A Non-Techie's Guide to Technology: 6 Valuable Tech Tips for Beginners
By Abby Schachter
There a lot of ways to progress within your company and role, but it takes a certain amount of initiative and support. Luckily, Content Bloom provided me with the tools needed to set me on a tech trek of self-discovery.
We want to make life simpler for the self-proclaimed non-techies/beginners like myself, so we’ve compiled a list of valuable tips that I wish I’d known when jumping into the tech industry.
When I first started working at Content Bloom I had very little experience in tech. So little, in fact, that I wasn’t sure what a technical consultant did or what front and backend development was. I had never heard of qualitative/software testing, components, or AIQ. Web development processes were absolutely foreign to me. I was an IT professional’s nightmare.
After being hired as a digital content editor, I quickly realized that I would be wearing a variety of hats and would have to adjust to working outside of my comfort zone. I had to improve my tech skills and double my knowledge within the first few weeks if I wanted to keep our clients happy and prove myself as a valuable employee.
Tip 1. Pick up the slack
The tech industry is very communicative, both internally and externally. My first day on the job, I was introduced to Slack, a collaborative messaging tool for businesses. Slack is especially helpful if you work remotely because it lets you:
- video chat
- create polls
- ask questions
- update your status
- add channels/forums
Slack Administrators often create separate channels to target specific topics or teams. This is where you can catch up on the latest information concerning a project, task, or issue.
It also means you can scan chat histories for important details, which is exactly what I did. I scrolled through my projects’ communication channels and was instantly caught up and informed. When I finally had my first meeting with the client, not only was I prepared, I was confident because I understood the project inside and out.
Doing that extra bit of research allowed me to understand my role better and stopped me from bringing up questions or issues that had already been examined. It also authorized me to fully participate in the conversation.
Tip 2. Take notes and collaborate
I want to emphasize the written word because sometimes listening isn’t enough. Conversations often go off-topic when communicating in-person and it’s easy to become distracted, hear things incorrectly, and forget what was said.
At CB we document and save everything in Dropbox. Because of this, I was able to scour through loads of notes, guidelines, and templates. However, not all companies organize their documents this way.
Unless you have an amazing memory, this will result in serious confusion and miscommunication. This is why it’s important to try and get anything important in writing. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve referenced my notes and realized there was an extra step I would have completely missed if I hadn’t written it down.
If your team doesn’t use Slack, DB, or some other type of archival documentation, reach out to a project manager, team lead, or co-worker and ask if they can provide you with notes, guides, or tips.
Tip 3. Research is your friend
Two months into the job I had to perform QA before a major go-live. I felt a bit lost and trying to find resources/templates for QA beginners was practically impossible.
Believe it or not, YouTube was a lifesaver. Turns out, experienced Software Analysts and Computer Science professors upload their lectures to YouTube. I spent a lot of time browsing these university courses, taking notes, and putting what I learned into practice. Ultimately, I created my own customized documentation template and became a go-to person for QA within our office.
Tip 4. Take an online course
The simplest way to improve your tech skillset is to sign up for an online course. My go-to is Lynda.com or Udemy.com. There are a variety of courses offered and all have been reviewed and rated by users. It’s very easy to scroll through comments, research, and select the one that best fits your particular project.
A huge perk of online courses vs. in-person courses is the ability to pause and rewind, allowing you to take courses at your own pace.
Tip 5. Be a tinkerer
Tinkering is all about solving problems, creating solutions, and failing a lot.
The majority of us are born tinkerers. As children we’re curious and want to know how things work, experimenting with just about everything. We play around, break stuff, fail and then, without hesitation, get up and do it all over again.
The older we get, the less likely we are to take risks because making a mistake is frustrating and making a dozen errors feels catastrophic. However, experimentation is how the greatest inventions and solutions were discovered.
Tech is about not being afraid to play around in different environments, occasionally “breaking” stuff. The next time you have an issue, don’t give up after five minutes, try to figure it out, even if it means working a little overtime. Also, it proves that you’re innovative enough to survive a zombie apocalypse or worse a traumatic go-live.
Tip 6. Read helpful blogs
Keep doing what you’re doing and read blogs that offer up helpful tips, hacks, and tools. I discovered the Atlassian blog early on in my process and they have a broad range of topics. One of their bloggers, Ben Crothers, writes pieces that discuss the tech industry in a people-friendly way, which is helpful when you’re trying to learn tech-heavy concepts and are still learning the lingo.
There are some amazing resources out there. Everyone works differently, so it’s up to you to test out which methods work best for your projects. Remember, being labeled a non-techie is not a life-sentence. It just means you need to give yourself time to investigate, experiment, and learn.
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