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Alumni Stories: Continuing Education and the Never-Ending Evolution of the Modern Workplace

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Alumni Stories: Continuing Education and the Never-Ending Evolution of the Modern Workplace

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*By Cara Giulioni

Whether turning knobs on music equipment, hooking up sound systems or coding on her computer, Cara Giulioni has been talking to machines as long as she can remember. *

Reality Check

The number of jobs that do not incorporate computers or technology in some way or another has dwindled down to just a small sliver of the employment market.

A woodworker who makes one-of-a-kind furniture pieces independently in their shop has a Facebook page to showcase their work and engage with their customers. A baker with a home-based business can promote their goods on Pinterest and direct potential clients to their Wordpress blog where they can view the newest photos, menus and place orders. A UPS driver uses a GPS to find a hard-to-locate office where they hand off a wireless terminal so that the signee can confirm their package delivery and the related info can be sent instantly over the internet to a warehouse. And so on. As these technologies change, we have to adapt and change with them. Even more important is the crucial awakening for all of us that, moving forward, these changes will be a constant in our lives not only personally but professionally.

I had a virtual chat of sorts recently with my friend Steve Vasko, the Enterprise Customer Success Manager for Lynda.com and Linkedin Learning. Through his work, Steve and his team work daily with corporate clients facilitating opportunities for them to become more proficient in business, software, technology and creativity. It’s his job to understand how quickly technology is advancing and how fast we now need to work as employees and job seekers to keep up. “Skills are now estimated to have a shelf life of less than 5 years. That means if you aren’t constantly retraining, you are going to lose to the competition.” he explains. “This isn’t just limited to tech skills, you have to consider soft skills like collaboration, presentation, management and leadership. It’s a critical component of performance that needs to be cultivated if you want to compete.” Even the most qualified candidates and employees need to recognize the value of continuing education, whether that applies to positions they already hold or landing a new job in a different field. Technology has transformed almost every task we do on a daily basis in our workplaces.

The result is a sector of the Canadian job market demanding a huge number of skilled workers while also offering some of the most competitive salaries. With over over 20+ years working in tech, Steve himself has been subject to upgrading and retooling as his career progressed. There were moments where he knew more training could have had huge benefits as his own career advanced and he moved into management positions, “The typical approach at many of the companies I worked for was ‘You are great at your job so now you are the manager’. Sometimes that’s true but more often than not you end up struggling and figuring out things as you go. That’s not great for you or your employees.” He also asserts that he’s seen countless examples of employees who moved into new roles with confidence and even completely changed their career trajectories because they made the decision to take their learning into their own hands.

My story

My path has been a winding one - if you’re reading this, you can probably relate. There have been as many failures as there have been successes. I have been extremely lucky, though, to be working in a fairly stable field where I got the chance to develop a wide range of skills, many of which are considered assets in today’s job market. Still, I knew needed to be more knowledgeable, more effective, more efficient and a more valuable employee. Through event production I had amassed a great skillset in a variety of areas, many related to computers. The environment and company I was working in was probably the most hands-on position I’ve ever held, but I knew my skills needed focus and proper refinement. I heard of Ladies Learning Code (a technology initiative centred on, but in no way limited to women and youth) from a friend and on a whim, attended a workshop in early 2017. My initial intention was to build on some of the coding skills I already had so that I could create a site to showcase myself and my work. The workshop happened to take place at HackerYou and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was getting a fantastic preview some of the greatest experiences I would have in the next year of my life. Looking at my future, I saw a cold, hard truth in front of me: There was a long overdue, but inevitable career change on my horizon. It was simultaneously terrifying and exciting.

Why Part-Time?

I started looking into HackerYou - the learning space felt warm and inviting and, more importantly, I anticipated results. Being 35, I felt time was somewhat of the essence for me. I love learning and education but being in school for the next 4-6 years wasn’t ideal for me. Like a lot of people, I was drawn to the bootcamp initially but I also had to consider the realities of my day-to-day life and therefore I started looking at the part-time programs. I had an idea where I saw myself in the future and I wasn’t sure how much time I could allocate to get myself there. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. I met with a HackerYou team member, who turned out to be the same instructor from my initial Ladies Learning Code workshop.

We had long talk about where I had been, where I was currently at personally and professionally, where my skills were strongest and discussed the best path for me. It was so reassuring to talk to someone with a background in technology and hear from them directly that everyone has a different path. What works for one person may not work for the next. Whether our objective is to gain a little more knowledge in a certain area, or enter a new area of expertise entirely, it became clear to me that even on a part-time basis, continuing education makes our potential ambitions not only realistic, but completely achievable. Steve’s thoughts on the matter reinforce this completely. “Finding time for learning is a challenge. Making training a regular habit is critical. Find a time or place that works for you on a consistent basis. I strongly believe that even incremental bite size learning can help anyone achieve lifelong learning goals. ” Part-time classes provide those who need it the chance to balance learning with our day-to-day responsibilities. For me, it’s meant the ability to work full-time while still making daily progress towards achieving my future career goals - goals that are more within my reach than ever. I’m doing it and trust me, you can too. If I have learned one lesson while elevating my coding skills at HackerYou, it’s that there is rarely, if ever, only one way to achieve your goals.

Our Future and Continuing Education

Pursuing continuing education shows powerful initiative on our parts, both as current employees and potential job candidates. It makes us more likely to secure coveted, stable jobs in in-demand fields while also providing more opportunity to advance in roles we may already have. It also shows that we have a firm understanding of the realities of today’s job market, and demonstrates a willingness to change, grow, and never stop learning. “You need to establish your personal brand when you are marketing yourself to potential employers and that brand should absolutely include a willingness to learn new things,” says Steve.

“Having concrete examples of how you’ve put this in practice will help you in an interview, especially if they ask you the dreaded, ‘What are your greatest weaknesses?’ question. Showing that you’ve addressed a weakness through self-directed learning can be really powerful.” I met a lot of people in my classes that were like me - looking to build on their skills and make a career change. I met people younger than me who were just starting their educational journeys. I also met people who already worked in dynamic work environments related to tech who wanted to expand on skills they already had and enable themselves to perform in their current positions more effectively. To my surprise, I even met instructors that were taking part in workshops not as teachers or mentors but just like us - as students.

As I learned more not just about coding but about how technology was progressing around me, I realized that my education isn’t going to stop at the end of my part-time programs. One of the major lessons I’ve taken away from this experience is that education does not and should not conclude at the end of a program or at the obtaining of a degree. Technology changes regularly and indefinitely and we have to change with it., Steve hammers home a crucial point, “If you go back to the short shelf life of skills you are learning right now, how can you succeed without continuous learning?” Like the software that runs our computers, our phones, our cars and so many other things in our lives, we are now required to undergo regular updating to ensure and improve our performance, our stability and our security for our positions in the workplace and our futures. Feeling inspired by Cara’s story? Learn more about how HackerYou’s Part-Time Courses courses can help you reach your career goals, or contact us at info@hackeryou.com to chat with someone on our team about what path would be best for you!