To Stay on Top of Tech — Read More8 Jun, 2022 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager’s Column: The best way to stay in front of new technology, software, trends, and issues is to read more daily, weekly, and monthly — how do you best find the time and how do you use your time wisely?
The last few years have been stressful for CAD managers as the pandemic forced work-from-home support problems to the forefront of our day and the ever-changing licensing schemes, cloud products, and software updates made the job even tougher. We’ve had to rethink almost everything about how the procurement, implementation, and software support, without going insane. But, how can we keep up with it all? It turns out that reading more is the best weapon we have and in this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter we’ll explore a few strategies to do just that. Here goes.
Image source: Scanrail/stock.adobe.com.
Just Read More
Every month I wade through a huge amount of press releases, blog posts, tweets, articles, and reviews for all manner of software, hardware, and training resources. There’s a lot to read out there and — let’s be honest — not all of it is worth your time.
The most effective CAD managers I know read as much as they can from a wide range of sources, so they are immersed in a variety of news, opinions, and technical content. Further, they make reading a routine part of their day/week/month, so they are always current. Here is my personal day/week/month reading strategy for your consideration:
Quick social scan. I sign up for notifications from CAD-centric LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and follow vendors via Twitter. If something big is happening that impacts the CAD world, you’re likely to see it in these locations first. I don’t dwell on social media — as it can consume way too much time — but I do find a daily check-in to be of help. Tip: Check social media feeds in the morning.
Read a business paper/blog daily. I read the Wall Street Journal but you can substitute any good daily business paper or blog that is relevant for your country. The reason I recommend this is that we only have a job because the business we work for has projects to complete. The better you understand the business environment you operate in, the more you’ll understand market ups and downs that could impact your career. Tip: Read your business paper on lunch break to give your mind a break from CAD and project issues.
Browse a good IT resource weekly. As CAD managers, we need to be aware of advances in hardware, networks, operating systems, and mobile devices so we can plan. The best place to read about these types of topics is in an IT-focused magazine or blog. I’ve read InfoWorld and CNET for years and have found them to be a fantastic resource for all sorts of IT topics.
Read bloggers and vendor sites weekly. These are the trusted authors, vendors, email newsletters, and blogs that “speak to me” most. Create a reading list or dedicated email folder for these items and read through them once a week so you can really focus on your reading. Tip: I do my weekly reading items on Friday afternoons as a reward for making it through the week and to energize my mind for the week ahead.
Read professional journals bi-weekly or monthly. Any magazines, trade publications, or information that is relevant to the industry you operate in as well as CAD magazines typically publish monthly. Tip: I simply read these as they show up.
Conclusion. By creating a reading structure, I find that I can ease in a habit of reading to enrich and reward my mind with new concepts.
Read the Good, Ditch the Junk
When you read any given press release, blog post, tweet, review, or journal article you want to get right to the meat of the content and quickly decide if you should spend your valuable time reading it in its entirety. I use a triage approach when sorting through my daily/weekly/monthly reading to make a read or no-read decision on each item, thus allowing me to focus on the good stuff. Here are some strategies I’ve found useful:
Read the last paragraph first. A well written article/post should have a comprehensive summary paragraph that states what you should have learned from the article. By skipping to the summary, I instantly know what the article was about (at least in general terms) so I can decide if reading the whole piece will be of use. If I can’t quite decide whether reading the whole thing will be worth it, I’ll read the introductory paragraphs to make my decision.
Look for bold text and bullet lists. If an article is worth reading, then you want to get to the meat of the piece right away. I visually scan through the piece to see which items are highlighted and/or bulleted to get a feel for which sections pertain to my needs. I find this method especially valid for new software updates where a bulleted list of features will tell you whether spending more reading time is worthwhile.
Avoid buzzword-laden marketing articles. Perhaps no other terms are more abused than “collaboration” and “cloud” in today’s CAD literature. Phrases like “enabling enterprise-level collaboration” or “facilitating cloud-leveraged group collaboration” are dead giveaways that you’re reading something generated by the marketing department. Of course, if you’re trying to learn about collaborative platforms or want to see what the marketing spin on something is, then read on, but if you’re trying to get concrete information about a new product/software release, skip the marketing fluff and move on to the next article.
Conclusion. By triaging your reading list you’ll spend less total time on reading, but will learn more by focusing on only the material that makes sense for your current needs.
Expand your Reading List
Now that you can sort through your reading list more efficiently, it is time to explore new sources of information you may not have thought of. Here are a few ideas that have served me well over the years:
Setup Google alerts. By logging into your Google account and going here you can setup automatic alerts based on any keywords or phrases that are important to you. Google will then chug through the internet continuously and send you email alerts when your criteria are met. This is very useful.
Google for problem-based technical resources. Considering upgrading your CAD department to AcmeCAD 4.2 this year? Well then make sure you Google “AcmeCAD 4.2 problems” and see what comes up. Many times you will find non-software vendor support forms or user groups that have resources worth reading. Better still, setup a Google alert on “AcmeCAD 4.2 implementation” to reduce the drudgery of searching.
Ask your friends. Rather than just asking friends if they know the answer to a certain problem, why not ask them what resources they enjoy reading? Over the years, I’ve found many authors/bloggers via friendly referrals.
Conclusion. By continually seeking out new reading resources you’re much more likely to find useful tips, tricks and strategies that you can adapt to your CAD management workload.
There’s an old saying that goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I’ve found that the best way to find out what you don’t know is to read a wide variety of resources. By being open to new information you may find new ways to approach your job and become more efficient at not just technology but management as well.
One thing we do know is that as software and IT technology continues to change, the burden of staying abreast of that change will continue to be a challenge for CAD managers. I hope this edition of The CAD Manager’s Newsletter has given you some ideas for building a reading list, getting into a reading routine and expanding your information access. Until next time.