Keeping up

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There's a lot of work to do here. I'm sure you could say the same thing, with all the demands that are made on your time. At Microsoft it's common to have multiple big tasks going at one time, and as a Program Manager that's actually my job. But if you let it, your job can keep you from becoming better at your job.

Let's break this down a little. You start your job with very little knowledge. Even if you have lots of experience, even in the job you just took, there are tons of things you don't know yet about how they do it where you are now. So you begin to learn, and gain experience in this new job. But while you're learning your job environment and all that, you're using time that you would normally take for learning your profession. For instance, if you take a job as a Database Architect or lead, you have to stay up not only on database technology but also on trends, project management, personnel issues and so on. And all the time you're working less and less with the technology itself. But as a lead or manager, you have to stay current on the technology. So if you focus on project management or personnel skills you actually take time from technical study.

So what do you do? Well, my strategy is in three parts. The first is to actually do the job. I've volunteered to fill some of the technical needs at my church. Sure, it's a small database system, but it makes me think like a DBA. I also have to use the tools I write here at Microsoft. I know the pain, and I know the joy - at least the ones that I use every day. To be sure, our church may have a bit more database technology than they need, but hey - they get the work for free from me!

Second, I read. And read, and read and read. I have about 120 RSS feeds I review daily (some of them are even combinations of other feeds) and I read several magazines each month. I also try and read one technical and one business book a month.

Third, I talk to you. I post to forums, answer questions, stay in the MVP newsgroups and attend and present at conferences (I'll be at PASS next week in Denver - stop by and say hello!). Sure, I have decades of experience in technology, and I do run a little system of my own and help others with theirs, but I don't have *your* experience. So I ask you about it. I ask here in the comments and I ask over the phone and I ask at conferences and in studies. I really want to know what you think. Sure, I ask what you want in the product, but even more importantly I ask how you're using it and what your frustrations and pleasures are with the interface. Then I can develop trends that show me what you're really after.

 How do you keep up?

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