How well do you know X?

In today’s world of cloud technology, change is coming at a breakneck pace. It’s both very exciting and quite daunting.

So, when you’re facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, what do you do? Well, you plan and strategize your approach of course!

Take Azure for example, it already has 90+ services with new ones coming out on a regular basis! Learning most of these services, or even keeping up with them is a daunting challenge indeed.

Well, I recently learned of a good mental framework for assessing how well you know something, and I think it’s a great way to tame the learning approach.

Simply put, determine your current level for all the technologies you’re interested in by using the following simple, yet clear, levels:

  • New!
    • You’ve heard of this technology and can describe it in 1 sentence or so.
  • Familiar (Level 100)
    • You’ve looked into and understand this technology. You know the main concepts and the related-terms.
  • Hands-on (Level 200)
    • You’re familiar with this technology already, but you also actually tried the technology hands-on by following along with a couple of guided labs, or by trying out a basic POC of your own.
  • Project (Level 300)
    • You actually used this technology in a real-world project or two. This is where you encounter all the non-happy-path scenarios and actually start to understand the limitations of the technology and what scenarios it’s best suited for specifically.
  • Expert (Level 400+)
    • You’ve used this technology on numerous projects and you’ve already run into all the issues you could have encountered and have made all the mistakes that can be made with it!

Of course these levels aren’t exhaustive or completely scientific, but they give you a way to strategize your learning and direct your efforts.

I especially like the separation of “Hands-on” from “Project” since a lot of people create a small POC in a technology and assume they are at level 300, which is misleading, and they end up paying for it when they underestimate their first actual project with the technology.

So, a quick example of how you might assess your current level in a few technologies you’re interested in:

Example Technologies vs. Level assessment

The best part is that now that you know where you’re at with each of the four technologies above, you can devise your learning goals accordingly.

You can choose to bring a number of the technologies at “New” to at least “Familiar” or “Hands-on” so you’re aware of them, and so they’re available to you when you’re brainstorming solutions.

You might also want to level up from “Hands-on” to “Project“, or from “Project” to “Expert” so you can leverage your existing strengths even further.

In other words, each person might approach their learning strategy based on their own subjective goals, but at the very least, this mental framework of assessing your current expertise and determining your target-levels will ensure that your learning endeavor is efficient and likely to yield the results you’re hoping for!

Hope this will be helpful to you in your journey!

Stay curious!

Author: MJ Alwajeeh

Passionate programmer and architect. Cloud Enthusiast. Lifelong learner.

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