Man, did I pick a tumultuous time to start a career in technology - there are so many great debates going on right now, with vendors working around the clock churning out new products for the general populace to chew on and talk about. I’m becoming more and more involved with the community nowadays, and top of that, I’m a big nerd to start with. So it’s easy for me to suffer from information overload, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t happen just about every week.

There are a few key ideas that have helped me straighten things out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger (or want to start one), a vendor, a customer, a unicorn, or The Borg - the information available today can either be very helpful, or very harmful - all depending on the structure you’ve put into place to consume it.

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Here are three key ideas to follow in order to stay up to date with the latest technology trends

Choose Relevant Sources

Relevance is key, don’t feel like you have to remember and keep track of every tweet, every podcast, every article. There’s a lot of duplicate information out there. It’s best to understand the perspective each article is coming from, and either agree with it, or do not.

Twitter is a good example of a source of information that is never going to be one size fits all. My follow list is not only unique to me, but also completely dynamic based on what they’re getting into and what interests me. The key is to use it as a tool to learn, if that’s what you want out of it.

It’s also important to take notes - but again, not every word. The key is to absorb and pay attention to information, then form your own thoughts around it. It won’t matter how many of someone else’s words you write down, you’ll remember it a lot better if the thoughts originated in your own mind. When I’m watching a presentation of some kind, or a roundtable discussion, I largely prefer to remain active and engaged in the conversation, jotting things down occasionally, but only thoughts that have been created in my own mind based off of a reaction I had to this discussion.

Think of it this way - in the movie Inception, implanting an idea in someone’s head was only possible if the target believed that the idea was original - that it grew naturally in their own mind. Kind of the same concept.

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Time Management and Allocation

Managing your time is kind of a given when you’re talking about most things involving technology. In order to stay with the times and move up in the technology field, you have to be vigilant, and the best way to do this is to dedicate time in a day to making this happen.

Catching up with the latest and greatest in news or tech is no exception - I find that my Pocket list and RSS feeds are ABYSMALLY behind even with a few days missed. It’s hard to see just how much content that we as a community in general put out there until you miss a few days. It’s staggering.

My recommendation is to do the same thing that you’ve probably learned to do with studying for a cert, or similar. This is especially true for those with families, because for many, there’s already time allocated in the day for family time. When everyone goes to bed and things start to die down, that’s usually a good time to pick up the tablet and catch up on the day’s findings. Again, the first point is crucial here because if the information you’ve gathered isn’t totally relevant to you, you’re going to spend a lot of time weeding out what you don’t want to read. Time management actually becomes easier once you’ve done this.

Reciprocate

One of the biggest reasons I started this blog is that I was creating pages of notes for my studies and personal thoughts when it came to technology. I didn’t think they were immensely valuable that they should be shared with the public - I knew I was really green. On the contrary, I decided that the best way for me to grow was to put all of these thoughts into a public context and allow those that are much more experienced than I to provide constructive feedback.

This may not work for everyone - I’ve learned that there are some folks that have found more suitable outlets than writing a blog post or recording a podcast, so this point is mostly out of my own personal experience. However, I can tell you that my attention to detail when it comes to technology, and my motivation to get involved in DEEP technical conversations has increased exponentially since I started this thing.

If you’ve been blessed with a few good writers that have helped you through a late-night outage, or solve a problem you’ve been trying to get your vendor’s support to fix, then I challenge you to put yourself out there and see how it feels. Everyone has some kind of experience that they’ll never forget where they ran into some kind of legendary technical issue and the solution was more elaborate than tying a unicorn to a rocket and landing it on Mars, or some such thing.

Starting a blog is a bit of work, so if you’re not sure, head over to Packet Pushers - Greg and Ethan have done a great job of providing a platform for folks that are new to it to write some content and share with the community. The point is not to submit information to be held to some kind of high standard to be judged. The point is to create an outlet - a way for you to share the experiences that are unique to you.


Matt Oswalt

Matt Oswalt is an all-around technology nerd, currently focusing on networking, software development, and everything in between. He is at his happiest in front of a keyboard, next to a brewing kettle, or wielding his silo-smashing sledgehammer. He spends his days diving deep into the intersection of networking and software, and likes to blog about his experiences when he comes up for air. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIN.