One of the difficult things about working in this industry is that it’s hard to keep your toolset sharp. You start out with the power of the “select star” statement, some lock picks, and the ability to tell an hour of jokes at three AM on a long night waiting for some code fixes to prop to the test servers; then a month later the CTO has signed an agreement with some guy he met at a whiskey tasting night in Southwark and next thing you know it’s all Mongo DB and Cucumber and hordes of brogrammers making the lunch room unsafe for human habitation. Halfway through the year “works with scrying devices including: mirrors; pools of water; forked sticks; animal innards” is suddenly added to a feature set and you’re just completely lost. The “bros” have managed to get themselves enough training budget for three days of the latest and greatest while you’re trying to improvise a dowsing rod using two pens held together with bluetack. And the pens are out of ink.
If this hasn’t paralyzed you into depression – use of irony and laughing at catastrophic live failures can be a sign this is on the way – you know that there’s a tribe of half-orcs that have been training up to take your job, but at the kind of wages that can only be affordable when you supplement your food supply by pillaging nearby hamlets … in parts of the world whose greatest claim to fame had been, until now, producing previously unknown species of tulips. Your skill set may be completely out of line with what’s needed in one or two short years, and by short I mean you spent so much time unbending paperclips, working weekends, and going to forced jollility company do’s that you weren’t able to upgrade your skills. No employer really wants you to, anyway, at least not on their dime; it’s cheaper to just get in the orcs.
So you need training. You need to learn what’s coming. You need to know what weapons people are fighting with now. And, believe it or not, you REALLY need to talk with other people (actually just “sentient creatures, species undetermined” – as long as they can communicate, you can learn from them) to learn how THEY’VE fought the same kind of battles you’ve fought, or will fight. Because, really, if “Hey, what’s that behind you?” WORKS as a diversionary tactic, there’s no shame adding it in to your personal arsenal.
The next problem is how to get good training. There’s a million places offering you opportunities to, basically, watch people try to convince you that Orcish freeware is the new black; but your time is limited. I’ve been lucky enough to make it to Asgard twice, but burning enough incense to qualify for time with heros and demigods is a feat few can do regularly.
Which brings me to this: affordable, practical training with people you WISH were at a whiskey tasting with you. I exchanged a pocket full of magic beans and got into the SkillsMatter’s London Tester Gathering that’s taking place over two short days this week. Whether you’re halfling, elf, paladin, apprentice mage, or just a swordsman looking to try out those neat new Japanese poking sticks, they’ve got all sorts of really practical classes that will expose you to new approaches or help you refine what you know. I looked at the people who are teaching them (Tony Bruce, Martin Hall, Alan Richardson) and they’re all guys whose tomes of cantrips have proven useful to me in the past. As a bonus, I went to the first one of these shindigs two years ago (took my whole raiding party, including the cleric/healer) and thought it was a really useful event. A lot of it is hands on, so I’m busy mumbling through my defense against the dark arts spells over the next few days and making sure I’ve got the right software loaded.
But, seriously: when the only other really good conference is in the near 2000 gold piece range, two days for 295 electrum pieces is pretty damned good. In fact, it’s so good, I’d say it’s beans … magic beans. The kind you can convince even a company with just a tiny training budget to pay for. Why wait? Sling that longbow over your shoulder and let’s go hunting!