How can we stay relevant in technology?
“Today’s illiteracy is not about how to write and read; it is all about how to learn, unlearn and relearn.”
We can all nod to the universal fact that staying relevant and keeping up with the pace in technology is one huge challenge for most technical women and men. Keeping technical skills relevant and current is key to advancing and retaining women in the field. Change is inevitable—this is especially true in the IT industry where changes in various levels are commonplace.
It is undoubtedly this dynamic nature of the IT industry that has enabled it to develop leaps and bounds since the introduction of the first computers. However, this rate is peaking drastically in both direction and acceleration. Well, all this is good and means well to the entire IT industry and its development, but the average woman in technology is dragging behind and struggle to keep up with all the changes and updates.
Why does this happen?
Such women often find themselves in deep waters when organisations re-tool, outsource or downsize. This is a typical pattern of dropping the legacy tool employees and hiring recruits with new and updated skills required to improve the organisation’s performance. Education on IT industry trends never ends, whatever you study at university needs constant update regardless of the level of study.
Technology is the future and finding and keeping a job is getting more and more challenging as job security in technology is very unstable. Even the most skilled are concerned about what will happen to them after five years. This threat is no longer about “loyal employees” or “long-term employees” but rather the capable individuals or the adaptive employees in the face of change and those flexible enough to change direction when it calls.
As a woman, I have never felt discriminated against or scared to try something new. I often attribute my 23 years of success in technology to the fact I have not been afraid to try something new. I jump all in and have been successful in many leadership and technology roles. I stay curious, I collaborate, I connect and I commit!…but I am acutely aware this is not the case for a lot of brilliant women.
I realised that my real passion was enabling women to be their best after a series of events over six months. My passion for elevating women in technology began long ago, and it was driven by three subsequent reasons:
Firstly, I moved into an executive role, where I was accountable for a $200m digital portfolio and 1000 people. Unfortunately moving my focus from people leadership to delivery outcomes.
Secondly, I was developing a STEM technology work experience program for high school students. During this time, I uncovered the bias, shortage, and challenges that face building and retaining a pipeline of women.
Lastly (what sums the concept altogether) — my 12-year-old daughter once asked what the STEM work experience program was all about and said to me “…so you are helping girls like me get into technology because the world needs girl power to build awesome things? “ It is from that question that I realised that my two daughters look up to me as their role model. My 12year old girl loves building websites and my 17-year-old loves organising and helping people (and will make an exceptional project manager).
Every day, I have to set a pace for them; ensure they’re up to date with the current system, encourage and support their new skills. Keeping skills current is quite essential to any individual’s future technology. The past few years, precisely during this economic crisis, many women have taken up roles with legacy and proprietary toolsets within corporates primarily thinking that their role in the organisation will be more stable and less risky.
So, the big question is—How do we stay relevant in technology? Here are some “life hacks” that we can incorporate in order to stay up to date with the current fast pacing technology.
Three tips for staying relevant
Never stop learning
Never stop learning
Technology is the only industry that applies the adage of “learning never stop.” To stay relevant in technology, you have to remain open to new information and take on innovative approaches as well as progressive techniques. In short, you have to be a ‘hands on’ learner. Read, watch, research; practice …repeat is the order of the day. You have to open your mind to knowledge from literally anything that comes your way.
According to an article by Kim Turley, a director of technology, “There’s no shortage of digital resources to help you identify new technologies in the market.” He points that Tech Radar—a tool that reports findings from companies within the technology industry and one that helps shed some light on the current technologies that are about to be adopted and those on the edge of the mainstream is one of his favourites. Others include Venture Beat, Recode and Tech Crunch.
Social media also comes in handy in sharing relevant information about technology. Also, put into consideration what is more relevant to you and consider searching for information from appropriate sources. For instance, if you are a business enthusiast in the technology industry, you may want to look for information about technology that is unique to the business.
Google is the best assistant for any inquisitive individual. Learn to ask questions and follow up the answers. It is what makes experts become excellent at what they do. You do not need to be a rocket science genius to understand everything that you come across, but it is upon you to ensure that you understand. If staying relevant to new technology is your passion, then you must be curious and active enough to find information that you don’t know, so that you can push yourself to learn more.
“In technology advancement not knowing what you don’t know and not continually asking questions and being curious, is the worst form of ignorance.”
Passion motivates you and awareness is vital. Just knowing enough, is half the battle. Our eyes and ears should be wide open to both small and massive shifts in the industry. Our attitude also plays a role in the process, because unless we remain open-minded to change and ready to embrace changes, we will not be able to be inquisitive or yearn to learn more.
Once you have prepared your mind for changes in what it used to know before, the next step is moving to the new systems. I know this must probably be the hardest part, but once you get into the swing of things, everything becomes easy. Spencer Johnson once said in his New York Times bestseller Who Moved My Cheese? That “The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you enjoy new cheese.”
In our case, the cheese is acquiring information and updating ourselves. Thus, the earlier we get informed and adapt to tech change, the sooner we get a competitive edge over the others as well as staying relevant in the industry.
For women in technology, it is very easy to be left behind, particularly if you are a family person. With kids, a husband and relatives to look out for, you may actually find that you lack time to fit in this extra work. You may start feeling like you are not going to make it and even begin contemplating your failure.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”
–Thomas Alva Edison
Well, the truth is that there is no fail-proof method in technology—it is either you do it and get it, or you don’t. Staying static is the most guaranteed way of failing, and therefore, you have to look at it from a different perspective. Sparing your 20 minutes researching to keep yourself updated every day is enough to get you staying relevant in your field. Don’t be afraid of failing. Instead, put in more effort and you will remain top.
It is all about learning, unlearning and relearning
With the current trends in technology, varying from AR, VR, ML, AI to blockchain and Bionics have all opened a gamut of challenging opportunities for the IT professionals. For one to harness these opportunities; however, they need to unlearn and relearn the game. The technology industry is very demanding in the type of experts it needs as it demands people who will make businesses not just flexible and competitive but also more responsive.
As Josh Kaufman, the owner of ‘The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!’ stated….
“When I was learning to code, I bought over 20 books on the subject. I thought the best way to learn was to read the books, and THEN try to write my own program. The reality was the opposite: I only started to develop real skills when I used three introductory books to identify a few critical ideas, then spent my time actually writing programs. Do your homework, then shift to real practice as quickly as possible. Practicing the skill in context is the only thing that generates lasting results.”
Sometimes, it may require you to begin from scratch—an often-disheartening procedure to commit your time and energy to because it often renders our experiences null and disqualifies our many years of experiences. Not forgetting to mention that growing again to reach the same level is already a daunting and extensive task…but what is the alternative – not learning and falling behind?
So my question to you, how are you staying relevant in tech?
If you find yourself asking ‘how do I stay relevant?’, please arrange for a complimentary consult today to discuss your needs.