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Studying for Success

Solutions can be hard to create when you’re drawing on limited experience. How do you know what you’re doing is the right thing?

I’ve sat in numerous meetings where the solutions that have been proposed that are out of date, or in some cases just plain wrong. This represents a real commercial issue for a company, you could pull in the wrong direction for a long time before you realise. I’ve even seen people making an entire framework before a specialist has walked in and said, “our programming language does that out of the box!”.

There’s a lot to know out there so try to have some understanding of where your product and processes can go. If you have a project coming up that could benefit from a new solution then here a few tips for studying:

1) Put specific time aside for targeted study, it can often help if your team is doing this together. Many companies magically expect their staff to be experienced and with so much to learn in the computing industry this can help focus their efforts.

2) Decide how you want to share the information, do you want everyone to benefit? I really like wiki pages for this with links, although you could go as far as a team blog!

3) Start by looking for blogs, books on the subject, videos and articles on respected web sites. Now draw up a skeleton of what you want to study, sometimes a mind map will help in this (see XMind for a great free one) or you could write this like the contents page of a presentation

4) If it’s a process you’re working on then look for real world example of it in practice and learn from other people’s mistakes!

5) Identify specialist forums where you can ask questions if you get stuck

6) Present and share (AKA Show and Tell). You now have valuable skills so make sure you pass them on

Finally what about a vision statement for your study to help everyone focus on the point of it (see my other post on vision statements)…

Our team needs a solution for connecting .NET systems and want to avoid writing a bespoke framework, so we need to study the market for open source tools that will do this, so we can save time and cost, unlike our last solution which took eight months to link two systems, we are going to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.

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