Employed for Good

Tech tips for impact professionals. Do well at doing good.

How I learn to ‘Tech’ (and tips for learning new, hard things)

So apparently, a lot of people are trying to skill up in tech right now. Friends and family of mine included.

The technology space is a great place to be for those who want in. There’s flexibility, decent pay, and other benefits to be had if you’re currently in a career that doesn’t allow for those things.

But when you’re learning tech for the first time – and even when you’re already in tech, but trying to branch out – it can be hard to get your mind right. You want to learn. But then you find yourself in a class or bootcamp thinking how the heck do I actually learn this really complicated thing.

I’ve been there. I’m a 3x certified Salesforce Administrator who’s had that oh s** moment too.

It’s that same mental block I felt the first time I saw the Salesforce report builder in 2014.

It was my first job out of college. I was in a staff training with 20 other people. The presenter, head of Development Ops for a national education nonprofit, showed us how he edits donations reports.

I specifically remember thinking thank Gosh that’s not my job. Because the projection on the screen looked hard, and not at all what I went to school for.

This is a screenshot from a Salesforce training video created in 2015. For those of you only familiar with the Lightning Report Builder…welcome to my time machine.

Fast forward 7 years, and it’s a lite day for me when reports are the only task for the day. The thing that felt impossible when I first started is now one of the easiest parts of the job.

When I’ve told colleagues this story, they’ve (politely) laughed me off. I think it’s because we assume that when someone else is”good” at something we don’t understand, it’s because they’ve got a knack for it. Some natural predisposition that helps them grasp these complicated things faster.

And sure, some people might be that way.

But no one is born knowing math, science, tech, or defense against the dark arts. I wrote off Salesforce and other tech roles early on, when they neither seemed interesting nor attainable. I just wasn’t a “tech person”.

It took years of experimenting, half-hearted learning, time management and mindset-shifting (plus dashes of luck) to get to where I am in my tech career today.

And now I know it all. (Just kidding!))

While I may have Salesforce reports down, you’d be surprised how many other things tickle my imposter syndrome these days.

Anytime I learn something new & complicated in tech, I get this initial wave that I can only describe as tech dread: that feeling of I am never going to get this. These days, I’m staring down tech dread as I try to learn Javascript, Apex, and investing concepts.

Here’s how I’m getting through it.

When I have to learn something new & complicated…

I remind myself that this isn’t the first time

I think about that Salesforce Report session from 2014. I’ll also think about public speaking: the necessary evil that used to make my stomach sick whenever I did so much as make an announcement at staff meeting.

Recalling my track record for learning hard things reminds me that I’ve done it before. And that I just need to get over the skeptical little rain cloud inside my mind.

I lean into what I don’t know, and try to close the gap

I hate feeling unprepared, whether I’m giving a presentation, going on an interview, or meeting with a client. So I research and rehearse, as much as I comfortably can.

With tech, my approach isn’t all that different. If I don’t understand something, I’ll try to figure out ways to get both my brain & confidence up to speed. Sometimes it’s reading up on a concept repeatedly, hearing different people explain it on Youtube, or asking a real person who knows how to do the thing.

I let myself ask questions

Do any of you remember falling behind in class, while everyone else seemed to get what the teacher was saying? And being too shy to ask the question?

I’m not that way anymore. I’ll carefully consider a question before I ask, but I won’t not ask out of insecurity. It’s far too important, since you never know how an answer might advance your understanding or shift your perspective altogether

p.s. Slack and other online communities are great for this, especially in tech. If you’re in a class or bootcamp, you can also ask classmates or your instructor (who you’re probably paying anyway, so definitely ask them).

Less revolutionary: I take detailed notes

And not so much because I plan to look at them ever again! For how I learn, the act of writing something reinforces how my brain absorbs it. I can’t tell you why, only that it works.

So if you find that memory alone isn’t helping you retain, try taking notes. Those can be typed, hand-written, they can even be drawings or audio recordings…whatever helps your mind focus and absorb.

I remind myself that I will flub up…and that it’s part of the process

If my Apex homework this week is any indication…I’m going to have a hard time getting through my class. Stuff won’t always make sense (it already doesn’t!), I may have to go back and reread, and I’m bound to get more wrong as we go.

Which is totally fine. That’s what learning is: getting things right, and getting things wrong before getting them right later on.


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