The learning rule of thumb in 2016

In 1896 Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto stated the 80-20 rule, a rule that has been adopted ever since in a variety of environments. It basically says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or, to put it in other words, 20% of the investment you make generates 80% of your revenue

In 1896 Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto stated the 80-20 rule, a rule that has been adopted ever since in a variety of environments. It basically says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or, to put it in other words, 20% of the investment you make generates 80% of your revenue.
This is not only an economic rule of thumb but also a practical and efficient way to approach your learning objectives in 2016.

In a constantly rising market, software developers, testers, analysts or engineers to name a few are constantly being offered new and interesting jobs and projects all over the world. This also means that learning opportunities are bigger than ever. Training courses, online education, mentoring and coaching projects cover more skills than anyone can ever dream of. It also raises a question regarding which subjects are more relevant for your work and your career in IT.

Of course you should focus on staying on top of your C++, .Net or Java - the very core of your success in IT but it is far from excellent for a great career in IT. With more and more people in projects communicating with stakeholders, business owners or users, another set of skills is needed. While these are not technical they still have a huge impact on your career.

Of course, papers and publications all over the world will make a huge list of what you should do and the skills you need to have.

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Yet, a question should be raise: how much time and energy can someone spend on absorbing a huge amount of info and developing skills that are not directly linked to their job or interest? Not that much I presume so here is the 20% you can focus on learning in 2016 as an IT specialist:

  • Learn how to deliver great presentations – while a screenshot or a code line may be enough to impress your colleagues, the ability to make a great presentation gives you the ability to gain the attentions of business stakeholders and influencers and it may make the difference between a happy customer and a bored one. Learn how to control your speech, how to use the right visuals to keep people interested in your ideas and how to deliver a message that sticks with people after they leave the room

  • Develop your Selling skills – this is a natural continuation to the first point. Even if you think you are not selling anything at your current job, believe me, you actually do. You sell ideas, points of view, attention and ultimately your image. To understand the way you can transform a functional detail into a perceived benefit for the user or to point your abilities in an important interview, selling skills are your best ally no matter your job.

Any training on the basics should be nice but sometimes as little as a good book might help. For 2016, I recommend any of these two: “Drive” by Daniel Pink and the Neil Rackham’s “Spin selling”

  • Learn to work with you values. In a changing environment, the best fit for you will be the team or company that aligns to your values. Projects may come and go and so does the financial side but being aligned with your values and principles may make the difference between choosing a project that looks nice and one that will actually help you grow.

A lot of options are available from working with a coach or attending self-leadership workshops.
Invest your time into growing these skills and make the difference in your career without radically shifting the way you work. It will be worth it.

Dan Bruma
Specialist in Project Management, Soft Skills

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