Finite Resources vs Infinite Knowledge

A lot of people don’t understand why I like to speak to the PHP Community so much; since I am a database person. The truth is that I am not a database person, I am a Software Engineer that happens to know a lot about databases and likes them.

Sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zone to discover what we really enjoy doing, and that was no different for me. A lot of developers have to learn a specialized skill set at work because either they are the only technical resource available, or the only ones willing to put in the work to learn the needed skills. And that includes DevOps, Data Engineers, Test Engineers, SREs, etc.

But being the single resource is not an excuse to attempt being the Jack-of-all-trades at your company.

Maybe you’ve heard the commonplace myth: “You are only a REAL programmer if you code ALL the time”. I understand the drive, which sometimes is almost like a mania, to learn a new thing because it is cool and makes your head spin, but there is only so much that a brain can take without a break.

Life is out there too, outside of this screen. You may have responsibilities that don’t allow you to dedicate as much time as you might want to spend coding, or may make you not want to do so. And you know what? That is NORMAL. Most human beings in the world don’t bring their work home and continue working until they get exhausted.

Maybe you’re not bringing your work home, but are exhausting yourself trying to “keep up”, for example, with all the new JavaScript frameworks and what’s changed from one to another. You may succeed for awhile (again, they have a LOT of frameworks), but what is the price you are paying for it? Is it your body all tensed up? Having trouble to sleep? Anxiety? Compulsion? We all pay a price when we overwork on something.

If you are at a gym and overwork yourself you will feel physical pain, but on this knowledge high the consequences may take a while to appear. I am no doctor, but I have experience, and in my case, my brain AND my body charged a high price for my constant striving. You can read a bit more about that in this post.

I have a few tips that may help depending on how disciplined and open-minded you can be:

  • Book a time on your calendar for recurring studies that you wish to learn. I am not saying for you to book a 3h slot five times a week, but start small, maybe a 30 min session twice a week or a book chapter per session?
  • I am also not talking about stuff you need to learn to do the basics of your job. For example: Your company decides to move the entire stack to Node.js; it’s one thing to study a bit at home, and another to completely move your learning curve out of your working hours. THAT is not ok.
  • Learn something different than your craft, have hobbies, they are a good escape valve. Book time to spend on your hobbies.
  • Avoid as much as possible bringing work home. One thing you can do is to not check email after 6 pm. Close out of it completely, as well as Slack, and any other apps that might rope you back into thinking about work on your off hours. I guarantee that if stuff is on fire, someone *will* call you.
  • Your GitHub is not your résumé. I know a lot of people that are excellent Software Engineers and aren’t on GitHub due to work in private sectors like banks, for instance.

And be yourself. Putting a facade is tiresome, energy draining, and honestly? Useless. It’s more frustrating to you to put up a show than to be honest with people about your strengths and shortcomings.

For this 2019 I wish you all the wisdom to be able to better take care of yourself.

You can reach me at or on Twitter @gabidavila (My DMs are open).