Jenny Slade
10 Trends to Watch
Why Do We Care About Tech Relevance?
How to Stay Tech Relevant
arduino raspberry pi wearable computing
Recognize trends (from fads)
See opportunities
Avoid obsolescence
Talk the talk
Avoid surprise...
¨  Read mainstream media
¨  Read tech media
¨  Hit developer forums
¨  Read blogs you respec...
¨  Read + listen daily
¨  Connect the dots
¨  Blog it
¨  (Reverse) mentor
Mainstream media sources: NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post,
Bloomberg, NPR, The Atlantic, New Republic
Tech media...
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Staying Tech Relevant: Boulder/Denver Girl Geek Dinner Q3


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You work at a tech company, where things move at lightning speed. How do you stay on top of news and innovations, and make yourself an invaluable contributor of ideas and knowledge? This is a look at what I read and why, and what I do with that information.

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  • Hi I’m Jenny Slade. I am formerly communications director at the National Center for Women & IT, which is a non-profit org working with K-12 groups, universities, corporations, and startups to help increase the number of women in tech. And as of this week I am thrilled to be senior writer and content manager at Rally Software, our generous hosts. I’m so psyched to be here with all of you tonight, thanks for coming, I can’t wait to have this conversation with you about tech relevance.
  • Fancy pants
  • Assuming that college as we know it today even exists, 20 years from now, it’s quite likely that a college degree won’t hold the same currency it does now. Instead, I think we’ll see society increasingly valuing certifications and badges over degrees as a way to measure a person’s acquired knowledge and skills. This could lead to greater democratization of education, a truer meritocracy in many fields, and an advantage for the autodidact. It also supports the growing interest in MOOCs (Massive, Open Online Course) and online learning. Just curious: how many of you have taken online tech classes? (like Coursera, Udacity, Treehouse, Lynda)
  • Arduino and Raspberry Pi are just two of the hot players these days in microprocessors, which basically allow you to build your own computers out of affordable, flexible hardware. (Maybe you’ve heard of SparkFun Electronics just down the street or AdaFruit Industries in NYC, founded by Limor Fried?) These microprocessors have become huge in the growth of the maker movement and crafting, and an example of that is the Lilypadarduino kit which lets you make e-textiles or wearable computing. That’s Leah Buechley (“Beekly”), BTW, who went to CU and is now at MIT Media Lab. She designed this wearable LED hoodie for bicyclists that has turn signals embedded into the back, which you can activate from a button on the sleeve.
  • There’s an ever-shrinking number of things we CAN’T do on our smartphones, and the expectation that we can use our phones the way we would a laptop will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mobile app development is the #1 “hot” tech job, with salaries expected to rise by at least 9%. It’s also interesting to note that mobile technology has the potential to “free” us – not just in ways we might think, like untethering ourselves from our desks, but in a global sense, like empowering citizens of developing countries to do things like find clean water, wire money, or ask Twitter for help overthrowing their government. Those kinds of change-the-world tools need to be designed by people like you, so that they don’t alienate 50% of the world’s population (ahem, women.) Photo: yarn-bombed pay phone, made to look like iPhone
  • Data science will continue to be a formidable trend, and there are two sides to this: one is the collection, storage, and retrieval of data; and the other is giving meaning to the data. This latter one is particularly important and I think it’s been overlooked. In order for big data to make sense, you have to know what to do with it: ask the right questions, make the right connections, draw the right conclusions. Big data for the most part are generated by real, live humans, and so asking the right questions depends in part on knowing and understanding human behavior. The best data scientists will be those who are one part technologist and one part anthropologist, sociologist, marketer, and most importantly, USER.
  • Do you “speak” any of these languages? No? Not to worry. What’s hot today may not be hot tomorrow. Today’s Ruby may be tomorrow’s Pascal. The most important skill you can have as a developer is the ability to learn languages. Being multi-lingual is a perk in that it improves this ability. It’s also important to think of languages spoken in tech besides programming languages. Do you speak “Project Manager”? Do you know how to translate to clients?” The Chronicle of Higher Education recently described the disconnect between what colleges think employers want and what employers say they actually want. Example: 93% of employers want “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems” and 75% of employers also value “written and oral communication and applied knowledge.”You should know too that not every business moves at the lightspeed of the internet; many financial services and government companies are still using legacy systems that function on COBOL. Do you know COBOL? You are probably valuable because this is a niche now.
  • We increasingly identify the best software and hardware as having really great user experience, and I think this will continue to be a key differentiator. User focus could mean super-friendlyUI, terrific customer service, or a development process that takes user feedback into consideration. As margins slim and companies look for competitive advantages, smart companies will become more attentive to the role of end users,focusing on communication, training and support, and this will create yet more user-centric jobs and products and services.
  • Cognitive surplus is a term coined by an NYU professor, Clay Shirky, to describe the massive and mostly underutilized brain power of the collective. Crowdsourcing, for example, is a trend that’s not going away anytime soon. We’ve seen Kickstarter and IndieGogo take off for crowdfunding; FoldIt harnesses the power of people doing puzzles to help scientists understand human cells; and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk lets us outsource small tasks to a crowd of capable minions. By the way, did you know that those captchas you’re filling out when you enter form field info are actually helping to transcribe books?
  • The most advanced AI systems currently are functioning at about the level of a child: they have the empirical building blocks of intelligence but not much ability to process information the way humans do. What does this mean? For example, AI can discern that the temperature of the stove is hot, but it doesn’t equate this to the stove being dangerous for human touch. Think of it this way: you can program AI systems to tell a joke, but they have little sense of comedic timing or accompanying body language. Increasingly, however, AI systems are going to be embedded in the functionality of our various devices. The nuances and context of their programming will come to define them much more than the data we put into them. “In order to be broadly and flexibly competent, one needs to have motivations and curiosities and drives, and figure out what is important.” Wouldn’t it be fun to be someone who helps define that?
  • From customized medical cocktails that target your personal genome to realtime biometrics on calories burned and resting heartrate, we’ll all be quantifying ourselves more and more and producing valuable stores of information. This trend holds enormous potential for solving some of humanity’s trickiest problems, but it also introduces some sticky ethical dilemmas: with whom should we share this information? How much about ourselves do we really want to know? What if this information were one day used against us? Will it be utopia or Gattaca?Any Fitbit wearers? Or folks who use an app while exercising? Anyone keep a food log or track their sleep?
  • I left this one for last because in some ways it enables many of the others: syncing our mobile devices, keeping our personalized health records, crowdsourcing our cognitive surplus, storing our big data, providing a platform for our continuing education. It’s no surprise then that IT hiring managers said that this was one area where their hiring would be strongest in the next year: building, securing, and managing the cloud is creating a ton of tech jobs.
  • TRENDS FROM FADS: Perhaps you’re wondering why 3D printing or Google Glass aren’t on my list. Well, I think these are still a fads – not yet trends. In part because the price point is still too high for these products, which discourages widespread adoption; and in part because we’re still identifying their value, beyond the cool factor. AVOID OBSOLESCENCE: VivekWadwha on LinkedIn called out the tech world as practicing age discrimination in a piece called, “Silicon Valley is Ageist.” Tech is the classic “better to burn out than to fade away” environment. While we know that tech isn’t always the true meritocracy it touts itself to be, we may also know people in tech who worked in a knowledge silo, saw their knowledge become irrelevant and obsolete, and got laid off. Netflix in Businessweek said “We hire fully formed adults” – implying that they value experience and maturity. AVOIDING SURPRISES: If your boss comes to you and says “we’re rebuilding our website in Drupal” and you think Drupal is the name of a character from Lord of the Rings, then you’re already behind the game. If, however, you respond by saying “What a great idea, our content will display so nicely in modules – I’ll get cracking on some wireframes,” well: then you’re TALKING THE TALK. And if you Suggest that the boss throw down to let you take some Drupal classes, so you can become a more efficient content manager, and you parlay this to a new career in Drupal development, you’ve SEEN AN OPPORTUNITY. HONING YOUR CRED: Staying tech relevant is a good way to make sure you’re seen with respect in your field. It communicates that you’ve put in the time to stay on top of what’s coming down the pipe, that your passion for the field inspires new learning, and that you’re willing to teach yourself new tricks.
  • Two cautionary tales @ tech irrelevance: Kodak and … well … my dad.Kodak used to hold 90% of its market and was a brand leader. Kodak actually invented the first digital camera in 1975. But it didn’t market it because it was afraid of competing with itself: it had tied its fate to film instead of storytelling. #bankruptcyAny Pictionary players out there? This is a picture (or, rather, an approximation of a picture) drawn by my dad in a game of Pictionary. Any guesses what the word was? VIBRATE. As if it weren’t mortifying enough to see my own dad draw a picture of a vibrator, he made it worse by drawing it WITH A CORD. And by doing so he immediately banished himself to the Land of Old People Who Are Not Hip to the Times.
  • Mainstream media is important in helping identify trends from fads. They also generally stay on the right side of the increasingly thin line between journalistic reporting and blogging. NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Bloomberg and NPR are the usual suspects.I find tech media really cannibalistic but they do get a jump on trends. Read a trenches perspective. What are in-the-field technical people talking about? Forums for specific disciplines are great too. This is phrased to emphasize not that there are disreputable bloggers (there are many), but that you should procure your news from the sources YOU trust. Follow people who are respected in their field, people whom you respect in your field. They often have a great filter on news already or will share their opinions on something you’ve read for a deeper perspective. You might also consider following at least a couple thought leaders with whom you disagree, because they challenge your thinking and give you insights about what others believe. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, nerds are people who love to share what they know. Find the nerds who know more than you and ask them to download their ideas, tips, and skills.The speed of social media makes it an awesome place to do trendspotting. Beware of fads.
  • Use a feed aggregator or bookmarking tool or subscriptions to set yourself up for reading success, and set aside a daily digest diet. (Flipboard /, etc.) Start with 15 minutes a day to scan, and if you find a “rabbit hole” – something you want to read more about – bookmark it and come back to it.You can set up free Google alerts to have keyword-search news pushed to you.Once you’re getting the inputs, train your mind to connect the dots: what you’re looking for is recurrence and patterns, which can help indicate emerging trends. FOR EXAMPLE: does it “seem” like a lot of people you know are texting with their friends or live-tweeting while watching Game of Thrones? Well: you’ve hit on the “dual-screen” trend, the increasing interplay between small screens and big ones, which is predicted to keep exploding in popularity.You’re much more likely to recall what you’re reading if you WRITE IT DOWN. Remember, you don’t have to share it with anyone – but you have no excuse to not create a Tumblr blog, at least, and take a few minutes to process your reflections, ideas, connections, and reactions. It also gives you a way to paste in links to articles you might return to again in the context of what you thought of them.You’ve heard of mentoring; have you heard of reverse mentoring? Identify a potential mentor who’s younger than you and you’ll open yourself up to learning what’s hot among the younger stakeholders of the world.
  • Anyone watch America’s Got Talent? That’s MiralKotb, she’s a former dancer. When an injury sidelined her dancing career, she taught herself to program. She formed a dance troupe called iLuminate in which she created the programmable-LED costumes and did all the programming herself. The troupe took third place on AGT a few years ago and now is touring across the country. Warren Buffett swears that his motto, “Invest in what you know,” helped make him a billionaire. In your case, at the very least, it can help make you tech relevant more quickly and easily and may even give you a jump on opportunities related to trends dear to your heart. Here’s an example. In the classic 1988 movie, “Working Girl,” starring Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Melanie Griffith, and some truly gigantic 80s hair, Tess – the lowly secretary – earns her way into the executive suite with a bit of shrewd trendspotting. She reads the gossip rags daily while riding the Staten Island ferry, and she parlays a bit of knowledge from a gossip item into an acquisition opportunity for her company (with a lot of chutzpah thrown in.)
  • What do you think? Let’s have a chat.
  • Staying Tech Relevant: Boulder/Denver Girl Geek Dinner Q3

    1. 1. STAYING TECH RELEVANT Jenny Slade
    2. 2. THIS IS HOW WE ROLL 10 Trends to Watch Why Do We Care About Tech Relevance? How to Stay Tech Relevant References
    5. 5. 2: MICROPROCESSORS arduino raspberry pi wearable computing
    6. 6. 3: MOBILE
    7. 7. 4: DATA SCIENCE
    8. 8. 5: LANGUAGES
    9. 9. 6: USER FOCUS
    10. 10. 7: COGNITIVE SURPLUS
    12. 12. 9: QUANTIFIED SELF
    13. 13. 10: THE CLOUD
    14. 14. WHY DO WE CARE @ RELEVANCE? Recognize trends (from fads) See opportunities Avoid obsolescence Talk the talk Avoid surprises Hone your cred
    16. 16. HOW TO STAY TECH RELEVANT ¨  Read mainstream media ¨  Read tech media ¨  Hit developer forums ¨  Read blogs you respect ¨  Follow thought leaders ¨  Ask smart people ¨  <3 social media
    17. 17. HOW TO THUMB THE PULSE ¨  Read + listen daily ¨  Connect the dots ¨  Blog it ¨  (Reverse) mentor
    19. 19. LET’S TAWLK.
    20. 20. REFERENCES Mainstream media sources: NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post, Bloomberg, NPR, The Atlantic, New Republic Tech media sources: Mashable, TechCrunch, BetaBeat, Gizmodo, ZDNet, Fast Company Developer/tech forums: Stack Overflow, Slashdot, Hacker News, Quora Blogs I read: Read Write Web, Signal vs. Noise, Boing Boing, 3 Quarks Daily, Lifehacker, Thought-leaders I follow: Anil Dash, Wendy Lea, Ben Casnocha, Annie Murphy Paul, Fred Wilson, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Seth Godin, Vivek Wadhwa, Penelope Trunk Tools I use: Flipboard, Feedly, Google Alerts, Tumblr Resources for Women in tech: NCWIT, Anita Borg Institute, Tech Lady Mafia, #ChangetheRatio, Female software engineer tumblr, Women 2.0, Geek Feminism Wiki, Ada Initiative Find me at @cauloccoli