Tech skills are not the only type of skill you’ll need in 2021

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Whilst good technical skills continue to be important these alone will not be enough to enable you to succeed in the modern, post-pandemic workplace. At Digital Innovators, where I am Design and Technology Director, we believe that skills with a human element are equally, if not more, important if you are to survive in the changed working environment of the 2020’s. That’s why, if you attend one of our programmes during 2021, you’ll also learn these, as well as other, people focused, as well as transferable, skills.

1. Adaptability

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of work not just in the tech industry but across other sectors as well. Those organisations most able to thrive during the crisis were ones that were able to adapt quickly to new ways of working whether that is full-time office work in a new, socially distanced way, a combination of both office and remote working, or a completely remote environment. People have had to adapt to these ways of working whilst continuing to be productive in their roles. This has meant adopting different work patterns, learning to communicate in new ways and dealing with a changed environment where work, home (and for many school) have all merged into one. Having the ability to adapt to these new challenges is a skill which will be more important than ever as we embrace a post-pandemic world.

Adaptability also applies to learning new skills. Technology has undergone exponential growth in even the last 20 years (there were no smartphones in 2000) and has been adopted in new and transformative ways by nearly all industries. In order to keep up with such a rapidly changing world you need to be continuously learning new skills to stay up-to-date and current with industry trends. 

2. Collaboration and Teamwork

Whilst there are still opportunities for the lone maverick, working away in his or her bedroom or garage, to come up with new and transformative ideas, for most of us, working together in teams and collaborating on ideas and new approaches is the way we work best.

In his book Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari makes the observation: “To the best of our knowledge, only Sapiens can collaborate in very flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. This concrete capability – rather than an eternal soul or some unique kind of consciousness – explains our mastery over planet Earth.

On our programme we encourage and demand our students to collaborate from the outset. We give them tasks to do (like drawing how to make toast!) early on, then build on these, leading up to a major 8-week projects where students work in teams of four or five to define a solution to a challenge set by one of our industry partners. Students tell us this is one of their favourite aspects of the programme as it allows them to work with new people from a diverse range of backgrounds to come up with new and innovative solutions to problems.

3. Communication

Effective communication skills, whether they be written spoken or aural, as well as the ability to present ideas well, have always been important. In a world where we are increasingly communicating through a vast array of different channels, we need to adapt our core communications skills to thrive in a virtual as well as an offline environment.

Digital Innovators teach their students how to communicate effectively using a range of techniques including a full-day, deep dive into how to create presentations that tell stories and really enable you to get across your ideas.

4. Creativity

Pablo Picasso famously said “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”.

As Hugh MacLeod, author of Ignore Everybody, And 39 Other Keys to Creativity says: “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back please.’”

At Digital Innovators we don’t believe that it’s only artists who are creative. We believe that everyone can be creative in their own way, they just need to learn how to let go, be a child again and unlock their inner creativity. That’s why on our skills programme we give you the chance to have your crayons back.

5. Design Thinking

Design thinking is an approach to problem solving that puts users at the centre of the solution. It includes proven practices such as building empathy, ideation, storyboarding and extreme prototyping to create new products, processes and systems that really work for the people that have to live with and use them.

For Digital Innovators, Design Thinking is at the core of what we do. As well as spending a day-and-a-half teaching the various techniques (which our students learn by doing) we use Design Thinking at the beginning of, and throughout, our 8-week projects to ensure the students deliver solutions are really what our employers want.

6. Ethics

The ethical aspects on the use of digital technology in today’s world is something that seems to be sadly missing from most courses in digital technology. We may well churn out tens of thousands of developers a year, from UK universities alone, but how many of these people ever give anything more than a passing thought to the ethics of the work they end up doing? Is it right, for example, to build systems of mass surveillance and collect data about citizens that most have no clue about? Having some kind of ethical framework within which we operate is more important today than ever before.

That’s why we include a module on Digital Ethics as part of our programme. In it we introduce a number of real-world, as well as hypothetical case studies that challenge students to think about the various ethical aspects of the technology they already use or are likely to encounter in the not too distant future.

7. Negotiation

Negotiation is a combination of persuasion, influencing and confidence as well as being able to empathise with the person you are negotiating with and understanding their perspective. Being able to negotiate, whether it be to get a pay rise, buy a car or sell the product or service your company makes is one of the key skills you will need in your life and career, but one that is rarely taught in school or even at university.

As Katherine Knapke, the Communications & Operations Manager at the American Negotiation Institute says: “Lacking in confidence can have a huge impact on your negotiation outcomes. It can impact your likelihood of getting what you want and getting the best possible outcomes for both parties involved. Those who show a lack of confidence are more likely to give in or cave too quickly during a negotiation, pursue a less-aggressive ask, and miss out on opportunities by not asking in the first place”. 

On the Digital Innovators skills programme you will work with a skilled negotiator from The Negotiation Club to practice and hone your negotiation skills in a fun way but in a safe environment which allows you to learn from your mistakes and improve your negotiation skills.

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