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Half life of technical knowledge June 13, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Technology, Web, Weblog.

Radioactive SymbolAbout twelve years ago during a job interview I mentioned the importance of refreshing one's technical knowledge in my line of work, which is information technology. I put forward the idea that technical knowledge has a half-life. The approximate half-life I used back then seems to still hold true today. I said the half-life of technical knowledge was six to twelve months.

The more specific and technical the knowledge, the shorter the half-life. And, the opposite is true. The less specific and the more theoretical the knowledge, the longer the half-life.

I believe it is the job of the I.T. manager to make sure that people who work in their department have both informal and formal ways to continually learn new things. Informal ways include subscribing to lists, reading specific technology web sites, and reading trade journals. More formal ways to improve their technical knowledge includes meetings with peers from other organizations, vendor provided training on specific technologies or products, and attending industry conferences.

Of course, one of the most important things in my list of things to do for I.T. professionals is to keep them stocked with technical documentation, including books published on various topics, not just the vendors' hardware or software manuals. Though, they are important, too.

Oh, in case you were wondering if I got the job twelve years ago, I did. I was in that job for six years before pursuing the job I'm presently in. This July 1st will be my six-year anniversary for my current job.



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