Always Learning: How A CPD Plan Can Help

I’m a big fan of trying to improve my knowledge and skills (it’s one of the reasons I started this blog), and one of the great ways of doing this is having a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) plan.

A CPD plan helps to map out what you want to learn, targets you want to meet, resources needed to help and scheduling to fit in the CPD plan. A CPD plan is also great for defining your short-term career targets (e.g., what do I need to be good at my current job? What’s needed to get into position X which is just above me?) and longer career targets (e.g., what do I need to learn to have the skills needed to be a Lead DevOps Engineer?).

Short-term career

I class short-term CPD targets as ones that I can meet within the next 6 to 12 months. For these I break out my job or role description and map out any skills that are mentioned. I would also speak with my manager to see what aims / goals the organisation and see if any of them are opportunities to expand my skillset (Note: This is not an opportunity to have duties dropped on you or to do everything. The organisations I’ve worked for have been really good with opportunities and workloads).

Long-term career

For long-term career CPD targets I try to think where I would like to be in the next three to five years. It can seem like a long time off, and the world of technology can move extremely fast but having a long-term plan helps to keep a career progressing.

I tackle both short-term and long-term plans similarly.

Job descriptions / Role description

Got a short-term or long-term job dream? I hit up job sites and look at job descriptions / role descriptions for that dream role. Then I highlight key technologies / skills that keep appearing in the requirements of the role. These are the skills / technologies to focus on. Note: Not all skills for tech-based jobs are technologically, “soft skills” are also very important.

Which technologies am I enjoying?

It can be a struggle to motivate yourself if the hot technology (which lots of lists debate) is something you are not interested in. If this is the case include technologies, you do like in your CPD plan. You may still need to spend time on technologies you don’t like but it’s made easier if you also get time with the technologies you do like.

DevOps Road Map –

Find suitable resources / research

Resources to help with CPD targets come in a variety of formats. Some cost, some don’t. Some are official workshops or training sessions, and others are “unofficial” like mentoring or shadowing sessions with a colleague. If you find a technology or skill that you need then you also need to research how you can gain it. I’ve been fortunate so far in my career in that I’ve had some awesome colleagues that have shared their knowledge with me. In my free time I’ve looked for and utilised online learning (FutureLearn, PluralSight, O’Reilly, FreeCodeCamp, etc..), cashing in on free trials wherever possible. Also don’t forget books, even in the age of e-readers I still like reading physical books and its great finding bargains in 2nd hand shops or via online stores.

I note my CPD targets in a document with fairly realistic schedules for the year. I write fairly realistic as I don’t hold any dates in stone, to me they are rough dates. Spending a little time at the beginning of a 12-month CPD plan saves time later on, e.g. I may find a few hours one week with nothing to do. Without my CPD I would probably bounce around training platforms / YouTube videos /books etc looking at what to learn, and in the end wasting those few hours. With my CPD I can look up what is next on my training list and make a start (or continue) on it.

A CPD plan is also great for reflection. Recording training (official and unofficial) helps to show how much can be accomplished in a period, or to show where plans are unrealistic (e.g., learning several programming languages isn’t a realistic target for most people).

You may be reading this and thinking that creating a CPD plan is hard work, please don’t. There is help out there like the SFIA Plus framework offered by BCS (chartered institute for IT). If you are already on your career path, try having a word with colleagues or your manager to see if they have any recommendations around learning.

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