5 low-cost tricks for keeping up with new technologies

Technology change has always been fast, but now it’s even faster. The current wave started with the famed foursome -- social, mobile, analytics and cloud – and has been quickly followed by emerging technologies like Internet of Things, robotics, 3-D printing, wearables, augmented reality and more.

However, not every workplace offers IT pros the chance to get their hands on these technologies, whether to bulk up their resume, sharpen their skills or just because they want to. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to gain some exposure.

“It’s really important to get hands-on experience with relevant technologies or add new skills to maintain your market value,” said Hallie Yarger, regional recruiting director at Mondo. Here are some ways to stay up to date and even get up-close and personal with emerging technologies.

1. Keep up with the news
With the volume of sources covering new tech developments, it’s a challenge to develop a curated news feed that works best for you. For Kyle Sheth, an industrial designer at Intelligent Product Solutions, however, it’s an essential part of his job, if not the company’s culture.

Each morning, Sheth takes time to check his Chrome plug-in that aggregates the news of the day, “from something the MIT robotics team has done, to a college kid who’s come up with a new way to style a button that provides a delightful user interaction,” he said.

In his work on physical product design, mobile apps, websites and web apps, Sheth keeps up with blogs and websites like Engadget, TechCrunch, Digg and Github, as well as portfolios from students or professors to see how they’re applying libraries of code. “Developments on the forefront don’t always make the headlines, so you need to stay pretty tapped in,” he said. The Verge is also a daily read. “They report on what’s going on with a certain amount of levity that I appreciate,” he said.

Sheth also relies on his work colleagues to share their insights gathered from their own news aggregators, whether via Skype messages or in the breakroom. “No one mandates that we share this information; it’s part of the company culture that we want to find these innovative technologies and figure out how to use them creatively for our clients,” he said. “We’ve become a news source for each other.”

Which news source you choose really depends on how much time you have to dedicate to the task, Yarger said. “For the everyday person who wants to be up-to-date at a conversational level, it’s important to check out the industry-standard news sites and blogs,” she said. “If you want to add to your market value, you need to keep up with the trends and the most recent versions of the technology you have experience in,” Yarger said.

Meanwhile, Yarger said, tech pros use Twitter to get real-time updates. To keep the tweet volume at bay, Yarger suggests identifying 25 or so power players to follow.