What is blocking you from learning about your next tool? – 30 Days of Tools, Day 13

Hello from Day 13 of the 30 Days of Tools challenge. And today we’ll dig into blockers. Those pesky things that stop you doing what you want to do!


What is blocking you from learning about your next tool?

  • Can you prioritise the things that stop you from learning?
  • What support do you need to remove those blockers? Where can you go to get that support? Who can you speak to?
  • How might you get creative and move around the blockers instead?

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I currently have no “need” to learn a new tool. I’m learning new tools on the go if I need them.
I suppose when I do have the need time is always an issue. When arriving at a new customer, there are always some new tools to learn. So mostly time!

Taking time, literally taking time. Open your agenda and mark 4 hours as ‘busy’ and spend some time learning those tools.

See above :slight_smile:

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I think the biggest blocker is usually time. We need to create the time for learning and development. This time needs to come from both our personal and professional lives.

Many companies provide the opportunity for learning, this could be a set amount or a percentage of our time (2 hours a week, or 5% of our work time for example, and this could be during a set time or a time of our choosing). If your workplace don’t already provide this, then you want to speak to someone about making this time available.

Making time during your personal time is equally difficult. We all have different lives and responsibilities (kids and dependants for example). We also need time to relax, watch TV or dedicate time to our hobbies. Just like work, we should allocate a set time during each week for learning but try not to overdo it. If you only have time for 30 minutes a week, take that time. Any time is better than nothing.

There are also ways to fill in empty time with learning. You can listen to podcasts while doing other things. There are loads of testing and tech focused podcasts out there, and you could be listening to them while preparing dinner or commuting to work.

Line managers or scrum masters are good people to speak to. If there is reluctance for personal learning and development time, then HR are also good to speak to.

I’ve encountered situations where colleagues have this unfounded fear of spending time on things that aren’t actual work. In this situation, I speak to managers about not only saying that we can spend time on personal learning but also actively promote it and encourage us to share what we learn. Making the learning others do more visible will encourage others to take advantage of this time better.

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:timer_clock: Yes time is the biggest problem, for sure!
Sometimes I have theoretical or practical issues like:

  • “It is not working on my machine”
  • the tool is not accepted (yet) by my company so I cannot download/install it.

Time: reading tools articles/video is less time consuming.
Technical problems: asking for help to the tool support, my team and the communities.
Company issues… ?

For for time problem I wanted to learn more about git so I took part of the Hacktoberfest is a good way (for me) to be motivated to find time.
For company policy I use my personal computer to test the tool :slight_smile:

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  1. Blocked by Time and business priority
    In my job, I often have to be testing sound and video. A topic that very rarely comes up. And so that means I have to often build my own tool, or I have to motivate to buy an expensive tool to do it for me. So for me, time and priority, because quite often, some solid but simple tooling around stream metrics is enough testing to do for now. So, having people talk about tools in relevant domains and thus advise is my bigger blocker.

  2. Blocked by Portability
    When a tool is not equally useable on all desktop platforms, it leaves a hole, which becomes a technical and “value” blocker.

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As other said, mostly time (regular work, family obligations and freelance side projects), now that I think of it, this might in part by my own fault for taking on a lot of stuff, but I love keeping busy, which might seem ironic for someone who is at a hear a lazy person! :sweat_smile:

I get support from my wife, and the people I work with are also pretty openminded as well. :sunglasses:

More self-disciple and better organization of available time, I think I might have a bit of ADHD, I just buzz all over the place like butterfly, flying from one browser tab to another. :butterfly:

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What is blocking you from learning about your next tool?

Time. It’s usually always time.
After that though, it’s about not putting enough attention into creating an environment to allow me to learn. Turning of Slack, Email, telling people I’m not available, to give my self all possibilities to get in to the learning.
Removing them just requires planning, so telling myself, next Tuesday 9-12 is for learning or doing ABC. Let everyone who may be impacted and make sure I do my best to do just that.

I remember hearing a story recently about Jerry Seinfeld who block books every morning 9-10.30 I think it was for writing. He doesn’t allow himself to do anything else. No phone. No email. Nothing. He tries to do everything possible for him to write. Sometimes he writes, other times he stars at the screen/paper. But he is doing all he can and he claims that the majority of the time he does indeed write.

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To some extent yes, but the past year and then some has made it very difficult to do so.

During the past 1.5 years, I have had 3 different QA partners in my quest to bring quality to my dev team. So 80% of that period of time, I was responsible for all things testing. Needless to say, I was focused more on manual testing of the application because my automated tests required mock data. I had little time to keep improving the mock system to a usable state until recently, which has been found very useful by the devs on my team as well.

Now that I have that, I have had time to explore new tools like Playwright.

I can now speak to the QA Director, but this person also did not exist until recently, which has started to improve things.

The best way I have found is to integrate new learning desires with your work schedule instead of your personal schedule. Moving around blockers may just be asking more experience devs to assist if they have time.

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It’s actually insane how many people note Time is an issue.
If only there was more Time :frowning:

I wish companies should learn from this and give us more time to learn something :stuck_out_tongue:
Some actually do and give Friday afternoons as a learning period.

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Motivation & inspiration is often a factor, if there is no need it is sometimes a futile effort to try and discipline your way through it, at least that is what I found.

Can you prioritise the things that stop you from learning?

This is one confusing question, not sure I understand exactly.

What support do you need to remove those blockers? Where can you go to get that support? Who can you speak to?

Speak to your colleagues, they work in the same environment as you and maybe they already cracked the case for you. If you spot a common theme but no solution - chat to your manager and be as direct and respectful as possible.

How might you get creative and move around the blockers instead?

Breaking the routine might help sometime, shifting when you wake up/go to bed might help uncover the time & energy needed to work around blockers, if the blockers are time related or put you in a different state of mind with a new perspective on how to tackle things.

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I’m going to answer this question by going off on a tangent.

For context, I moved to a practice lead role earlier this year. One of the things that I’ve had to accept, is that my role is no longer being an individual contributor. Instead, my role is to create an environment where others can succeed.

What does this have to do with tooling? Well, for a long time I have had an open ticket to try and do some load testing using K6. I’ve been looking forward to trying out.

A few weeks ago it became apparent - I wasn’t going to have the capacity to do it. So, instead, one of our junior engineers took it on.

I caught up with her about it yesterday. Not only did she report that the load testing was going well, but also, that she was finding it really fun to work on. In her words, it’s nice to work on something different from what she’s normally doing, and she’s learning stuff.

Gotta say, I was thrilled to hear that. If I had held on to this work, she would not have had that growth opportunity. What I’m learning is, at this stage in my career, it’s important to let others do the fun stuff.

So, to answer the question - my own availability blocked me from learning my next tool. But, it was the right thing - because seeing someone else empowered to do it was much more rewarding!

(Sorry if that doesn’t directly answer the question, but, it’s the most interesting learning I’ve had around this!)

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Right now it is mostly time and priorities. Not to mention, there comes a day when I need to throw all the trash into the dustbin and do the laundry and all.

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