Lifelong Learning

Around the time I left academe, when outcomes-based education was in full furor, one of the concepts bandied around was “lifelong learning.” It sounded like another motherhood statement that hardly needed saying. Then again, it was an idea that I could get behind, inclined as I was to picking up new things, even as a dabbler.

Fast forward six years (and one crummy presidency) later, I’m feeling “lifelong learning” in full force. At work, I’m neck deep in data engineering, moving and analyzing up to 100,000 transactions per hour (which, I am told, would actually be on the low end of Big Data.) Such tasks require me to get into commercial cloud computing because a simple server just won’t do anymore. And coding, yes, at my age, I’m still coding.

All this would be par for the course for any young buck on the upswing in their IT career, but I’m rounding another milestone in my fifties in a few weeks. Part of me thinks — like Mel Gibson in the latter installments of “Lethal Weapon, bu there’s another dated reference for you — that I’m getting too old for this. But here I am, because the job requires it, and no one else can (or is willing) to do it.

At my age, my role should be managerial but I work in a small company and the skills behind the tech and the data that we process isn’t something taught in schools. Besides, almost everyone on the local market these days just wants to do “front-end development” or “full-stack development.” So there’s nothing to do but pick up the keyboard and fire up a few YouTube tutorials for a crash course in whatever that needs doing.

And this truly is a golden age for lifelong learning. Almost any new thing that I’ve had to learn, whether technology or art or DIY has some free resource of some sort. YouTube, I’ve already mentioned, though the challenge can be filtering out the dross and mapping out a coherent path. According to Duolingo, I’m 1737 consecutive days into their languages program, which translates (heh) to close to five years (though really, it’s been much longer.)

Beyond the free resources, there are some paid ones as well, and I’ve been enticed to subscribe to a few. Scribd (P149 per month) gets me e-books and audiobooks, packaged with CuriosityStream documentaries. My membership to the Association of Computing Machinery ($50 per year) gets me practically any text on IT that I could need. And recently I just signed up to Domestika (P730 per year) for weekly curated classes in art.

A few years ago, little of this existed, or they were priced out of range. And now, we’re practically awash in learning material. Just about the only thing you need to allocate is time, and with a little discipline and organization, it’s actually possible to keep on learning, well into retirement. I know that’s what I’ll be doing, if only to stave off Alzheimer’s.