People before business. Business before technology. Technology making people’s lives better.

It is time for a frustrating question to be answered beause the problem runs from those completely new to tech work skills to those with decades under their belts. We don’t do tech training well, and the secret is not in more courses.

Learning works best building on what you are familiar with and in bite sized blocks. The training gets the most traction when the learner feels there is applied meaning to what they are learning.

That is the simple answer, but how do we find it? Before we invest thousands of dollars in courses that guarantee something they cannot deliver we need to look at what has gone right with technical training and what could have been done better. It is close to impossible to fix a problem before we understand it.

Familiarity is the Foundation for Growth

Several leaders have said in the last four decades that the best developers don’t need training. The best developers just google, watch a YouTube video or some other anecdote. Here is the humor of that statement. The best developers also make up less than ten percent of their staff. That genius of technology doesn’t learn like the rest of us, and they are not the ones interested in this article. Of course, googling and YouTube videos are great places to learn when they are great places to learn.

Here is the challenge. We have to take ownership of figuring out what we know. Either that or we need to get a coach and a mentor to guide us in the path. We mix the reality of where we are with the content of available learning resources. Training is like any other form of communication, having the right facts in what we deliver doesn’t always equal delivering learning. We will be creating a follow up series of articles on how to teach tech later.

This is about You

Think of it like this, imagine climbing a flight of stairs. Now think about climbing twenty flights of stairs. Just thinking about that will take some our breath away. Even if we didn’t know we were going to climb twenty flights we are still going to get winded and need a season to recover.

Learning large amounts of material will overwhelm everyone but the genius. Someone else being a genius is like the guy who can run up all twenty flights non-stop and not break a sweat. The rest of us are not physically challenged because we don’t have the same active ability. We can still put our minds to it and get up the same stairs if we make slow steady progress.

What does that look like in our pursuit of technology? It means slow down and you will reach new heights without turning back and quitting. There are too many casualties of tech because people forgot to take a journey on the way to tech skills. It isn’t a giant leap or a marathon dozens of flights of stairs. 

One Day, One Lesson at a Time

The goal is our motivation, the reason for the part of the path we take in today’s journey. We don’t measure ourselves against the goal, we plan against the goal. Once the plan is laid out, we take the journey one day at a time. We show up, we engage, and we learn.

Learning comes in one of two forms, knowledge gained from others. These new ideas can come from us, but they are new answers. The other form of learning is failing. This one is the unexpected one. Failure shows us what we do not know. Failure shows us what will not work. Failure is about false assumptions and clarity on our needs. With this clarity we can focus and pivot smartly.

Failure does not mean we are dumb; it means we had a gap. Guess what, we all have gaps. The bigger failure is to not invest today and not learn. Good is not avoiding failure it is failing small, for that failure is easier to embrace. Failing small makes failing often more approachable, because we learn to overcome failure. We learn failure is not an expression of our limitation. It is the shared nature of humanity growing and reaching new heights.

Winning is Compound

While we see moments of significant breakthrough, those moments have lots of investing behind them. The breakthroughs that have less investing are called gambling. You are not going to hear gamblers talking about compound interest. The whole focus of gambling is to defy expectation.

Here is an unusual way to defy expectation without gambling. Work to build resources, and on topic that would be knowledge and skills. Take the knowledge and skills and on regular intervals build additional knowledge and skills to extend that reach. Over time it may seem to you that it is just climbing one stair, one flight at a time. After a year, five years, a decade and more others will ask how you climb stairs so fast. We don’t see the change up close because we are accustomed to the speed. The speed change appears smaller to us.

We didn’t get better in incremental additional growth. If we stayed in learning regular and learned to practice what we learned over large amounts of time even the genius won’t stay significantly ahead of us. They just got to that level faster. We may not be doing twenty flights of stairs tech wise without losing our breath. Perhaps we are only sprinting up twelve floors. We are significant and our value is impressive. Our benefit is like compound interest on stocks. We have become knowledge millionaires. The genius may be a billionaire but at this point it doesn’t really impact you.

Don’t Travel Alone

If you have no other choice, travel alone. Oh, have you heard of this thing called the internet? There are so many locations online where we can find others going our way, others who went before us and others who come after us. When you find places to learn realize the internet is getting better. Realize the value and dynamic nature of each learning resource.

Online video sites allow for comments, but they are not great companion resources. When I was young you could check books out at the library, but authors didn’t give me much feedback on my learning journey. YouTube has some great teaching, but feedback is not deep. Udemy has some great courses, and better feedback than YouTube, but it is still limited.

When possible, join in on Slack, Discord and beyond. Store code in GitHub or your source control of choice and when you have a question share the code resource to make the question more visible. If your tech isn’t code, find similar ways to make it easier of others to see past the text, “help, I have a problem”. Perhaps here a YouTube video from a humble learner will get traction. While some may laugh about our errors, our skills will move beyond them. We can protect our ego, or we can pursue growth.

And yes, yes, YES! If you can find a mentor that is the best road of all. Mentors, tutors, one on one engagement will give you the best learning experiences along your journey. Along that same path, a coach can help you get clarity and overcome your blind spots. There are not many tech leaders who have coaching experience so if you find one cease the opportunity to benefit from their service.