As a consultant, an engineer, or just any employee, you are responsible to provide solutions to challenges and issues you face on the workfloor. No no, let me say it this way, you are responsible to come up with ideas to improve a situation, make it more efficient. Or, in other words, you have to have a lot of knowledge and a certain way of thinking, being analytical. Simple. But knowledge is something you can develop. And one thing you always have to have on mind. You are responsible for your own personal development...
I have been employed by two companies that were very strong on this; Sogyo and ThoughtWorks. Both are solution providers, mostly focussed on the software. They both used agile methodologies, development practices, like pair programming, cod reviews, etc. All to ensure the delivery of excellence. Especially this, the delivery of quality and outstanding results, expected that engineers keep themselves up-to-date. They reserved time for this and organized meetups, for personnel and the software development community. I have learned a lot from this, but one thing that both of them did was allowing you a mentor (or sponsor).
This is not a coach that helps you to find your way around the company in the first few weeks or months, but a person that helps you with career development. It is not that he or she defines targets, but sits down with you and discuss about issues you face, knowledge gaps you might have, etc. My mentor at Sogyo, Edwin van Dillen, has been very inspirational. It made me want to mentor other people... and this what I do now for new contributors to Open Source, and software communities in general. Always, when you can, look for a mentor. Someone who can help you along the way to improve yourself. But improvement is also something you can do yourself. Never stop learning. We call this Continuous Improvement.
So, one of the things I often get is the question of 'what should I read'? I generally do not promote books that much, as a lot of technology books are dated by the time they are printed. I'd rather refer to a good blog post or living content that gets updated regularly. However, there is always this list of books that are timeless. They have been inspirational or defining in the knowledgd they provide. And this is something I want to start adding to my blog, a review or discussion of a book that helped me in my career. Books that I even bought again either as ePub or PDF after I moved to the other side of the world. I started to compile a list on my Knowledge Base* repository as a reference to others, but thought I would be a better idea to post them here with a short intro. So, look for the next post in the category 'Books'.