My friend and ASP MVP Julia Lerhman posted an editorial in her blog last month about the rate of new technologies coming out from Microsoft. It seems that many well respected voices in the industry feel that Microsoft is trying to get us to drink from a firehose these days. The very fact that I'm reading an article today, July 3rd, that Julia posted on Jun 12 should give you a good idea where I stand on the issue.
Julia is in the enviable position of being a jack-of-all-trades. This gives her a great deal of freedom to work on a wide variety of projects and to choose that look most interesting and fun. On the other hand, she's having trouble coping with all of the developer-centric technologies that are coming in at avalanche speed. I give thanks in my prayers every night that I don't have to learn Avalon, LINQ, Ajax, WCF, Windows Vista, or Office 12 Beta - - - YET.
On the other hand, SQL Server has grown into such a large platform in and of itself that I'm seeing more and more generalists start to focus on specific niches within SQL Server. It wasn't very long ago (Ok, well, it wasn't very many releases ago. It's just that this last release took a LONG time.) that SQL Server didn't have very many "moving parts" to master. But today, you've got the OLTP engine, the OLAP engine, Reporting Services, Integration Services, Notification Services, Full-text Services, high-end performance and availability specialties, not to mention the cool new stuff like Service Broker and CLR.
It's hard - very, very hard - for a single person to master all of these new technologies. Even me, as long as I have worked with SQL Server have big black holes in my skill set. For example, shredding an XML document sounds to me more like something you'd catch a White House staffer doing in the dead of night than a DBA doing in the middle of the day. Color me stupid...
...Or, if not stupid, time-deprived. I feel like I could learn all of this stuff if there was just some way for me to pack all of the learning into the day. But it seems like every day that I focus on learning one of these new technologies is a day where more issues of SQL Server Magazine, InfoWorld, CIO Magazine, Code Magazine, and others pile up. And the pile is getting big. (sigh)
So where are you focusing? Some have suggested that we shouldn't even bother with a technology that's pre-production because the time spent on learning it while it's still evolving could be a complete or nearly complete waste of time. (Witness WinFS as evidence of this point of view.) Others try to focus only on the technology where they're making their daily bread. Sure, they'll look at what's coming down the pipeline. But only in their specific specialization and only when it's very close to release or even just after release. Finally, there are the more inquisitive minds who want to stay in the loop on the newest technologies as they develop. This can be rewarding and even fun, if you're of the sort to try to help shape the direction of emerging technologies, but it can also be a huge drag on your time and energy.
So where do you fall? What's the right balance between looking ahead and staying fresh in your skills versus becoming overloaded? Inquiring minds what to know!