Learning more about technology involves not only research but application. And I think that’s where a lot of people fall short in terms of increasing their tech skills.
The question is, if you already have a full time job, how are you supposed to increase your technology skills within it? Here are some ideas we’ve had about that (all things I’ve actually tried in less technological jobs than I have now!)
1) Propose a technological solution for a non-technological problem.
Let’s say you hear your boss mentioning the uptick in customer service phone calls related to the release of your latest product. You could offer to create an orientation video showing the product’s features or FAQ section for the website addressing specific concerns after interviewing several customer service representatives. Make sure you get permission from your supervisor before you do this (and get your actual work done!), but in demonstrating you can solve problems with technology, your boss will be much more interested in your next idea. And if what you do becomes a hit, you might find yourself with a modified job description!
When I used to work at a school, there was lots of technology but none of the teachers were using it. So rather than another memo, I started a monthly ‘Tech Thursday’ for the teachers. They could come after school and for an hour learn about something technical, like setting up the LCD projector or using iMovie. I’d try to make it fun, like giving out a prize to the person that could set up the LCD projector the fastest. School leadership was appreciative that I tried to help them tackle the issue and I got a once a month excuse to learn something new.
2) Do volunteer work with a technological slant.
Many jobs not only allow but compensate individuals for doing some kind of volunteer work. Consider a volunteer opportunity with a technological slant that is related to what you want to learn, like teaching a computer course at the assisted living center, running a robotics team at your local middle school, or redesigning the website of a local non-profit. This work will not only teach you your new skills but in teaching what you learn to others, you’ll solidify your knowledge.
In my old job at the newspaper, I volunteered at a local middle school starting a tech club called Zoey’s Room. I had to help the girls troubleshoot tech issues and had a lot of fun. On the days I did that, I just came in an hour early into work to get what I needed to done.
3) Find a technology mentor in your company.
Just because you work in the sales or accounting doesn’t mean you only have to associate with others in your department. Seek out a potential mentor in your company who has a more technical role, and offer to take them to lunch. When it becomes clear that you aren’t gunning for their job but simply want to learn more about, say, PHP programming, your new mentor will likely be excited about your interest. You can then figure out a structure that works well for you, whether it’s ‘learning sessions’ 30 minutes a week or collaborating on a company project together. Your employer will likely be excited about cross department collaboration and the potential that brings.
I’ve had many mentors since starting this business who are more tech savvy than myself. That said, a mentor relationship is one of give and take so I tried to use my skills to help my mentors out in return for their generosity with their time and knowledge. Like with Matt, I try to draft emails, manage projects and do other tasks to make his life easier while he teaches me about, say, advanced CSS.
4) Document what you learn.
Whether you record what you learn in a blog, on a Youtube channel, or even presentations you upload to Slideshare, documenting what you learn using technology not only increases your skills but allows the world outside your job to see you as an expert in your chosen technological field. This might turn into a new employment opportunity or simply a way to help others out not as far along in their learning process as you are. Either way, it’s good for you and the world. This blog started as a way, in part, to document what I was learning… and turned into something even more amazing than I could ever expect. But it wouldn’t have come my way if I wasn’t putting my ideas out there.
We live in a world where technology infiltrates almost every job… and if it doesn’t, there are easy ways for you to increase its role within your work. Get more tech in your work life, you’ll be smarter and happier for it.