There’s a sad thing that’s limiting our growth as programmers. We (programmers) don’t invest in ourselves like other professions. The business person will happily spend $3,000 to attend a class to improve a part of their business. The marketing person will spend $3,000 to attend a class to improve their marketing and sales copy. A programmer, on the other hand, will spend hours on YouTube watching free videos, buying a book, or worry about spending $100 on an online course, but won’t spend $3,000 to attend a class to improve their skills.

That’s the general statement of the problem. Let’s talk about the long term effects. The business person goes on to become a VP and CxO. The marketing people move up to become CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or VP Marketing or Director of Marketing. The programmers stay at about the same level. They might get an occasional promotion, but their growth is heavily constrained.

After training thousands of students at hundreds of companies, that’s the difference that stands out the most. Developers may say they invest in themselves, but they don’t invest in themselves the way their coworkers do. Their training budget is substantially less than others’.

Developers seem to expect their companies to train them. That sort of mindset gets developers into trouble. I’ve trained at the companies where training happens on a rare occasion. Those developers are far behind on the latest technology trends and have a much lower probability of success on the project. The class changes from teaching the technology or topic into a catch up session.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience to train teams who are being laid off or doing a reorganization during the training. It’s a sad thing to see happening, but I always give the same speech. A company can fire you or move you around, but they can’t take your knowledge or skill away from you. I tell them to focus on the training even more, because those skills will get them their next job. You are your best and most valuable asset. Treat yourself as such.

Let me tell you a secret about myself. When I was first starting out, I was incredibly cheap with my investments in myself. I would only buy books for my training and improvement. I improved, but nowhere near what I could have done. My growth was an occasional promotion.

I finally figured out that I wasn’t investing enough in myself. I started realizing that you get what you pay for when it comes to training and learning. There’s a reason that a class is $3,000 versus $100. There’s a tangible difference in the quality, but more importantly, there’s a massive difference in outcomes. The $3,000 class or course was an investment that gave me a 10x or 20x return. The $40 book will get maybe a 2x or 3x return.

So far, I’ve spent $17,000 out of my own pocket on training and courses. Those courses have been everything from technical, to business, to marketing courses. That might sound like a lot of your own money to spend on training. That’s how developers think about spending money and not how business and marketing people think about spending money. We see it as an investment that continues to pay off.

When I see that I’ve spent $17,000 on training and courses, I think about the value I received and created. Those classes have given me returns of 10x to 100x. That’s translated into hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for me. Remember how I talked about nothing being able to take away our newly acquired skills? Those returns of 100x are just the beginning. The value over my lifetime will be even greater.

It wasn’t until I started seeing training and courses as investments with high returns that I really started to grow. It’s really been a night and day difference in my life and career. I’ve grown from commodity enterprise engineer “A” to a brand within Big Data. Those major financial and business changes were only possible after I started really investing in myself.

You might be thinking about how much you spent (and owe) from college or university. Your technical education is a depreciating asset. You can only grow by continuing to invest in yourself and growing outside your comfort zone.

I challenge you to take an honest look at your out of pocket training budget or lack thereof. Next, I want you to think about that as an investment in yourself and what returns you could get. For example, my students who’ve went through my Big Data courses get $20,000 to $60,000 raises. Next, I want you to think about how that raise only represents a single year and not the lifetime value of that course. That’s where an investment of several thousand dollars becomes a return of more than a hundred thousand dollars.

Changing how much and your expectations about how you invest in yourself will be life-changing mindset change.