By Patty J. Ayers
Most professionals of any kind have to do some continuing education. As web developers, we have an especially urgent need to be constantly learning because the technologies we work with change so rapidly. It’s just not optional for us. For those of us who work primarily with WordPress, it’s crucial to be sure we’re not left behind as this amazing platform evolves and moves forward.
I find that my work on client projects forces a certain amount of learning. There is almost always something a client wants which I don’t immediately know how to do, or that I’m not sure how to do in the best way. This forces me into research-and-experimentation mode, and I learn a lot from these challenges.
But I believe it’s also important to study and experiment outside of client work, so that there isn’t the pressure of having to produce a polished result and move on. I find that working on some of my own non-critical websites can be a fun way to try new things. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I have my personal/hobby websites.
Making it fun is about 3/4 of the battle, in my experience, and a lot of that comes from my attitude. I originally got into working on websites because I was intrigued and fascinated by it, and I try to nurture that sense of wonder and curiosity. Remember staying up half the night, forgetting everything except the magical stuff you were doing with HTML and CSS and graphics? I try to keep that state of mind. At the time of this writing, I’m genuinely impatient to learn everything about WordPress, and that really helps me to move forward in knowledge and skills.
There are times when I’m too busy with paying work for continuing education, and there’s not much that can be done about that. Client work has to come first, at least until I’m fabulously wealthy. But I’m not always super-busy, or at least I try hard not to be, so that I can take advantage of slower times to study.
Some of my favorite sources of material for my continuing education are:
- Free online tutorials
- Online courses such as those offered by Lynda.com
- Books | WordPress.org list
- An RSS Reader stacked with expert WordPress blogs
- The WordPress Codex
- Following WordPress people on Twitter
- Joining and participating in WordPress groups on LinkedIn
- Attending Word Camps
- Attending Local WordPress Meetups
This is another area where having colleague/friends in the industry is really valuable, whether or not you ever meet them face to face. Not only do I learn from them, but their own drive to learn helps to spur me on, and when I help somebody else, I usually learn something too.
Whatever works best for your learning style, don’t forget that continuing education is a must for web developers.