So you want to become more tech savvy?
With so many amazing resources available online and the growing reliance on technology, there has never been a better time to learn something new. Perhaps you want to widen your reach and turn your brick and mortar business into an e-commerce enterprise; maybe you need to develop new skills for your job or career goals; or, maybe you just want to use technology to make life more convenient and entertaining.
Whatever the reason is, skills like programming, gaming, designing and other online applications and processes can be developed through your own self-guided education. As COO of a growing business, I wanted to become more tech savvy in order to help with our web design, social media pages and content creation. I set out to do just that, learning that anyone can develop skills to help them professionally and personally.
Here are five ways to begin the process:
1. Assess motivation and current working knowledge level
Once you know why you are motivated to learn more about technology, then it's time to assess just how much you know and identify places where you could improve. For example, are you interested in building your own website because you want to be involved in the process of updating it as your business grows? Or, are you interested in programming because it would help you work more effectively with programmers when you want to scale your business?
Since I've always been interested in computers, I had good working knowledge of most devices. I have also been an avid online shopper and a lover of apps. However, what I didn't have was web or app development skills. This area is of particular interest because I often work with freelance developers and wanted to have a better understanding of their work.
2. Segment the learning process into actionable steps
With so many opportunities out there, it's easy to get ahead of yourself. Being an avid learner, I want to soak up everything about technology as fast possible. However, taking a rapid approach like this isn't going to benefit you or those you work with.
The best approach is to segment the learning process into small, actionable steps. First, search for available information on the type of technology you're interested in learning. This could be books, articles or blog posts. Second, read up on what is involved in learning it. If you need help understanding it, step three is to search out an expert to help. Fourth, if possible, take an online course or gather tutorials that can guide you. Fifth, practice using it for awhile until you're comfortable incorporating it into your business.
By breaking the process down, there's a better chance it will stick in your mind. Plus, you'll have more time to reflect on just how to apply it to your business or personal life. While I wanted to do and know it all, I had to start with just one aspect, like web and app development, which I broke down further into the type of programming I wanted to learn. After gaining an understanding of one programming language, I could then move on to the next.
3. Join an online (and offline) tech community
In the tech industry, there are thousands of online communities, consisting of programmers, engineers, and other like-minded individuals. Some forums I have found helpful for my own personal tech learning curve are StackExchange and Reddit. You can ask experts specific questions and receive tips that can help you understand how a certain technology can be applied. I have also asked questions on Quora and collaborated with engineers and programmers on GitHub. Going to in-person meetups is also a good idea.
4. Take a free online coding class
5. Make something with your own hands
When you've got a few skills under your belt, then it's time to see what you can do. After I took some online courses, I got information from my instructors on where I could go online to practice for free. With other knowledge I gained, I also jumped onto WordPress to see if I could employ some HTML skills for a blog and website.
For other areas, you can try creating a simple 2-D game on Github by using Processing, make some movie magic on iMovie, or layout a page through InDesign. Besides great small talk in a networking conversation or dinner party, I'd recommend sharing these experiences on your resume or in an interview because it shows a specific skill in action that a future employer might want.
With the constant surge of technology breakthroughs, the learning curve will never disappear. When you think about it, though, that's pretty exciting. There's always something new to learn and apply that can make your business, career or personal life that much sweeter.
Drew Hendricks is the co-founder of Buttercup, working on helping equality around the world.