How You Learn A Skill Does Not Matter

Tuesday, 04 July 2017 1430 Views

There was a recent NY Times article with a story about how someone without a formal education, got hired by IBM as a technician. This illustrates something I have been advocating for years: For a majority of jobs, it does not matter how you acquire the necessary technical skills so “if you can prove your skill levels with an assessment and / or demonstration, then you deserve to get hired for a job”.

Here is a list of top skills for 2017 (according to LinkedIn):

          Cloud and distributed computing

          Statistical analysis and data mining

          Mobile development

          Storage systems and management

          User interface design

          Network information security

          Middleware and integration software

          Web architecture and development

          Algorithm design

          Java development

These are the most in demand skills, yet each of them can be learned through self-guided learning or alternatives to a four-year college degree. Moreover, these skills can be learned for free, in a series of Coursera MOOCs called ‘specializations’ (courses are free, and nominal fee for the certificate).

(From my personal experiences) I think many of these skills can be learned through reading books, watching videos, and downloading examples, and then tinkering with applying the concepts. For example, I learned the skill of ‘web architecture and development’ through this process. (I have over ten years of experience developing web applications.)

I think an apprenticeship / mentorship program is an ideal way to learn many of these technical skills. If you are lucky (like I have been twice in my career), you land a mentor who is a master of his skills and wants to pass them onto you. For computer and network technicians, an apprenticeship is optimal; for a java, mobile or web developer, a short bootcamp and then applied learning with a mentor is ideal.

A Skills Culture is a growth mindset to be motivated and taking action to learn and apply skills. It does not always matter how you learn the skills; though, it does matter how you apply them – the underlying methods. To conclude, from the above-mentioned article:

Elevating skills over pedigree creates new pathways”.