Leveling up my tech skills in 2018
Just over a year ago, in October 2016, I was stoked to enjoy my very first on-the-company-dollar conference experience. That this experience coincided with my 30th birthday was a kind of professional poetry, I thought: crossing the threshold of a new decade and seeing my move to a new career beginning to pay off at the same time was validating, and motivating.
At the end of the conference, I tweeted this:
Final #asalinks thoughts: wanna level up my tech skills, Parramatta = great, archivists = great, RSI from too many tweets, I’m exhausted.quarterfalls
This month’s GLAM Blog Club theme is “What I want to learn in 2018”, and in fact my goals have not changed much at all. Although I have a degree in information management, this education only touched briefly on the myriad technical competencies that would help me in my work, and I find myself spending a lot of the day reading tech forums full of vocabulary I do not yet understand in the hopes of finding a better or more efficient way to do a task. I am a problem solver by nature, so learning how to improve my processes is a source of fun, rather than frustration, but I constantly have the feeling that if I could just get a little closer to the top of the hill I would be able to see green acres of solutions for miles around. The day I learned that I could use Notepad++ to find and replace text across an entire directory is a simple example (imagine the inanity of replacing thousands of pesky ampersands in XML by hand!), but it made a huge difference to my work and is really just the tip of the iceberg.
I am learning as I work, of course, but this sense of solutions being just outside my grasp is only going to grow as my work becomes more and more focussed on the transfer of digital objects into the archives, and the range of systems those objects come out of becomes even more varied. So, what’s a girl to do? Level up those tech skills with some strategic self-directed learning, that’s what! Last year, I enrolled in a free Computer Science 101 course offered by Stanford University’s online arm, based on the recommendation of a well-respected digital preservation whiz. I did a few of the modules but didn’t make it all the way through so this year’s first goal is to finish that course. I think a foundational approach will really help me understand what is possible when it comes to the manipulation of digital objects and what is required to ensure that their integrity and accessibility is maintained into the future. I also hope that by going all the way back to computer science basics I will be able to see my way around digital archives with new perspective, and be better placed to make decisions about where to focus my future learning. At least, that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how I go.