With new technology constantly coming out, it can be hard to keep up. And that's especially true when you work in tech. The incredible pace of innovation in the tech field means it's always a sound strategy to sharpen your toolset—whether you're a beginner or you've been in the field for a while—and learn new skills.
You may have heard of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) like the ones offered by EdX and Coursera—and these are a great way to keep learning. Just remember that while the basic level of many classes are free, more advanced modules do cost money, so do your homework before you sign up.
So which classes might be worth taking a look at and springing for? Here are a few to consider.
1. Crack Cybersecurity
It seems as if data breaches are making headlines every week. No matter where you are in your career, learning about cybersecurity may work in your favor, especially if your institution handles large volumes of sensitive information. (DNA data anyone?) An online course offered by EdX hits all the fundamentals while also providing a substantive overview of the tools required to detect threats and protect valuable data.
2. Explore User Interface Design
Look for the Internet of Things (IoT) to become an increasingly attractive proposition as smart buildings, smart homes, and smart cities become a part of our everyday lives. You might gain a leg up in your career if you know how to design interfaces that not only function well, but are simple and intuitive for people to use. What should the screen for a smart refrigerator look like? How about a weather app? UX/UI designers help figure that out. Treehouse covers the fundamentals in a series of video classes that takes a little more than two hours to complete.
3. Dig Into Big Data
The age of big data is upon us, but do you know what to measure and how to analyze the big data sets that sensors generate? If you take EdX's Python for Data Science class, you'll get a good start. Open source Python tools such as Pandas and Git help users analyze and visualize complex data and knowing how to do so will prove to be an invaluable asset in your arsenal. Recommended for early and mid-career professionals.
4. Craft a Website
Even if coding isn't in your job description, every tech professional should know the basics of web design and be able to set up a robust and informative site. Since the language that powers them and the related standards change often, it's a good idea to sign up for a course every now and then no matter where you are in your tech career. Pretty much all the MOOCs offer some variation of a course that teaches HTML5 and CSS3, the basics you'll need. Udemy's version is a good starting point to explore.
5. Pick up Project Management
The open office concept is an increasingly familiar setting for today’s workforce, but new options from telecommuting to work-share arrangements are also on the rise. As the workplace grows ever fluid, the management of projects to deliver desired outcomes has become increasingly in demand. If you're tired of staying in your lane, getting involved in project management is a good way to test the waters of mid-level management. Coursera offers a series of introductory project management classes that just might be your ticket.
6. Public Speaking
Let it never be said that a techie can't give a good talk. Public speaking might be a soft skill, but it's still an important one to master for professionals at all levels. Whether you're reporting on weekly progress at your next department meeting or delivering a keynote at a national conference, the ability to command attention is an impressive skill that's worth learning. Udemy offers this course on presenting for impact, and Toastmasters offers public speaking lessons that are often conveniently timed to fit into lunch breaks or after work.
So whether you're looking to acquire new skills or advance ones you already have, it's great to always keep learning. Classes, both online and in person, which offer both hard skills and soft can often be the boost you need to keep your skills sharp and stay current in the tech world.