and Python. Those are a lot of changes to the fundamentals of what I do for a living.

Back then I was a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer that used computers to simulate aircraft and missile flight. Since then I've done air combat simulation for the USAF and for games, pilot AI, visualization, 2D and 3D modeling and map building, fleet management, project management, data center management, and large scale parallel processing.

That's a lot of changes to go through, and what I'm doing now doesn't look that much like what I went to school for. So how did I get from then to now? By continuing to learn. And not learning in one way, but in many ways. Some was formal education. I got a masters in Aerospace Engineering early on, and then about 15 years later I got an MBA, but that is only a small part of what I learned. There were also conferences, vendor classes, company sponsored and on-line classes, and probably the most important, my coworkers.

My coworkers and I learned from experience. Doing things that needed to be done. Fixing bugs, writing tools, adding functionality, and learning along the way. I learned from them and they learned from me. Languages, IDEs, operating systems, open source and in-house frameworks. We learned the basics together and helped each other out along the way. And I asked questions. Because pretty much no matter what I was doing, there was someone who knew more about it or had more experience or had solved similar problems. So I took advantage of that and learned. I still do that. When there are things that need to be done around deep learning or security I work with people who know and learn the details.

Another way to keep learning is to teach. Sharing what you've learned forces you to really think about what you've learned and what the essence is. You need to understand something deeply to explain it clearly and succinctly. Writing these little articles has helped me understand things better, but you can get the same benefits from a tech sharing session in your team where you explain the latest feature you've added.

Because the world is changing, and you need to keep up.