Practical IT Skills
My IT skills are self-taught. I don't shy away from things I don’t know how to do ,without stopping to think about how I might learn it. In my case, because I have always been very interested in Information Technology, it has been fairly easy. I have become the "IT Guru" for my family, extended family, and circle of friends. From problems with their computers and smartphones, to installing software, to setting up a new home network...I am the local IT expert.
I learned many of the IT skills I currently possess due to:
Curiosity: Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.
Patience: Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And can be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and information. When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts. Patience is crucial.
A feeling for connectedness: This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic. A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.
With a learning attitude in place, it was simply a matter of research, practice, and networking.
Research: Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuffabout it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:
Learning the basics: I googled anything I didn't know how to do....and I found it, whether it was a set of instructions...or a YouTube video. Then I tried waht I learned. A well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds. Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too. What I looked for was basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribed to RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it was posted, I printed out articles to read in-depth later, and I looked for the names of top authors or top books in the field.
Network: One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I use daily, the people I talk with, my colleagues at work, and so on. These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all have been useful ways of gaining more knowledge.