Monday, August 3, 2009

Staying current

As an Intertech consultant I am asked to do all kinds of things. Architect applications, code in C#, code in VB.Net, write SSRS reports, write TFS Team build test scripts, work with VSTS GDR database scripts the list goes on and on and that suites me just fine. Jumping around and doing so many different things is a challenge and once I get up the learning curve on something I don’t want to lose it. Here are a couple things I do to keep my skills sharp.

I recently earned my MCPD Enterprise Application Developer on the 3.5 framework. Even if you don’t think much of certifications, the real value for me was reading all of the 4500 or so pages of the Microsoft training kits and doing a couple hundred exercises. I was introduced to some things I would never have considered had I not gone through this process. Another great way to stay sharp is going to local users groups.

I’m a big fan of VSTS Test Edition but that sort of work only comes along every couple months. To stay sharp in this area I have gotten active on the Web test and load test forums (TimJim is my display name; you will also find me on the General Architecture and WCF forums). I try to answer a question that has gone unanswered for a while every day or so. It keeps me sharp and it is a great way to help the user community. The user base seems to be relatively small right now and this is a tool I don’t want to see go away. I was blown away by the preview I got of the 2010 version and I expect the user base to grow substantially with that release. I also keep my VSTS skills sharp by frequenting the VSTS Minnesota users group.

Finally, I have a massive book collection. I try to read 4 or 5 technical books a year but good old classroom education is hard to beat. Back in my days as a manager I always budgeted some training dollars but we only seemed to actually see the inside of a classroom every few years. At Intertech I am required (yes required!) to get 40 hours of training per year. A couple weeks ago I took Intertech’s WPF class and went through our Silverlight training material. I had the opportunity to do some Silverlight work right away. I was delighted with how well the class prepared me for the actual work I had to do and I definitely hit the ground running. I also have to say I was pleasantly surprised to find out how feature rich Silverlight is. I’m sure I’ll be blogging on these subjects soon.

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