How can I convince my boss to let me learn a shiny new technology?

July 5, 2021

So you’ve been a Python programmer for a decade, and you want to try the shiny new Go language. Or maybe AWS has become second nature to you, but you want to skill-up to Kubernetes and Helm. How can you make the case to your boss to let you spend the time?

First, realize that introducing a new technology usually means taking on new risk. And risk is something most managers are trained to avoid. So your enthusiasm for the shiny new thing probably won’t translate to enthusaism from your boss.

So the key is to find some value that your new learning will provide to your boss. Of course there’s no guaranteed formula, but here are some suggestions.

  • Improved performance. When I first learned Go, it was to speed up a task previously handled by an incredibly slow Perl script. Go’s concurrency features made it a great fit for the task at hand. What performance can be gained with your new tool/language of choice?
  • Simplified maintenance. Is your team struggling with repetitive or fragile maintenance tasks? Can your tool help solve this problem?
  • Streamlined development. Most new tools and languages slow down development in the short term as you and others learn how to use them. But if they have a proven track record in the industry, you may be able to make the case.
  • Easier hiring. Sometimes adding a new tool, or even switching entirely to a new tool, can make hiring easier, especially if you’re currently using niche or outdated tools.