How to decide what to study?

You realize you’re getting old when they ask you for career tips. 🙂

Jokes aside, this is a subject that interests me a lot, and in these career conversations, a question often appears:

Among so many options of subjects and technologies available, how do I choose what to study first?

To answer this question, I imagined a process (maybe a framework?)

The first step is to exercise your artistic gifts (which I don’t have) and create a series of circles with you at the center:

Three empty circles overlapping with a thinking person emoji in the center

In the first circle around you, write down the topics/technologies that, if you specialize, will have the most significant impact on your career right now. For example, I’ll make my drawing:

Three overlapping circles with a thinking person emoji in the center and filled topics in the first circle

Right now, in June 2022, the topics that impact my performance most are Go, Kubernetes, Performance, and Kafka. So these are the subjects that I will delve a lot into in the coming weeks and months, as they are the ones that will help a lot in my results.

Then we can fill in the next circle:

Three overlapping circles with a thinking person emoji in the center and filled topics in the two inner circles

These are equally important and interesting subjects, but I will focus less on them in the short term. Instead, whenever I find a topic related to them, I’ll save it in a bookmark, Notion document, To-Do list, etc., to go deeper in another time.

And the last circle, I fill in subjects that I won’t go into too much depth at this point, but I want to keep on my radar. I wish to have superficial knowledge for them because I know it will be meaningful soon.

Three overlapping circles with a thinking person emoji in the center and topics filled in the three circles

I will observe subjects out of these circles from afar, at most knowing what they are for, their advantages, etc. For example, the entire “crypto” universe or even the frontend development, although exciting, I won’t look at it now, as they don’t have much impact on my short- and medium-term performance. With that, I gained focus and decreased the FOMO syndrome.

Another critical point is to review this chart as you progress in your career or change teams or companies. You can have more than one diagram, maybe one for work and one for your hobbies. The speed at which you create new charts will depend on many factors such as new projects, your pace of learning, etc. An extra suggestion is to save the diagrams as you create new ones, so you can have a history of what you focused on at each moment of your career.

I hope this technique is as valuable for you as it has been to me.

P.S. I accept name suggestions for this diagram. 🙂