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Some might argue this question is too general, but because keeping up seems especially relevant to programming, is anyone's experience that:

  • do employers expect you to stay current? what is the "industry standard" of expected time a programmer should spend keeping up-to-date?
  • is it generally acceptable that a programmer can spend some time during working hrs on meeting the expectation to keep skills current? If not, how do most programmers find the time?
  • -
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closed as not a real question by Walter, Robert Harvey, gnat, BЈовић, Yannis Nov 27 '12 at 20:06

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's no industry standard(s) at all as far as I'm aware. There are some practices that I've seen. Some good (G), some bad (B).

  • (G) Training courses when adopting a new technology. I've seen companies, on a number of occasions, bring in an educator to give training sessions to their developers (or a select few) for a couple of days on a new technology that the company is adopting for their product(s).
  • (G/B) Reimbursement for certifications. It's common that most companies will reimburse the cost of certifications, if you pass the test. That's great. The bad part is that they will often require that you stay with the company for x months to keep the reimbursement - even though the studying and learning resources were paid for by the student/employee and performed on employee time.
  • (B) "Hiring for passion" Lots of companies try to hire specifically "passionate" developers. I assert that their motives for doing so are that passionate developers research/study/learn on their own time, and the company doesn't have to contribute to it.
  • (G) Conferences: in rare cases, I've seen companies send employees (usually 1-3), as attendees, to conferences and then present the material when they return. I've only ever seen this in large companies. Upon returning, the employees generally always have to provide notes and sometimes present the topics that they covered/learned at the conference. This is often huge conferences (recently ther was build, for eg) or highly specialized conferences (paris game ai conference for eg).
  • (G) In house lectures: At one company I worked at, we had something that worked really well. Each week, at our team meeting (team of 14 or so) one person from the team would give a lecture/whatever about something they were really interested in. It didn't have to specifically have anything to do with the technology used in the company. It was capped at 20 minutes. I presented automated testing Azure applications for example.

All of that said, I have never heard of any company, even those that are known for being amazing employers, that permit employees time to specifically study/learn on the clock. There are scenarios where the project implies it (proofs of concepts for unknown technologies/etc.) and I've seen that, but not general learning. ("20% time" is different because those projects are generally focused on producing something and is a way for companies to incubate ideas instead of allowing developers to learn/grow)

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I hadnt noticed that interpretation on Hiring for passion, which I see frequently in job posts. If the employer didn t just say it but actually supported it with some time during working hrs, Ill take 'hiring for passion' any day though over the others, – T. Webster Nov 25 '12 at 7:33
and letting programmers learn for some hrs @work might even be cheaper than both paying salary AND the costs of training – T. Webster Nov 25 '12 at 7:34
Is it really evil to hire for passion? Invariably, they're the developers who I'd work with again. And as an employer, they're the people I get the best results from. It's not about avoiding cost (they "usually" cost more). – rupjones Nov 25 '12 at 10:25
@SnOrfus, I've had a similar experience of telling about interesting topics once a week. It was our (developers') initiative and lasted only for a short while. Was it your or the management's idea in your case? – superM Nov 25 '12 at 16:07
@superM: It was managements idea. So much so that when they instituted the practice, and everyone was skiddish about giving presentations people were encouraged to present anything at all that they wanted (family vacations, gun collections, whatever). – Steve Evers Nov 25 '12 at 18:41

Somewhat. I'd think it unrealistic to expect being up to date on everything though if one is working within a specific area, there may be an expectation to stay up to date within that realm of knowledge. This does set dangerous precedents since one could accumulate knowledge on various systems and be expected to keep track of all of it in their head. I doubt there is an "industry standard" given the range of different demands from different developers. If a developer is working in a Research & Development lab, then I'd suspect lots of time would be spent exploring technologies that is different than developers in an IT department that may work on customizing software either developed in-house or bought off-the-shelf. I can remember getting training on some software or some time to experiment with new stuff that was down this route but I'm not sure how standard this would be.

No though there can be exceptions here. My experience is that there will be some time spent developing skills though this is mostly on an "as needed" basis and thus it isn't something easy to plan. If a bug comes up in a part of a code base I don't know, then I'll spend some time learning that code base. Similarly, there may be slow times where developers could work on technical debt rather than new features as some companies may not want to do a release in December and thus the developers get that month to do the various housekeeping things that have been left until there was some bandwidth.

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I think what this question really goes to is what makes a good employer. A good employer will encourage employees to continue developing their skills and will not only allow, but encourage employees to further their skills "On the clock"

This includes the many good things that @SnOrfus mentioned.

Not a bad question if phrased correctly to ask of a potential employer in an interview.

Good companies will even reimburse for getting a higher college degree.

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