1. Stand Up and Be Heard
Years ago I was sitting on an online forum chatting with an Oracle buddy of mine. This was circa 1998. We were working on an open source tool to interface with Oracle. There were all these libraries for PHP and Perl, and a lot of developers starting to build tools. We hatched this harebrained idea to write a book about all of this, and pitched it to O’Reilly. They loved it and thus was born the book Oracle & Open Source in 2001.
Writing a book was, is and always will be a lot of work. It was a great learning experience, too. Editors critique your writing, and this teaches you to speak to a broader audience, clarify your statements, and include illustrations and stories.
Along with this came opportunities to speak at conferences, user groups and meetups. It’s exhilerating, and professionally challenging, and I enjoyed all of it.
Blogging allows you to do all of the above in a more measured way. Write regularly, get your ideas out there, get feedback, rinse and repeat. What’s more, over time you’ll build up a library of material--some of which will draw solid, strong, repeat traffic. It may be about what you are most passionate about, what ideas you’ve ironed out smoothly, or what material is most missing from the web already. Whatever the reason, your analytics will show you the way.
2. Share Your Lessons
In professional services engagements, you learn something new every day. After a few years, you’ll have some battle scars and war stories too. For example I used to have a strong distrust of sales, but through real lessons in the feast or famine world of running your own business, you learn some survival instincts. Knowing how to sell your services and expertise is an art form all to itself.
Getting up and taking a stand isn’t easy. You’ll receive criticism, and likely feel professionally vulnerable at first. But that only makes us stronger engineers: willing to listen, and better communicators.
3. Get Opinionated
Taking a stand on controversial topics, is this something you want to do? Is it something you can do confidently, but also be open to criticism, and see all sides?
It’s challenging, but in that process it will either open you to new ideas, or make your resolve stronger. And that process is great for your professional development.
4. Withstand a Sh*tstorm
Audiences keep you honest: if I were to go out on a limb I’d say technically brilliant, engineering audiences even more so.
I remember a post I did a year ago that referenced a feature based on a wrong software version. In other words that feature would not work based on my article. The readers tore me to pieces in the comments.
But listen closely now, I’m saying that’s a good thing. Yes, criticism is a very good thing indeed. Get enough of it, and you’ll learn to weed out the folks who are just trolls from the ones with genuine suggestions. And all that makes you stronger!
Learn to listen a bit, and that makes you an even better sysadmin or DevOp.
5. Learn by Doing
Developers, Ops, DBAs and Big Data jockeys alike are doers. We sit and code, build and configure components, troubleshoot and tune. Writing is descriptive and often it’s difficult for us to step back and describe what we’re doing.
By writing we carefully sift through our own thought processes to break it down for novices, or a broader audience. This is a learning process for us, too. It’s therapeutic. But it also hones our message and makes us better teachers. We literally learn by doing.