I have previously written about “Having the right digital mind-set,” where I covered six topic areas to help shape your digital mind-set: business, technology, social, personal, application and learning. In this article, I expand on the learning aspect.

How much learning have you done today? This week? This month? Keeping your skills up to date by regularly learning something new is an important part of developing your mind-set and keeping it active. Why bother with learning new skills? The answer is very simple: If you don’t, somebody else surely will, and they’ll get ahead in the game. The next generations of IT professionals are already learning from an early age, supported by government educational curriculum computing programmes.

The internet has made learning easier than ever before. There are online courses, videos and podcasts enabling you to learn something new anytime, anywhere. You can choose any topics that you think will help you in your role. There is really no magic course on being digital — it’s an amalgamation of different skills and knowledge, both hard and soft skills.

One key factor, though, is that “software is eating the world“, and understanding coding and delivery of things as code are becoming common practice. Having an understanding of what is going on in the coding world helps with today’s advancing technology. Learning to code is a great way of understanding these advancements, and everyone should have knowledge of this.

Re-enforcing your learning through explaining it to someone else or blogging about it is part of the nature and cycle of CPD [continuing professional development] and a good way of checking that you have learnt correctly.

How do we learn?

There are two main types of learning:

  • On-the-job learning
  • Focused learning

Learning that comes as part of our regular day can be classed as “on the job”, whereas “focused learning” is where you take time out to do some research, read or take a course.

Everyone has his or her own preference for learning, and the amount of learning you do is also a matter of preference. Look at other industries where learning is mandated as part of ongoing professional development — for example, the healthcare industry, where dentists and doctors must study a certain number of hours to maintain their skills and knowledge and also their medical licenses. Why should things be any different for IT professionals, considering that IT professionals produce, code and maintain systems that medical professionals use daily to support patients?

You should be looking to do 50 to 60 hours of learning per year as a minimum , and some professionals require much more than that for their jobs. The number of hours you commit to learning is a personal choice, but if you spend at least one hour of learning each week, you will have accomplished 52 hours of learning each year.