On Picking Up A New Skill

By Martin Castillo on 2020-10-10

45  Comments/Replies

One Morning

My wife asked why I still want to learn a new skill, namely website development, now that I am retired. She adds that my time would be better spent on something `more productive` rather than spend countless hours doing what she thought was a meaningless and unattractive exercise.

My short reply ("Because I like doing it.") may have sounded not quite convincing or failed to encourage her to look from my perspective of what would constitute an adventure worthy of one`s time and effort.

An Overflowing Enthusiasm

Sensing that my enthusiasm for it is overflowing, she would politely drop the conversation but not without an unmistakable hint that she still prefers to not cross over the fence just yet which is also fine with me, anyway. No sweat.

Nonetheless, she fully supports me on this. No doubt about that. That`s why I love her no end (She could probably be reading this blog, too, so, there.)

The Big Question

But, really now, would learning a new skill this late in my life, or anyone`s life for that matter, be a wise move that makes for a worthy investment of one`s time? This is a question that will probably earn as many answers as there are people asked the same.

For me, the answer is a no-brainer. Improving one`s skill set should not be shoved against any limiting factor, much less age, for as long as one has the passion, the time, and available resources, to name a few.

But, why web development? One might ask. Well, for one, I am always intrigued by anything that has so much utilitarian value more especially so if it exploits current technology.

And conveniently in my case, some needed resources are already on hand like computers, wifi, reference books, tutorial youtube videos, specific online courses, slack chat groups focused on particular interests, and others.

An Investment Too Precious To Let Go

Another compelling reason that made the decision easy and predictable is the fact that I already have invested ample time developing software for small and medium businesses from the early 1990s to 2002 before I migrated to the US.

That`s a decade`s worth of self-teaching and countless hours of sleepless nights pounding on the keyboard with books on hand and conferences with supportive friends who share the same dream. All that was done in whatever free time I still had after teaching hours and family bonding time.

A Mortal Sin Of Omission

Therefore, to not make use of the core programming concepts that I gained in the course of those formative years designing, creating, developing, installing, updating, maintaining software and training personnel is a giant of a mortal sin of omission that I can not free or forgive myself from.

Needless to say, it`s a use-it-or-lose-it kind of a proposition. So, the choice was, well, predictable.

An Invaluable Help

It`s only been five months since I decided to get myself wet and swim in this sea called Web Design and Development. I would be lying if I claimed I did not entertain any uncomfortable amount of initial fear and insecurity as I first started with unsure but measured baby steps.

Beyond the needed systems integration and infrastructure like computers, fast internet connection, open-source software that were already up and running, there were still unsettling questions that I did not have answers to.

Fortunately for me, my son-in-law, Chance, who is a software developer himself, is there to put up my website domain name, installed my Apache web server, and MYSQL database server all secured in his hosting site (MCBHosting.us). Chance`s help was/is invaluable.

Not So Fast

With those imperatives in place, I thought everything would be comfortably downhill and I`d be merrily pounding away developing websites!

Well, not so fast. I could not be more mistaken. I soon realized I was in unfamiliar territory far removed from what I was used to in the way software development go during my time.

My exposure was on stand-alone networked applications that were not connected to the internet. Indeed, so backward if compared to today`s workplaces where web-based databases are the backbone of even the small businesses.

Sizing Up The Challenge

Prudently for me, however, I took the discomfort of that realization with a positive kick in my mental attitude against the challenge.

Instead of backing out and walking away, I made an assessment, if you will, of what I was really up against vis-a-vis the tools at my disposal.

That would include the core programming concepts tucked away in my back pocket. It turned out that the balance would tip in my favor.

A small initial victory, but enough to get me started.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

That was five months ago. Today, while there are still challenges up ahead, I could safely say that I have finally tamed the stiff learning curve for one migrating from standalone applications to the web-based interactive development paradigm.

If you allow me a small amount of horn-tooting, I think it would be fair for me to say that I have finally freed myself from the lingering shackles of standalone application development mentality.

This was my biggest hurdle, and therefore, my biggest victory as well. At least, for the time being.

One Step At A Time

While I am still far from the goals that I have set, I take comfort in the perspective that no challenge is ever too daunting for anyone who believes in the power of self-determination.

Picking up a new skill is no different. One must be willing to unlearn and let go of things he holds dear and be open to the new adventure without losing sight of the goals nor throwing caution to the wind.

Gaining Ground

My journey has only just begun. How it unfolds in the coming weeks and months will depend on how well I can clear the hurdles along the way which will certainly be plentiful.

Let me end by saying, rather shamelessly, that the mere fact that I can share this blog in a modest website that I myself created is a humble testimony in itself that I am indeed gaining ground, however minuscule, in my personal battle with Internet Technology that I intend to eventually win in the end.

I am keeping my fingers crossed, and my hopes high.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Stay Safe.

Martin Castillo used to freelance as a database consultant and software developer for small and medium businesses in the Philippines. He is currently based in Houston.

Marlou Cos —:Houston, Texas
Thanks To Picture Copyright Owners