The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.
Anyone who has ever seen a movie based on a Stephen King story knows techno-fear. From killer trucks in “Maximum Overdrive” to killer cell phones in “Cell,” King embodies what techno-fear is all about.
Simply put, it’s the fear of technology. That fear is often based in one or several different worries.
- “I won’t be able to understand it and get left behind.”
- “I will understand it and I will train my own replacement.”
- “Computers will simply take over.”
First, it’s important to recognize that this fear is based in some facts. Regardless of what politicians tell, the vast majority of jobs in the United States have been lost to automation, not to humans, regardless of where they’re from.
Second, the fear of training your own replacement is, in fact, the precise opposite of what will happen.
Let’s start from the idea that you hate technology.
Start here: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The closer you get to technology, the less likely you are to get run over by it.
If you see technology as the enemy, learn more about it.
The more you know. the more likely you are to be able to profit from the unstoppable advance of technology.
There is a whole subset of the population that wants technology to stop. You can often see it reflected in their political and social choices.
The better you know technology, the less scary it can be.
You’ll understand how it works and what it means. If you understand tech, it’s simple. Much of it, especially the parts that sit in our offices, are designed to be easy to understand. Most programming languages are relatively simple. They seem like hieroglyphics, but they aren’t nearly that difficult.
You’ll know how to integrate yourself. Everyone looks at those auto factories where there are nothing but a bunch of robots doing all the work. Think about this: Someone installed the robots, maintains the robots, and oversees the production line. If you’re the woman that knows how to do all of that, you have a job when everyone else is on the unemployment line.
You’ll be able to see the future. In project management, the days of creating everything by hand are gone. Today’s project managers are increasingly able to enter some basic data and to produce the charts and calendars they need. Furthermore, as technology and AI (artificial intelligence) continues to improve, the programs will learn the needs of projects as each new project is entered.
The things that technology can’t do
As much as technology can do a lot of stuff, it can’t handle doing a lot of things.
Tech doesn’t imagine. Some of what needs to be done for projects is imagining. Imagining what might go wrong. Imagining how things should look. Imagining how things can go right. Looking for ways to improve that aren’t “in the book”.
Tech can’t manage people. It might be able to handle writing schedules and planning work, but it can’t handle the on-the-fly decisions like how to replace people who’ve called out or when a particular piece doesn’t fit correctly. Those are human issues and they need a human to do the work.
Building tech into your career path
No matter what business you’re in, it’s not too hard to figure out where to start with the latest technology. Look at industry magazines or blogs. Look for programs and languages that you might need.
If most of the work that you need to do is done in programs that are prewritten, you won’t need to learn to program. If, however, you’re in an industry where things are done in a particular language or everything is so new that you need to invent some of your own solutions, learning programming languages will be beneficial.
Start where you are
Look at the computer in front of you. What programs do you use most often? Those are the ones to learn.
Learning to use even “basic programs”, like Word and Excel, can make you more valuable and help you learn ways to work around corners.
If you’re using a program that’s new, you might only be able to get training from the company. You might also need to learn the language that the program is written in. It might be enlightening and helpful to be able to make changes to the program if it’s not doing what you need.
Speak to your coworkers to find out what they know. They might be able to help you figure out what you need to learn.
Another possibility is to look at job openings that you would like to apply for. These might not be the job you have now, but ones that you want to have in 3 or 5 year. There is usually a list of the requirements. Those requirements will likely list the programs and languages that employers want to see in a candidate.
Making technology your asset
Overcoming your techno-fear is simply a matter of surrounding yourself with tech. The more you learn, the less mysterious this will all seem.
Tech for leaders
Corporate leaders have a special responsibility.
It’s important to teach your people well. Send them to courses where they can learn technology on the clock. It will be easy to fall behind as a company if your staff doesn’t understand technology.
Your company needs to continually educate everyone on the most basic technology, like how to use a computer or Word and Excel. From there, it can be helpful to supply them with training in specific programs, languages, or devices.
Too often, employers leave it up to the employees to learn what they need to know. Since it takes time and money, neither of which most employees have, your company is falling behind in the knowledge race. Eventually, that will catch up with you.
Yada is not just the leader of the Project Management Training Institute (PMTI). He helped to write significant portions of the project management standards worldwide. He is helping PMI right now in reviewing, directing, and leading the development of the 7th edition of the PMBOK(r) Guide to incorporate the most monumental changes to project management standards in 35 years. He shares his wisdom with readers via the PMTI blog.