I find people very interesting. So interesting, in fact, that when I meet someone new, I generally ask overly detailed questions about their lives. I blame it on my undergrad experience in anthropology (professional people watching). Well, of all the wonderful people I’ve met in digital advertising, none of them have an academic background in digital advertising. No, we’re a bunch of misfits, in a good sense of the word.
This being the case, and given the pace of industry development, we’re all subject to a pretty steep learning curve that never plateaus. And while there are definite benefits to being a master of one skill, having the ability to quickly pick up new skills goes a long way. Often, the biggest challenge in this process is finding a useful source of information.
Youtube may come to mind first. You can learn just about anything on Youtube if you’re willing to search hard enough. The problem with Youtube tutorials, though, is that they often lack context or access to prerequisite information, e.g., I’ll never be able to knit that stuffed cat if you teach me only the two-strand method, and not the cast-on method. Come on. However, there are some well-hidden resources out there that solve this problem and can take you from no experience to expert within a matter of weeks. Here are three of my favorites:
1. Khan Academy
Their home page says it all. You can learn anything. The really great thing about Khan Academy is the breadth of information available. Oh, and it’s free. Khan covers traditional academic subjects, particularly mathematics, but also offers courses on programming and other subjects which are very valuable to those of us who spend a significant portion of our days in Excel. Sure, some of the classes are obviously geared toward younger users. But who cares. Part of learning a new skill is recognizing that we don’t know as much as we’d like to think we do, and learning in a somewhat elementary setting really drives that point home.
If you’re looking to build on the generalist type of skills that Khan Academy teaches with more industry-specific skills, you definitely need to subscribe to Lynda.com. A membership can be had for about $25/month, an amount which is grossly undervaluing the service if you use it regularly. Lynda started as a resource for creative tutorials, but quickly grew into a site where you can learn just about anything dealing with technology. Photography, software development, web design, analytics, SEO, or (cough cough) paid search. You could go from not knowing a single line of code to advanced object-oriented scripting all on Lynda, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves learning.
The final benefit of these resources is their tendency to lead you to other valuable information dumps. Since the courses are generally taught by experts in certain fields, who often learned their crafts before these tutorial aggregations were available, you’ll often be directed to bookmark other longstanding reference sites. Take w3schools.com for example. This is a site that houses an enormous reference library of coding logic and syntax. It’s very indicative of the high-quality information you will stumble upon when you shift your learning to a dedicated instructional site.
Now, go learn something.