I’ve long held a belief that people who work in the IT industry ought to work because they really enjoy it, and to a lesser extent, because there is a sizable financial incentive. However, it’s not always the case, and eventually you end up working with people who treat their work as strictly a 9-to-5 job, in essence, they do little to no work outside work hours.
Please let me state for the record that I’m not saying that working excessive hours, or going home and continuing to work is the same thing. It’s not. Doing side projects and reading up on technology news can be as unrelated to your job as you want it to be. The fact that you are showing an interest in the IT world outside your office is the key thing here.
If you don’t find yourself at home doing a little computer use (or, egad, writing your own projects or proof of concepts) then how committed are you to your craft? The best of the best in most industries are committed to honing their skills after hours because they are driven either by the competitive edge or simply the desire to master their craft.
There are all sorts of activities you can undertake which can provide a benefit to both the community at large and to you, personally. What I’ve done over the past ten years has varied and changed depending on how much work I’ve been doing at the time, and how much time I’ve been able to commit after hours.
Before people say it, no – this doesn’t mean taking a significant chunk of time away from family and friends. Sometimes commitment to external events (user groups, communities) can be time consuming with often no reward, but it’s a lifestyle choice.
To give you some insight, I’ve been to a number of user group meetings (including giving a public presentation in Vancouver), I’ve been on a domain name authority advisory panel and I’ve been on the Australian IPv6 summit organising community. I’ve been active within the Internet Society (of Australia), vocal for supporting net neutrality and other issues.
I also regularly post to this blog, and take a keen interest in a number of technical realms within the industry including mobility, voice recognition, data generation techniques and best practice design. Whatever time I have left over is spent helping friends diagnose technical issues or consulting to SMBs on their technical vision.
Also, not doing external professional development won’t make you a worse professional – but it may be an advantage to do PD in an ever-changing industry which is dynamic as the IT industry.
Whether you’re an active member of the IT community or if you just read http://www.thedailywtf.com or http://www.slashdot.org on a regular basis, simply having that interest is a big benefit to you, your co-workers and employers. Heck, even writing a blog might be considered taking an interest *wink*, *wink*.
If you are in the industry think to yourself: “am I doing what I’m happiest doing?”. If you’re reading this blog chances are you’re in the right industry (or you’re a family member) 😉