In Ivanti’s recent survey about Women in Tech, participating women shared what they thought is the most important skill to have in order to work in a technology-related field:

  1. A desire to learn
  2. An enthusiasm for understanding how things work
  3. An ability to communicate effectively about complex subjects
  4. A science, math, or technical degree

I have spent the past 20 years working in tech. I moved to tech after realizing that I just didn’t have the skills (read: bedside manner) to work in physical therapy. (Those who know me are totally agreeing with that statement.) I found tech to be exciting every day.

I worked with lots of different people. Some were wildly successful, while others moved on to other fields. I found a few things that seemed to be consistent with those who were successful working in technology. 

Learn How to Learn

First and foremost, learn how to learn. You need skills in the area you are working in. This doesn’t have to be a formal college degree, but you need to know what you are talking about. If you don’t have this, you won’t be taken seriously.

Stay Relevant

Technology changes fast. It’s hard to keep on top of it, but you need to. Many of the languages, frameworks, and tools that are being used now weren’t around even a few years ago. To get started and to stay relevant, spend time following blogs, watch online courses, and just try new things out. 

Present With Confidence

After you’ve started learning, present what you know with confidence. It will earn you the respect of your peers, and you will be surprised at how much more seriously you are taken. This can be hard, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets. Besides, the adventure is one of the reasons to love working in tech. Some of the new technologies you will love, some you will loathe, but almost all of it will change.

Learn to Take Criticism

Next, learn to take criticism. If you are perfect in every situation and in every way, that is wonderful; please skip this item. However, for the rest of us there is always room for improvement. The kindest thing someone can do is to let you know what they see that is holding you back. It’s never fun to hear criticism, but look at it as a gift. Sure, you may not want that gift, but learning to accept feedback will pay off.

Code reviews (where someone gives feedback on your code) are a part of life for software engineers. I have seen them end in tears. But you aren’t your code, and no one has ever been a perfect coder. Coding patterns evolve. Other people see code differently. Learning to embrace that will only improve your skills. My biggest improvements have been made through code reviews. Sometimes I look back at my code after a week or two and want to rewrite it because I have learned better ways to do it.

Learn to Compromise

Learn to compromise. Compromise is often seen as what you need to give up. However, I see compromise as the synergistic effects of a decision where the sum of the parts is greater than the individual components. The goal is to contribute to the solution. Be flexible and take advantage of the different experiences people have had. It will save you from some very bad decisions – trust me on this.

Learn to Fail

Learn to fail.  Really, if you can’t make mistakes, you aren’t learning or growing. You are going to mess up. You are going to make dumb mistakes, and you are going to make mistakes that are impressive. 

When you’re learning to give a presentation, the first few (or maybe more if you resemble me) will be awkward and uncomfortable. Just remember that the next one is always better. Be comfortable with failing. It’s part of life. And you get bonus points if you can learn to look back and laugh at your failures. You will help others to feel comfortable with their fails. 

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