You’re a Technology Professional! Now Go Stay Relevant!

Let’s face it, if you’re in any sort of business today, you’re in the technology business. Whether you think it or not, technology is critical to your business. Information technology, software, social media marketing, business to business integration, it’s all technology.

If that’s true, then we are all faced with a dilemma.  Tech is an extremely fast-moving, ever-changing world. At the moment the dominant social media platform is…well, I would say Facebook but I don’t even know if that’s true for all demographics.  Instagram and Linkedin are pretty big for certain sectors. So if I had to make a decision, figure out which social media platforms I wanted to use for certain marketing campaigns, how would I decide which ones to use?

In short, what are ways for people to learn a little bit about tech? How do you stay up to speed, even with just the basics?  For example, the older crowd here (myself included) had to learn to shift to mobile. It was disruptive for me to realize that, for certain consumer products, the mobile app was more important than a web-based app.  Today, there’s another shift: VR and 3D. How will that affect your product or service?

Here are some of the things I do:

  • I take time every week to read about the technology sector.  Usually it’s a good, generic aggregator like Google News. I also have a couple of more in-depth sites, like Slashdot.  But be cautious: remember that articles are written by people, and thus can have biases, omissions, errors, and so forth.  But it at least gives me a “feel” of what is happening big picture.
  • I follow a couple of blogs of very intelligent and notable people.  In my case, its David Cummings, Joel Spolsky, and Jeff Atwood. Again, I don’t take everything they say as gospel but they move in influential circles so it’s interesting to see where their thoughts go.
  • I try to watch or listen to podcasts, especially TED talks.  Not often, but maybe at least once a week during my commute.
  • I try to make sure I’m always learning something.  Whether it’s studying for a new certification, teaching myself a new tech skill (at the moment it’s video editing), or simply reading a non-fiction book, I make sure that new information is being delivered and presented to my brain.

The idea is to keep your brain engaged, and stay open-minded.  I believe that regular reading and learning keeps your brain sharp and adaptable, so when something new is tossed at you, you can absorb it quickly.  It’s about being adaptable, being willing to adjust your viewpoints, or at least become aware that there are other viewpoints and understanding what they are.  For example, even though I’m not big at livestreaming, it’s become obvious to me that Twitch, livestreams, Youtubers, etc., are gradually (or perhaps rapidly) replacing the evening network TV sitcom as the primary visual media being consumed these days.  Even though I may not partake, I’m at least aware of this very important fact.

One trick is to observe and listen to other people.  I try to catch a lot of interviews with notable people, such as CEOs or influential technology disruptors, to get their thoughts.  And I try to keep my ears open around friends, coworkers, and out at stores and restaurants and coffee shops. I know what some of the popular shows are that my coworkers watch, for example.  And I know that virtually none of them watch them on broadcast TV, but instead through some sort of streaming service. Along those same lines, I know that younger kids instead go for Youtubers, I know some of the more popular ones, and I’m downright amazed at the volume and revenue those personalities bring in.

A word of warning about all this, however.  Be aware of your limitations. One night of research on the Internet does not make you an expert in any topic.  Be careful about just watching a YouTube video or reading a single blog post and becoming convinced that whatever it’s praising will solve all your problems, and then trying to push it on everyone else.  Chances are you work with or know people who are experts in certain areas, so rely on their expertise. A coffee meetup can be a valuable thing, because most people are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise.  Keep an open mind and be respectful, and you just might learn something.

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