9 Ways to Level Up Your Professional Development Game

When thinking about the New Year, typically we look at learning a skill or getting better at something. Professional Development may not be the first thing you wanted to work on this year, but it should definitely be on the list. Here are 9 ways you can work on your professional development skills this year:

1. Explore a New (or New to You) GIS Product

Is there a GIS product you have meaning to check out? Have you been putting off checking out ArcGIS Pro? The new year is a great time to dive in and explore a product you have yet to get the hang of. QGIS is a great example of open source software that you can try out to round out your GIS skills. One area that we hear people have yet to explore is ArcGIS Pro. Take some time this year to start exploring and getting used to workflows. If you start by trying to accomplish a whole project, but have never used the software you are bound to have a tough time figuring things out. By doing smaller tasks at your own pace, you will be able to figure things out and become a pro in no time.

2. Learn a Programming Language

Learning languages help us to communicate with others around us; this applies to programming languages too. Languages like JavaScript, Python, HTML, C#, and SQL allow you to communicate with the technology you are using. These languages help us build applications, build websites, query databases, and automate tasks. They are powerful tools once you learn how to use them. There are plenty of books, courses, and programs that can help you learn these languages. Here are two of my favorites: Codeacademy and freeCodeCamp.

C++ code on a dark screen.
Learn as many programming languages as you can!

3. Check Out Webinars

Webinars are a great way to learn something without a large time commitment. They are a great way to be introduced to a new product, new functionality, or a cool use case. Typically, webinars are an hour in length, including time for questions. It is a great time to ask a lingering question from your daily work with a product. A great place to start looking for webinars is with Esri. Between the different industries they support you can typically find a different webinar every week. One of my favourite webinars by Esri is Data > Design > Develop: Learn App Dev Skills with DevLabs.

4. Take a Course

Looking for something a bit longer than a webinar to build your skills? Courses are a great option to learn something in a few days or over a few months. You could try a class at your local college/university, an online course, or a shorter course that only lasts a few days. With more online leaning opportunities available, studying on the go is easier than ever. Try courses from companies like Udemy or Canvas Network, where you can work at your own pace on a variety of topics from JavaScript to Marketing to Sustainability.

5. Attend Conferences

Conferences are a great way to combine learning and networking. You are able to get exposure to a variety of topics in a short amount of time while customizing your schedule to meet your needs. Additionally, they’re a great chance to catch up with people in your existing network and work on expanding it further. Here are some upcoming events to check out in 2019. My personal favorite is the Esri Developer Summit held in March in Palm Springs, California.

Esri Developer Summit, March 5-8, 2019 in Palm Springs, CA
Check out the Esri DevSummit! Image Source: Esri.

6. Enter a Competition

Every year dozens of solution challenges are held around the world. Governments, companies, and non-profits are looking for your help to solve a pressing problem. Typically, you will see them advertised in the form of a Code-a-Thon. Taking on one of these challenges is a great way to put your skills to use and come out with a solution that you could continue building on. Not quite ready to compete in one of these challenges? Look at the problem and try solving it on your own; this is great practice and is a piece of work that you could add to a portfolio.

7. Work on Your Portfolio

Portfolios are an important thing to keep up to date when applying for jobs, education, and even contract work. They can quickly become outdated with the introduction of new technology and your changing skill set. It can be difficult to think back to a previous year’s work when you need to submit your portfolio the next day for consideration. As you work on things throughout the year, check in every few months and see if there are work samples that you could be incorporating. To take it to the next level, try maintaining a digital and physical copy of your portfolio.

8. Work Towards a Certification

Certifications are a great way to quantify the skills you have been developing through your work or studies. In some workplaces, they can be an essential part of showing experience. A certification is a goal to work towards and a great way to challenge yourself. There are many options offered by companies to show you know your stuff when it comes to their products. Esri, Amazon, and Microsoft are popular choices.

Foundation steps to prepare for an Esri exam. Technical training, GIS education, and practical application.
A solid foundation is the key to success with Esri exams. Image Sourse: Esri.

9. Become a Mentor!

Done steps 1-8? Learned everything that there is to learn? Then becoming a mentor is a great next step! Mentoring can take on many forms, from working with someone in your own organization to becoming a GeoMentor. They say a great way to learn a skill is by teaching it to others. This is a great way to use the skills you have learned (or are learning) and help others dive in to the world of GIS.

More Ways to Improve Your Skills:

Jr Solution Engineer

Michelle is a passionate and self-starting GIS professional looking to change the world with mapping. She works with our Enterprise team, supporting the daily operations of our GEOPowered Cloud.