Developing Technical Confidence

When asked what I do, I usually say that I’m a very technical project manager. There have been times over my career where I was underestimated because I was “just the project manager.” More often, my technical knowledge allows me to excel as I have the skill to step in as the “cardboard batman” to developers as they work through issues, or assist with data validation or even do some of the heavy lifting around requirements analysis before having to involve the technical team. And while I don’t consider myself a developer, I have demonstrated that I can learn and adapt and assist in a variety of languages or frameworks.

My older daughter, Cayla, recently started to look at colleges and decided she wanted to major in computer science. Both last summer and this summer she has had internships with us, focused on making her more aware of technology and how business works. Last summer, her project was data analytics oriented, where she had to learn the R programming language in order to see if she could predict who would win the 2016 Stanley Cup. She had to find the data, develop the methodology and execute her program. This summer, she is focused on learning CSS, HTML5 and Javascript. To her, these are just something she’s done. “It’s not a big deal, and nobody is going to care.”

We’ve tried to convince Cayla that these are just building blocks of things she’ll do in the future. That it is less to do with the languages she is learning, and more about building the foundation of computer science, and technical confidence she needs to be able to learn the languages of tomorrow, or 5 years from now when she is graduating from college.

Unfortunately, this attitude and behavior is more common than it should be. There have been several studies that show men apply for jobs based on potential while women lean towards applying for jobs based on what they have actually done. This is absolutely counter to how quickly skills, technologies and organizations change. We need to change the mindset on how we think about our own skills, so we are better suited for developments as change happens. I’m not in any way suggesting you lie, but I am suggesting you think about what you have done and learned, and figure out if that will give you the potential to take on the next technical challenge, programming language, or framework.