Embracing a digital career? – 3 pieces of advice you’re rarely told

Whether you’re at the beginning of your journey working in digital or progressing a career, it seems to me that conventional paths to success are not all that common.  In fact, getting on in tech often comes from idiosyncratic and unorthodox approaches.

This Sunday, I had the rare and amazing opportunity to mentor women at the Southbank Centre’s WOW London event. An incredible occasion to celebrate women’s achievements on International Women’s day. And for me, a chance to support and help my fellow sex realise their dreams in the digital industry.

Coding skills aside (and we know that isn’t the only profession in digital) it seemed to me the same issues arose. For youngsters at the start of their working lives (I talked to several who were between 17-21 years old) the digital industry is something of an enigma. Schools and colleges don’t fully understand it; and advice is patchy. But more importantly, our youngsters and future workforce is confused by an industry that is constantly evolving. This too had an impact for those I spoke to who were further along their journey. Fear of the unknown seems to be holding back out talent.

And this isn’t good for them and it isn’t good for our future UK tech industry.

Technical and skills based advice is now available aplenty. So I would like to offer some alternative advice. Advice that switches the approach to a change in mind-set.

Be brave

The digital industry is a maverick industry. Constantly evolving, it is filled with people from all walks of life. Passionate people who, whilst slightly kooky at times, are entrepreneurial and pioneering. Coupled with the fact that tech is advancing apace, and you have an industry that thrives on uncertainty.

So take a risk. Embrace change. Flow with the latest innovations until you land on the area you are passionate about. And then you can lead.

Prepare to jump

Career paths can change too. Many of the women I spoke to wanted to understand the next step on the career ladder. But you don’t always have to follow a plan. In fact I know many, many folk that jump from one discipline to another.

Think about all the people you know that are now in social.  For many that wasn’t their original starting point. They come from a varied number of backgrounds.  So expect to jump around in digital. You don’t need to choose one skill and stick to it for the rest of your life!

Embrace rabbit holes and dead ends

Digital people are entrepreneurial and that makes them forgiving of mistakes and failures (so long as you pick yourself up, learn and move on). I cannot think of one successful person I know in digital that hasn’t got it wrong at least once. By the nature if the industry falling into rabbit holes or screeching into dead ends is commonplace.

Expect a few wrong turns. Enjoy them and learn from them and set yourself back on your career rails.

I guess what I am saying is that to get on in tech and digital, you need to have confidence. Couple confidence with a passion for learning about all things digital, and you will fly!

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