Beth Kawasaki, VP Marketing at ReBoot Accel, interviewed women who have mastered new technologies to return to work.


In January 2017, Forbes online published an article titled, “12 of LinkedIn’s 20 Most Promising 2017 Jobs are in Tech.” I add, that the remaining eight jobs, including project and product management, require significantly more tech knowledge today than when I first held those positions. Could I, a woman returning to my career, learn and master those tech skills? Hell Yes.

Tech and gender are top of mind for many after last week. First came the release of a Google employee’s internal memo that argued, in essence,  that “men and women have psychological differences that are a result of their underlying biology. Those differences make them differently suited to and interested in the work that is core to Google (summary quote from “The Actual Science of Jame’s Damore’s Google Memo”).

Then came a “reset” and story about Gillian Reynold-Titko that gained traction. Why? Reynold-Titko is a woman, 50+ years old, and a recently laid off research physicist for DuPont who retooled as a programmer, then landed a job as an IT business analyst at JP Morgan Chase. 

While Damore is specifically correlating biological gender differences and adaptivity to advanced engineering, which we find no science supporting; his ideas could be co-opted and used to create a dangerous and economically damaging slope towards biological gender differences and adaptivity towards STEM and the tech sector in general. Not on our watch.

Tech skills are the golden ticket to confidence and new directions in careers and lives. – Chrissie Kremer, serial entrepreneur and ReBoot Accel HQ

Yes, tech skills are essential in the workplace and thus core to ReBoot Accel’s return to work curriculum, which includes training in current office, job search, and personal branding technologies; and now, additional tech tracks setting returners up for reentry success in Digital Marketing, Product Management, Big Data, coding, and more through our partner General Assembly.

Does any of this sound daunting? You have some company. “If you ever doubt your ability to master new technologies, and many returning women and men do, remember all the difficult things you’ve learned in the past and that this is no different,” reminds Wende Gaikema, Career Coach and ReBoot Accel Houston.

Jessica Jolly sums up our core belief well,

There are no gender or age limits on learning. Period. If you want to learn it you can. If you want to do it you can. – Jessica Jolly, entrepreneur and ReBoot Accel Chicago

Fueled by this belief, I interviewed women about learning new technologies, what role this played in their career pivots or reentries, and how they overcame barriers to move forward with their goals. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: How critical was a tech upskill to your career pivot or reentry?

A. Very. When we women return to careers, we bring valuable professional and avocational skills honed by years of diverse experiences, yet these skills must be reinterpreted, refreshed, and made relevant to the marketplace needs of the day.

Upskilling wasn’t a good-to-have, it’s a must-have. – Chrissie Kremer

All interview participants acknowledged that they couldn’t have landed their positions or assumed new roles without learning the technologies required. For all, that meant getting great on LinkedIn as a power branding, job search, and networking platform to connect with the right opportunities. For many, it was mastering collaborative workplace tools and video technologies. And for others, it meant digging into HTML, CSS, Google Analytics and SEO to build better websites and drive social media marketing. In all cases, tech upskilling was critical to their reinvention and their “HIRED” result.

Upskilling is a constant. – Leanne Prevo Rodd, Career Reentry Strategist and ReBoot Accel Boston

An AHA for the returner? The rapid rate of change means everyone around us is learning too. Jeannie Cole, ReBoot Accel Alum, Project Manager and now Communications Manager at Stanford University’s DREME program observed, “I guess the AHA is that I’m not really that “behind” others, I have a much greater capacity for and interest in learning new things than I realized.” She added, “I’m also not afraid to ask for help. When someone I work with knows something I don’t know, I’m bold about asking him or her to sit down with me and walk me through it.”

Q: What was the biggest barrier you had to blow through?

A. Women returning to or pivoting their careers live layered lives; so, the tech ed experience itself was not the biggest barrier. It was prioritizing their own development, creating psychic space, protecting dedicated chunks of time, narrowing their choices, and focusing on the technologies that were most applicable to their business and career goals. Some used web searches and reviews for this, but most found friends and colleagues the best resources for identifying the coding or startup bootcamps, reentry and tech training programs, and sector or company-specific tech skills they would need for their next stage.

In addition, Chrissie shared, that after decades of encouraging her children to be comfortable being a beginner, she needed some self-talk too.

To get updated, you need to be ok with saying, “I don’t know this” – to yourself and others as your reach out to learn. And then select sources you can trust to teach you well. – Chrissie Kremer 

 

Q. Any other AHA moments?

 A.The time invested to learn tech is worth it, because good tech saves time, increases career opportunities and salaries, and may result in even more. Jessica tells the story of a time she worked with a woman very skilled in Excel. Jessica used the “ALT-Enter” keystroke combo to short-cut her insertion of a new line in a cell. The woman’s face lit up and she said, “You have no idea how long I have wondered how to do that!” Jessica had an AHA moment herself and named her future company, where she teaches people tech efficiencies, ALT-Enter.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. – Jessica Jolly

Kristin Vais shares that a healthy byproduct of stepping up her tech game was a new level of confidence and courage to try on other new ad/ventures. “This fundamental mind shift to being open to a lifelong learning of technology was an AHA moment that now carries over into other aspects of my life.”

I am more courageous now. I’m friends with first-try failures. I can tackle almost anything. – Kristin Vais, ReBoot Accel HQ

Q. What every day tech do you love most?

A. Google’s G-Suite won BTF (best tech friend) by a landslide. Between mail, calendar, forms, sheets, photos, maps, search, hangout, and shared drive, it’s the savvy collaborative one-stop tech solution for most I interviewed. The love fest extended to Excel (and those sorely underutilized features), LinkedIn for power networking, Canva for creating gorgeous inexpensive graphics, and Evernote and Trello for capturing and managing it all.

Q. Any more upskill advice for women returning to or changing up their careers?

A. Yes.

“Staying current with or mastering technology is like other aspects of life. By experimenting with new ideas, then practicing and making tech routine, keeping desired results in mind, it becomes a part of daily life.” – Leanne Rodd

“Don’t sell yourself short. There are tech-averse people all over the workplace. You will stand out as someone valuable for your willingness to embrace change, to figure out new and better ways to get things done, and to learn beyond the confines of whatever job you find. Being tech savvy is a mindset and a willingness to put in the time to keep learning – and then pitch that learning to others.” – Jeannie Cole


What we are reading:


Are you returning to work? Do you need to upskill in workplace, job search, and function technologies? ReBoot Accel is here to help. Our new Tech Track and partnership with General Assembly kicks off October 2-14 in San Francisco. Want to talk this live? Email us at [email protected] or call us at (650) 427-9433 and leave a message. We will respond.

Are you in Northern California? Come to “The Future of Work”, a free ReBoot Accel info event on August 30th, from 6-8:30PM, hosted by Intuit at their HQ in Mountain View, CA. All info here.

Fall Career Accelerators and more starting soon in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Seattle. ReBoot Connect workshops and events ongoing in Boston and coming soon in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @rebootaccel, and please join our free “ReBoot Accel Discussion Group” on Facebook for more conversation, connection, sharing, and support.

We believe in you!

Beth Kawasaki on Email
Beth Kawasaki
Prior to ReBoot Accel, Beth went from the marketing and advertising management of big brands at P&G, Apple Computer, and Levi Strauss to raising a family, earning her M.A. in theology and gender justice issues, and engaging in advocacy work on behalf of marginalized girls and women in developing countries and communities.

Beth believes in the life long career and social impact potential of women and is committed to helping them get current, connected, and confident to return to the paid workplace.

About Beth Kawasaki

Prior to ReBoot Accel, Beth went from the marketing and advertising management of big brands at P&G, Apple Computer, and Levi Strauss to raising a family, earning her M.A. in theology and gender justice issues, and engaging in advocacy work on behalf of marginalized girls and women in developing countries and communities. Beth believes in the life long career and social impact potential of women and is committed to helping them get current, connected, and confident to return to the paid workplace.

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