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I was reflecting the other day that I had not added anything to my blog recently.   And while a short vacation (part of which was spent geeking out and writing code) played a part of it, the larger reason was an absolute avalanche of work.

Then yesterday I was listening to some old .NET Rocks! podcasts and the question about how we all stay current in the technology field came up.  This, coupled with the beginning of my review writing season for my team, spawned the idea for a blog post for today.

So while my iPod charges, and podcasts download, I'll share some of my thoughts (some of which I bet folks will disagree with).

First - as both a manager and a geeky technologist, I do not believe it is the responsibility of your company to set aside time for you to 'geek out' and play with new things.  Sure, there are a lot of great arguments for this (benefits to the company included). 

But in my opinion, anyone who takes their career seriously and who truely has a passion for development should be doing this kind of stuff on their own as part of their personal training discipline, and not get bent out of shape if this is an expectation of your company.

And I'll be telling each of my team members this during their review.

On my end, I have a wife (thankfully an understanding one) and 1.6 kids (she's due the beginning of next year with our second).  Yet despite that, I can have a serious chat with my wife, and explain that I need to spend some time, at least once a week, just geeking out and learning new things. 

Because nobody wants to be 'That Guy' - i.e. the guy who was the ace DBase IV or VB6 developer, or who founded an entire company on building Frontpage web sites - then wonders why he can't get a job as a .NET developer when his only career training in eight years was reading a .NET book after he was laid off in last month.

Personally, I have no intention of going down that way.  Which is why I make time (sporadically, true) to write some thoughts in a blog, hit up Stack Overflow and MSDN, dig into podcasts and books, and work on about a dozen side projects.

And I would expect no less of any of my employees than I would of myself. 

To paraphrase a conversation with an IT friend of mine, you have two kinds of people who enter technology.  Those who have a genuine passion for it, and those who picked it because they heard they could make good money. 

And I for one would rather surround myself with the kind of people who are in technology because they are passionate about it.  And being passionate about your field sometimes means telling the wife you need a little time to geek out and curl up with some curly-braces.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go dig into some design patterns before heading off to work!

Posted on Thursday, October 29, 2009 6:39 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Why I disagree with 'geeking out' on the company dime

# re: Why I disagree with 'geeking out' on the company dime
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I absolutely agree that any developer who takes their career seriously should be voluntarily spending some of their own free time to learn, evolve and expand their knowledge.

That said, any company/manager who expressly forbid me from spending any time on the job learning would VERY quickly lose me. And as one of the few (around here, anyways) who does spend a lot of personal time learning, I'd like to think that would be a significant lose for the company.

In my opinion, what you describe is a great strategy for driving away your more dedicated employees.
Left by Christopher Hyne on Oct 29, 2009 8:43 AM

# re: Why I disagree with 'geeking out' on the company dime
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Thanks for the reply!

Ongoing learning is something that, to an extent, is going to be a side effect of our careers regardless - whether it's building a proof of concept or learning a new part of the CLR to solve a task. And tackling that kind of stuff, and the learning and education that come from building new and creative solutions is always a good thing.

What I disagree with is a developer's expectation/demand that the company formally set aside X hours of 'play time' per week(especially in a downturn).

Conversely, in the consulting world I've definitely seen bench time as a time where a consultant would be tasked to learn new skills that can help them become billable (and this is also a good way to make sure you're not the one cut when the contracts dried up).

Haven't lost a developer yet, but have had quite a few do some pretty cool side projects.

Left by Bob Palmer on Oct 29, 2009 9:03 AM

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