Commit #5: On choosing learning materials

For us who work on the field of software engineering (and its neighbours), it is no secret that we constantly learn new things. Driven either by need or curiosity, it seems like learning is a never ending quest for us. Some of them have direct impact to our craft, like how using Xcode’s debugger could save us from headaches, or how side menu reduces user engagement with your app. Some of them are just for fun – like how TrumpScript is making Python great again (duh), or how a build engineer automates everything using bash scripts, ranging from scanning e-mails to ordering the coffee machine (!).

As a software engineering company, Ice House has a diverse learning scene. We have two main diets in our learning materials:

  1. Knowledge in our main craft, e.g. iOS or Android. To deliver the best quality, we always strive to know better about our own backyard.
  2. Specific knowledge which needed in client project’s domain,  such as geolocation or image processing. Sometimes, our client requests more than a simple mobile app to compete with current market.

Outside of that, each of us has our own preferences. Some of us love to venture outside of our comfort zone, such as playing with Arduinos, explore new programming languages / concepts, or tinkering with new game development tools. As for me, I found myself learning much more general topics, such as clean code, test-driven development, or design patterns. Sometimes I’m afraid a new platform-specific knowledge would quickly obsolete – especially on today’s tech pace.

Last week, I joined a design-and-define workshop for a new client. I had a chat with our software architect during a session’s coffee break. He has more than ten years of experience in software engineering, and had several years working as Senior Director of Engineering for Citrix’ mobile platforms. I always knew that he has a vast knowledge about a lot of things, but I witnessed it myself up close on the workshop sessions. Wondering if he’s still learning new things these days, I asked him straight away:

M (Me): So, what are you learning about these days? Got anything new?

H (Him): Hmm… nothing much. I currently playing around Kotlin and Swift.

M: Kotlin?

H: Yeah. You know, the new language from JetBrains – some people build Android app on top of it.

M: Whoa. Do you also planning to build Android app with that? Or perhaps using Swift for backend?

H: Maybe – as a software engineer, it’s always a good thing to keep up with today’s technologies. At least, I’ll learn new paradigms that might be useful later.

I found myself agreeing with his last statement, but I also start wondering how he picked his learning plan. He’s an architect, and it’s his job to keep being updated with general software growth. Why did he chose Kotlin and Swift? Why not Haskell, Node, or others? Curious, I continued our discussion with this:

How do you choose what to learn next?

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