You should start learning in public…. right now!

Hey everyone, ok so the thought of doing anything in public turns a lot of people to a quivering bag of anxious nerves but wait hear me out. You don’t need to be an extrovert to realise and leverage the benefits of learning in public and you may be surprised with what some of those benefits actually are!

My Background

I’ve been working in the tech industry for pretty much 20 years in one form or another. Throughout those years I have had to go on tech training courses, or do some personal development to keep on top of technology advances. The way I did this was by either attending specific face to face training courses, buy a book and read it cover to cover or find a ‘blog’ article on the internet that covered the area that I was interested in.

Over this time, I had heard of this term ‘Community’ but wasn’t really sure what it actually meant or ‘how to become a part of it’. Well, I was reading a blog article, did that make me part of the ‘community’ hey, I worked in IT, surely that made me part of the ‘Community’. Well….. no not really?!

I would spend my early mornings and late evenings on the road travelling to and from customer locations for my day job, and the little time I had left would be spent with my family, on trips or playing dads taxi running my kids to their activities. So basically I didn’t have a lot of spare time.

How did this change?

When COVID struck back in February 2020 in the UK, it plunged the UK into a lock down, which meant no more travel and far more time working from home. No more kids activities, no more trips out with the family, well, as we all know, no more anything much unless it was in the confines of your own house.

So this got me thinking of how to change the way I worked, and for a number of years I had this blog site running jonnychipz.com but had 2 or 3 posts on it from my starts and stops on trying to be part of the ‘community’ that to be fair, I clearly did not understand at that time. As I had more time on my hands, I thought about firing up the old blog account and trying to contribute something, just to try and get me into the swing of blog writing.

What was I going to Blog about?

After working in Tech for a significant amount of time, you might think that you have a world of experience, opinion and insight to offer, which of course may be true, but how exactly do you convey this out to a reader? This was the first thing that hit me. What topics do I want to blog about? What style? How long should the blog posts be? What if I make a mistake in something I say? Will people judge me for what I write, or an opinion I might hold? These were all follow up questions that would run through my head and ‘stall’ my process of starting writing an article.

So time for my first piece of advice as per the title of this article…….. just do it, just write what ever you want to write about, and do it openly.

Odds are nobody will be readying it, so what’s the problem? Ok, ok yes, you might still be takling some of the other questions, like ‘what should I write about?’

So, yes this I personally did and still do struggle with from time to time. But I looked back to my original point and how I was feeling about the tech industry at that time and it basically hinged around the thoughts that…… Wow, why is there always so much to learn about?! How can I stay on top of the ever increasing pace of change in tech?

So this was my angle, I’m going to start learning some of the things that I had picked up, but not really learned about properly over the last few years in line with where I felt my job was heading. I was going to Blog about the things I was learning about. There, I had a plan?! But wait, why?……. ummmmm I wasn’t really sure at that point! It kind of gave me something to start writing about and that was all I cared about at the time!

Making a Plan

So I had my idea of Blogging about the topics I was learning about, so the first thing I did was make a basic plan of some of the areas I would delve into, which, to be fair are still the same areas that I am enjoying learning more and more about every day today….. things like, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT and DevOps processes as well as coding and development. I then stumbled upon an initiative called the 100DaysOfCloud which kick started me into my blog writing. You can see my Github repo on my progress with that initiative.

During this planning time, And as I had more time on my hands, I had a small bet with my then 14 year old son, to see who could get the most YouTube and Twitch subscribers. For no other reason, than he was going to start doing a bit of live game streaming, and I was going to…….. ummmmm ‘become a Youtuber?’ Yeah, hold that thought for a second, I know what you are probably thinking, becasue I was thinking the same thing!

But hey, I had a plan…..

  1. Write Blog articles about my learning Journey
  2. I had my Tech topic areas
  3. Become a Youtuber?!
  4. Become a twitch streamer?!
  5. Start a Tech User Group

The beginnings

I’m going to say the same thing for a third time now, if you didn’t get the hint from the first 2. Just start!

As I was merrily working my way through my 100 Days of Cloud challenge, I was posting links to my articles across LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit, not many people really replied, but then something happened. There were a few people that would reply to me more than once, or I would spot the same few people liking my posts all the time, so guess what I did? I had a look at their profile and started to see what they were posting about and to my amazement, wow there were doing similar things to me, and no doubt they were probably battling with the same doubts, or barriers that I was dealing with. so, I liked their posts as well, I offered them words of support and encouragement.

It become natural after a few weeks, I would jump onto social media and by this time there were probably 6 or 7 people that I had ‘found’ to be in a similar gang to me, we were tweeting at each other, liking each others posts, retweeting and offering words of support, after about 2 months, this had grown to 20-30 people at least that were all regularly speaking and helping each other out…… wait……. the penny dropped……. had I made it into the community?!

In fact this is where I’m going to link to a video I did with some awesome ‘Community’ members about Blogging…. wait, I’ve fast forwarded on by about 9 months at this point, but I think it bolsters the point…. Just start blogging!

One thing to point out if you hadn’t spotted it………..

How the hell did I end up on a YouTube video with 4 amazingly talented people talking about my Blog and how I got started. This wasn’t in my plan……….. Exactly, I have deliberately spun forward to illustrate the point here. Where you start from is one thing, where you end up is completely unknown but is super fun along the way.

Next?

Ok, so I’m actually not going to dwell on the next section of this article too much as this would be very personal to me and not necessarily something you will do yourselves. Not because I have done something wonderful, no, but because I think once you start your own journey, it will take twists and turns that will be guided by your own plan and goals.

So I will bullet point the things that I got involved with and their links in case this is of interest to you. One thing I will add is that, if you are getting into Live Streaming or You tubing, then this is a hugely fun area, but be warned…….. you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on kit (cameras, microphones, lighting etc.) but you inevitably will absolutely do this at some point if you get into it in a big way, oh, and there is a set of new skills that you will probably end up learning. Recording video, creating OBS scenes, positioning lighting, acoustic treatment for your room, video editing (personal hate!), uploading, stream keys, count down timers, thumbnail creation and on and on and on…….. I’m not going to dwell on it here, but hey, none of this was in my plan!

My point here is that this journey takes you down a path that you don’t expect. In fact, here are another couple of videos illustrating my point! When did I become some resident expert in creating Live streams or YouTube videos….. (ill give you a clue…. I don’t think I am!)

OK so, when and why did it get to the point that someone wants to interview me about my Tech Career?

SO, I guess I’m now starting to fully establish myself as part of the community then? Sure Ill take that! Ill link to some of the other things I have been up to here, then we will talk about some observations.

Some of the Things I did

100 Days of Cloud Challenge: Visit GitHub Here

Welsh Azure User Group CO-Organiser

Playlist of past events

MeetUp

Blog

Youtube

Jonnychipz Weekly – A weekly Azure Cloud Update video series – Fridays at 12.30pm BST

Jonnychipz In Conversation with… – Every Friday evening 6.30pm BST

Like I say, these are just a few of the things that I have been able to work with over the last 12-18 months of my Cloud Learning Journey. It’s probably safe to say that I have been involved with things that I never dreamed I would be getting involved with, nor would I expect to still be involved with. So what happened? How did this all come to be?

Takeaway Points

So, this article could have been written in one line if I am being honest, yes you have guessed it, just start your learning journey in public.

Lets review the kinds of activities you can get involved with when learning in public:

  1. Writing Blog articles
  2. Start up a community user group
  3. Speak at many existing community user groups
  4. Use social media and find like minded people, you will soon be calling those people your friends trust me!
  5. Make a YouTube video
  6. Start or appear on a Twitch Live Stream
  7. Help and support others, use social media, learning forums etc.
  8. Be as creative as you can be!

Be disciplined and find a regular cadence.

What ever you choose to do, if its one thing or multiple things, try and keep to a regular cadence in delivery, whether that’s writing one blog post a month, a week or a day! It might be create one YouTube video a month/week. Basically don’t overcommit yourself to unrealistic goals. To be fair, you will probably naturally find this as you move more and more into the public learning arena. My advice here, is to absolutely find a cadence and be as disciplined as you can, but don’t overcommit and pressure yourself for no reason.

Be a supporter of others, always keep things positive.

Remember, we all have our own learning path, agendas, ideas, opinions and means to reach this goals. To reach goals on your own is absolutely possible. But in my experience, its super fun and feels more natural if you reach your goals with a group of ‘friends’. Bring others with you on your journey, go with others on their journeys, guess what….. you learn more, its more fun, it feels more fulfilling. The main point about this is that ‘Nobody Knows it all‘, be open and honest with each other and you will soon realise that we are all in exactly the same position.

Encourage and celebrate not just your own mini victories (its important to do this to realise how far you have come!) but also those of others. You don’t realise the power of genuine support until you start receiving it from others. It’s such a nice feeling to know that people have your back in the community. This might be in the form of sharing your post, actively being interested in what you have written about, or maybe offering words of assistance in an area you are looking to upskill in. Encouragement and support of others is an infectious thing, it fosters a positive well intended platform. Always keep things positive, avoid the negative (it does exist in public of course, but just steer around it! or indeed the block and mute buttons are always handy, in a positive way of course!!)

Don’t worry about getting things wrong

So you completely got it wrong in your last blog article about a particular topic! Great, now is the time to learn something! Has someone said you are wrong? Superb! Time to reach out and have a nice chat with that person.

What you will find, is that the vast vast vast majority of people are out for the same positive, helping learning journey that you are, and guess what, when you get things wrong there are people out there that are able to set you right in a non judgemental and positive manner. We all win, someone gets to help, someone gets to learn, after all they are the goals right?

Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself time off

So yes there will absolutely be times where you just need to chill. You feel like not writing that blog post, then don’t, you need a break? then take one. Be kind to yourself, this isn’t a race for likes and subscribers. Equally don’t fall into the trap of giving yourself some time off never to return! That’s what stopped me from starting all those years ago!

Likes, follows, views, subscribers etc. are all great and yes of course they play a large part into your own motivation for creating content or writing a blog article. If you find yourself in a position that its all about how many followers or likes you get then just pause for a second and just check that you aren’t going of tangent to what your original goals were. I believe there is a balance to be struck here.

1) If all you are doing is chasing for followers and likes, you are definitely doing it for completely the wrong reason, stop now and go and reconsider what your goals are. Arguably you probably aren’t going to get much joy with the community anyway!

2) If you feel pressured to the point of making yourself ill, then simple. STOP. You need to take a break and evaluate how you can reach your goals in a way that doesn’t cause stress.

3) Don’t compare yourself to others, ever. Ever! We are all on similar journeys, but equally we are all on our own journeys. We all have different goals and objectives, different motivators, different family life and time outside of work. Respect everyone, lift everyone up where you can, just don’t compare yourself. You might find that your blog article has very few views. So what? At least you are writing about your learning experiences and are learning. Its about your learning, if other things that are fun and exciting happen off the back of it, then that’s the icing on the cake!

Why should I be Learning In Public now?

As the age old saying goes, there is no better time than now. It will take you all of 15 minutes to sign up for a blog site and 10 mins to start thinking about your areas of interest. The sooner you start the sooner you get making friends and conversing with awesome community folk.

I personally used to learn behind closed doors, watching CBT Nuggets or other recorded content like YouTube or Channel 9 videos, I used to look up to the trainers and hold them on some pedestal as these figures of technical awesomeness. Learning in public hasn’t changed my view of how awesome these people are, nor has it made me take them down off that pedestal, but it has now enabled me to call some of these people my friends! Go figure! That plural sight video you just watched? yeah that was probably a friend of mine. That book you just read……. yeah I was having a chat with the author the other week about a bit of help he was after from me.

Hopefully that paints the picture as to what is in store as just some of the benefits to learning in public. You basically learn more, you do it in a fun and supportive environment with people ready to hold you up when you stumble. Oh and you get to be a part of what has to be one of the most amazing things every, a community of like minded people. It feels like such a natural learning environment that before you know it becomes just another part of your daily routine, and without you even realising you will be learning things on a daily basis that help you keep on top of not just your daily job, but your career progression! You never know when the next door is going to open for you, of which there will be more, and you certainly don’t know of couldn’t imagine where that door is leading!

Its true what they say, if you want to succeed in anything then surround yourself with successful people. Embrace this concept of learning in Public, enjoy it and good luck!

For me, that is what Community is, and that is what the main reason for learning in public.

Summary

I do hope you have enjoyed reading this article and you have gleaned some useful information from it.

Do feel free to reach out and message me if you want to chat more about my journey so far, or if I can help you in any way, I’m always more than happy to do so!

Thanks for reading!

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