July 09th, 2014 · · life

I'm afraid of becoming obsolete.

There, I've said it.

Let me explain: I work in a highly competitive sector which changes rapidly. This is nothing new, of course. It's always been that way. But before, I was younger. Not that I'm really old now, but that big 4 slowly creeping closer doesn't count for nothing. But I guess this is not really about age: I'm happy to work in a team with a bunch of early 20 year olds and it feels that I can manage that just fine. Sure, there are "generational" differences but all in all it works out pretty nice (I can only hope they feel the same though).

But while the rapid changes in our industry seemed like only an opportunity in the past, they now feel like an opportunity ) (because they still are), but also like a sort of burden. I would love to learn more stuff and make new things, but the main problem is time. There's seldom time to work on sideprojects or learning new technology.

This is due to a number of factors:

  • the job » I have a highly fulfilling job while I love to do but takes a large part of my time budget. Yeah, you can tag this one with #firstworldproblems. This is a blessing but also a curse: I learn a lot in my role as a lead developer but not necessarily on the subjects that are so rapidly changing. And that leaves less time for learning new tech. (Then again, I can't complain. There are also people still doing WinForms, I guess).
  • the kids » I have a wife, and moreover: we have four (young) kids. Let me tell you: kids are time sinks. Lovely time sinks, no doubt about that. I love them but it's no news that kids take time. And even then I feel like I'm not enough at home to give them the time they need (and to get everything else sorted out). But there's also our house which needs some love, and love means time I cannot spend on other things.
  • the extras » There are a few "extra curricular" activities. We're actively engaged in the school of our kids, and in the youth movement the two eldest go to. And there's some sport here and there, and I have a demented grandmother in a nursing home, and she loves a visit now and then.
  • the scraps » But also: I feel like I don't like doing the little things anymore. There's some much cool stuff to find out, but then there's the boilerplate code you have to write, and that, well, doesn't interest me anymore. And I feel it hinders me in getting to the real cool stuff.

The net result is that I keep making plans to build Brave New Things, but I hardly get around to it. And that's what scares me, because I'm not sure it will keep my on my toes for the future. Will this get harder and harder over time?

Because, I know there's probably a few "technology switches" before me. Again, nothing new and I've done this before: I went from Web-CGI-perl over to the Microsoft camp, making first websites but later desktop apps using .Net. And then I left .Net behind and went for iOS (surely a more jarring switch than the one before). Those switches weren't easy and took a lot of time and effort but were well rewarding in the long term.

Seeing how technology seemingly keeps speeding up even if you keep to your own niche (I can't follow everything that's come out of WWDC this year, for example), this is probably going to become harder in the future. And this worries me.

Then again, I don't have to keep on doing the same things that I'm doing now. Even now in my job which is still highly development oriented, I'm not doing a lot of development anymore myself. I review code, help people, work on app architecture, devise new ways to make things easier and faster so the team can work faster/better. This is learning experience in itself, and it's been a fun ride. But I don't want to become only a manager just yet and I feel it is very important to stay on top of the changes happening in our industry.

Doing nothing is not an option, so I'm going to have to devise a plan to make "keeping up" feasible. Meanwhile, I'm just going to keep throwing myself at it with all the energy that I have. So frustrating, so much fun.

update: Seems I'm not alone.