Coding And A Rookie Mindset Are Critical Skills For The Fourth Industrial Revolution

08/01/2016 02:31 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2017

A year from now you may wish you had started today. ― Karen Lamb

The 2016 annual meeting of the new champions panel, sponsored and hosted by the World Economic Forum recently gathered to discuss emerging technologies - artificial intelligence, mobile apps, Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data and robotics - and what economies and businesses needed to do in order to survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

One critical success factor skill and an important element of readiness for the fourth industrial revolution is the ability to code or computer programming - what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. The panel discussed the importance encouraging children in middle school and high school to learn to code.

Coding is one of the most important skills that you can acquire today, and a critical skill for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. - Marc Benioff at the World Economic Forum

Benioff noted that at many of the Salesforce events and conferences around the world, school children are invited and educated about coding and participate with hands-on training. Other examples are partnerships with organizations like CoderDojo, where kids around the world learn and love coding free of charge. Benioff was self-taught and learned coding at the age of 14. Middle school children can and should be exposed to coding curriculum so that they can be ready and able by the time they graduate from high school. For so many working professionals who did not have the opportunity to learning software development skills in school, there are opportunities to gain these life-long skills in a fairly short amount of time - this is not easy, but it is certainly doable.

One person who is championing the cause for teaching women how to learn and become computer engineering and software practitioners is Sharon Wienbar, CEO of Hackbright Academy. Ray Wang, bestselling author, CEO and founder of Constellation Research, and co-host of DisrupTV, and I spoke to Sharon about the importance of coding, especially for women who are looking to develop sustainable and successful careers in business.

Sharon is the CEO of Hackbright Academy, the engineering school for women, based in San Francisco. Sharon brings her passion for the power of education and her drive to #changetheratio in tech to Hackbright. Sharon serves on the boards of Actiance, Applause, Colfax Corp. and Everyday Health for ScaleVP.

Previously, Sharon was a Venture Capitalist at ScaleVP, where I led investments in software, internet and mobile companies. Prior to joining ScaleVP in 2001, Sharon was Vice President, Marketing for Critical Path and Amplitude Software. Sharon is a frequent public speaker and a "Always On Power Players in Digital Media Winner". She is also recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the "Top 25 Women in Tech to Follow on Twitter (@wienbar)".

Hackbright Academy is the leading engineering school for women with a mission to increase female representation in tech through education, mentorship and community. Over the last 25 years, the percentage of women pursuing technical paths has dropped significantly. While the representation of women in fields like medicine, law and physical sciences has improved, hundreds of thousands of women have fallen from the ranks of computer science. Hackbright offers a 12-week accelerated software engineering fellowship where women can learn the fundamentals of computer science and modern web development, and ultimately become software engineers.

Sharon believes that the experience at Hackbright is both intellectually and emotionally challenging. The screening process focuses on making sure the students have enough grit to be successful. The lectures and labs and paired and structured with paired partners. The students are required to collaborate and explain their logic to their fellow students - two women together, coding together and communicating constantly about the logic. This process is helpful with improving interviewing skills.

"Women have many impediments to being successful in tech - things like the imposter syndrome and the notion that we have to have checked every box in the job description to be willing to put ourselves out there," said Wienbar. The lectures and labs enable students so see evidence of their knowledge and capabilities. As the programs progress, the curriculum focuses on white boarding interview scenarios and other highly intensive scenarios where students develop skills and confidence to demonstrate their knowledge.

Every student is also mapped with three working industry mentors. The mentors can help jump start the student's professional network with contacts with working professionals, in several companies, across many industries.

Citing Marc Andreessen who famously said 'software is eating the world,' Wienbar notes that every company and institution across America is becoming a technology company - banking, retail, industrial equipment and more. Wienbar works with several companies that are undergoing digital business transformation including projects like building mobile apps. Wienbar notes that many companies have a skills gap challenges and a real need to hire and retool IT organizations.

There will be 1,000,000 unfilled software engineering jobs in the United States by 2020 per Bureau of Labor Statistics. In you look at the traditional pipeline of engineering degrees from colleges and university across the country, only 60,000 women will graduate with computer engineering degrees from 2016 to 2020. - Sharon Wienbar

When we look for successful Hackbright candidates, we see a common thread: she is a maker. Our women are cooking, sewing their own clothes, they build buildings and fences and much more. What we look for is women who can think like an engineer and a passion for making things. Making software is a very creative endeavor. The women graduates of Hackbright are capable, passionate and ready to build software and make something that matters. - Sharon Wienbar

Wienbar advises parents of daughters to help them see how and where software is that interests them. Understanding how computers work is a twenty-first century skill. Learning about computers and software is a lifelong skill. As a parent, trust yourself and be patient with your children. You can follow Wienbar on Twitter to learn more about Hackbright and the importance of computer engineering for future women technologists.

In this world, it's not what you know that matters anymore, it's how fast you can learn. - Liz Wiseman

Ray and I also learned about leadership executive development from Liz Wiseman, president of Wiseman Group and bestselling author of Rookie Smarts.

Liz Wiseman (Twitter: @LizWiseman) teaches leadership to executives and emerging leaders around the world. She is the President of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. Liz has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world and recipient of the 2016 ATD Champion of Talent Award.

Wiseman is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. Wiseman has conducted significant research in the field of leadership and collective intelligence and writes for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time magazines A former executive at Oracle Corporation, she worked over the course of 17 years as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development.

Wiseman realized during her tenure as an executive leadership mentor, and her research, that the knowledge economy is now vast, information is doubling every eighteen months, and accelerating business cycles have reached a velocity where business leaders rarely face the same problem twice. Wiseman notes we are reuse the familiar tactics are on a significant decline. Also, the rate at which information is becoming obsolete is increasing at unprecedented rates.

In STEM, about 15% of what we know today is likely to be relevant in five years. And today, we are not sure what 15% it is. - Liz Wiseman

Wiseman recognized early in her career working at a technology company that if you lacked technical acumen, you could not survive. So Wiseman decided that she was going to learn and then teach software programming. The ability to stay innovative meant continuous development of technical skills. To do this, you must stay teachable and adopt a rookie mindset.

Wiseman admires Marc Benioff for not just building a company that innovates, but a company that can continue to innovate when it becomes big and successful. "It's people like Marc that try to figure out 'how do we stay and think like beginners?' said Wiseman. I believe for established and experienced professionals who were not exposed to programming skills as part of their education curriculum, or work experience, it is vitally important for them to maintain a beginner's mindset - curious, hungry, open - so that they are willing to take online courses or attend institutions like Hackbright Academy to learn coding.

In her book Rookie Smarts, Wiseman found that in the physical world, experience matters - example, you don't want a rookie surgeon. But in the 'knowledge world', rookies not only perform at par, but they perform better, particular when it comes to innovation and speed. They begin unencumbered by knowledge, assumptions and limitations.

"Think about the things you said 'Yes' to because you are not smart enough to say 'No' yet," said Wiseman as she described the challenges that she accepted throughout her career because she lacked enough knowledge to say no. And that was a good thing because as an explorer and doer, Wiseman was able to succeed time after time.

"Rookies are all thrust, but no vector," Wiseman cited a Naval officer who values the rookie experience but also appreciates the importance of experience. With experience, comes knowing which problems to solve and the ability to detect fraudulent problems. With experience also comes persistence - this can also be a liability. Wiseman notes companies that have been disrupted because of being too persistent.

Wiseman advice to experience people working with rookies is that they don't try to teach rookies anything. There is so much teaching that happens already, that when it comes to reverse mentoring, senior leaders should embrace it and then not make it reciprocal - just let the rookies teach you about what they know. Senior leaders should simply allow the rookies to shine and teach. Rookies are an incredible asset. Experienced leaders must maintain a rookie mindset. And finally, the most powerful teams are imbalanced - example is a bunch of experienced leaders with one rookie with a voice, or a bunch of rookies with one experienced stakeholder.

Learning agility is the important skill of this century. Liz Wiseman

Learning agility is how fast you are able to learn new skills and climb up a learning curve. Also, how fast can you jump from one learning curve to another curve? An important trait is the ability to say 'Yes' to things that we don't know how to do. Learning to code will require the ability for experienced knowledge workers to intentionally struggle.

Hire people who are intellectually curious. - Liz Wiseman

Sometimes we have to unlearn the old, in order to make room to learn the new. Learning to code is a lifelong skill. It is important for both men and women to learn new skills, especially technical skills. Today, citizen developers are able to produce valuable software solutions and applications by leveraging tool kits and platforms that do not require hardcore programming skills. Today, anyone in business can produce software solutions with minimal training (courses that are days and weeks long, not months and years). To stay relevant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, stay curious, stay teachable, stay playful, adapt quickly, and when you learn, teach.