Taking Time For Mindful Personal Professional Development

I had a feeling when I moved my Colorado Tech Weekly series to its own site, the amount of content I would create for this site would drop dramatically. It does not feel good to be right about this, but it does feels good to be contributing blog posts to my site again!

When I needed to make time for my personal professional development, I made time for it because it didn’t feel like I had a choice. Now I want to make time for it, but I don’t need it to take up as much time, attention and energy as it did before so I need to be mindful about how I go about taking time for my personal professional development.

What is mindful personal professional development? Professional development can be offered by industry organizations and companies with courses, meetups and certifications to improve your knowledge, skills and reputation in a profession. Personal professional development is the self-guided use of those resources with your own goal in mind. If you do not need to work on your own personal professional development but you want to work on it, that work needs to be done mindfully so it does not negatively affect other roles in your life.

For 5 years I took my personal professional development very seriously. I had to because I was working on changing careers from a 911 dispatcher to a software engineer. I was going to school part time for my Computer Science degree. I started my website. I started Colorado Tech Weekly as a blog series. I took time to design the layout of my website to address my perceived needs of users of my website (I like the idea of UX design but I didn’t want to poll any actual users for fear that users didn’t really exist). I did side projects and completed schoolwork. Then, just before the end of 2017, I got my first job as a software engineer at Infinicept. Since starting my software development career, I finished my Computer Science degree and I’ve continued my Colorado Tech Weekly blog series but I’ve mainly left my professional development up to Infinicept which I do not like.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working at Infinicept! I am the 3rd engineer in a company that, when it started, had about 6 people working for it if you included the 2 founders. We now have 12 people in our engineering department and we’re still growing. I’ve learned way more about web development and payments processing than you probably ever care to read about. We started a book club at work (Thanks Noa!) where we’ve read and discussed Clean Code by Robert C. Martin, Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis and we’re currently working through Building Microservices by Sam Newman. Each developer also has access to Pluralsight and we continue to foster an environment where we value open communication and collaboration so my coworkers have been an amazing resource. Everything I’ve learned about since starting my career has been because of a direct need from my team, my company or our clients. It’s been amazing!

Do I need to do more professional development on my own? I don’t think I do. I feel like I got an amazing head start by working at Infinicept. Because I’ve been entrusted to work on almost every facet of our web applications and services, I feel like my knowledge and experience is way ahead of most people who are a year and a half into their software development career. This is in no way a personal judgment. I’m just lucky that I’ve had the opportunities to do different things. I could easily just do my work, learn as I need to learn, and have a good, comfortable career. I don’t need to write blog posts, go to meetups, give talks or go learn things on my own. So why do I want to do these things? Because I enjoy being on the edge of impostor syndrome? That sounds like a good answer… I think.

The other day I told my wife that I feel like I’ve been kinda antisocial since starting my software development career. I said that I expect myself to be more involved in the Colorado tech community. It’s completely understandable that I’ve been more heads-down since starting my job. Working as a junior software developer for a new startup is very overwhelming and requires a lot of time, energy and focus. But I now feel like I have some bandwidth to build my career the way I want to build it.

After I told her that I expect myself to be more involved in the Colorado tech community she asked “What do you mean by being ‘more involved’?” and I gave her that stupid look that says that I hadn’t thought about that.

I want to be involved in the Colorado tech community but I don’t want it to take away from my involvement with my family or my friends. I already stretched those relationships while I was going back to school and I really enjoy having time to spend with family and friends. I enjoy writing blog posts because I feel like I’m more articulate when I can plan my words and I enjoy meeting people one-on-one as opposed to going to big meetups where I get overwhelmed. So I’m going to do what I want. I’ve carved out about an hour every Thursday morning to either meet with someone or write a blog post and we’ll go from there. I’m excited to take some time to mindfully work on my personal professional development.

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