Articles 4 min read

How do you keep your skills current in today’s moving landscape? by Sandie Bakowski

When I started working in change over 20 years ago it was all about waterfall projects and silos. Landing as a Management Consulting graduate, working for a huge systems integrator, Change was methodical. Here is how my world of change consulting has changed over the last 20 years.

2002: The Palm Pilot

In 2002, 19% of the world’s population had a mobile phone and 11% had internet. Tech change was owned by the Chief Technology Officer and the workplace had filing cabinets, offices for managers and petty cash tins. The cool ‘kids’ had just got a Filofax and then a Palm Pilot and office walls had framed pictures on them rather than the post-it notes of today.

Around this time, people started talking about human behaviours at work, spotting that humans just refused to be predictable. Seth Godin printed ‘Permission Marketing’ in 1999, Malcolm Gladwell printed ‘The Tipping Point’ in 2000 and the agile manifesto was published in 2001. It wasn’t enough to just be tech-savvy anymore, the psychological side was also needed. I undertook on a second degree in psychology and a Masters in Organisational Behaviour. And then the workplace changed more.

2006: Twitter, Facebook, and an iPhone

In March 2006 Twitter launched, Facebook opened up to the general public, and 2007 saw the launch of the iPhone. The term ‘Web 2.0’ lived a short life and ‘Digital transformation’ crept into our vocabulary around the same time (2007) but unlike Web 2.0 it endured. The Chief Marketing Office was now buying the tech solutions and Seth Godin released ‘Tribes’.

2010: An iPad

In 2010 cloud computing started to take hold, Apple launched the iPad and now 26.6% of the world’s population was using the internet. Open data was becoming big, Scrum Masters were seriously cool and I made the big leap out of safe corporate life to become my own boss.

In 2013 Sheryl Sandberg released Lean In and I did my first MOOC online course with Stanford whilst sat at home in my kitchen. Learning was now in the individual’s hands.

2016: Mobile first

By 2016, half of the world’s population is connected and we’re all mobile first. Employees have voices through social media, turning traditional hierarchical power structures on their heads. And increasingly the relationship between employer and employee is changing, with more and more people stepping away from the 9-5.

Change is now a juggling act, managing a mix of generations, self-organising teams, automation and approaches to change (waterfall, agile, DevOps and more). Now when I work with companies we talk storytelling; video, infographics, workplace design, branding. Professionals need a marketing mindset; narrative, brand, tone of voice and campaigns. Agile types roll their eyes at anyone who asks for a plan (for the record I still love a good plan but please don’t tell anyone).

Working in change today

Change moves fast now, is constant and we’re navigating at speed. Change was a methodology, then it was an art and next, it will be a data-based science, how do you keep up? Customer centricity is everything and organisations need help finding an operational set-up to make all those elements work together, both culturally and commercially. Twenty-year-olds are running hugely impressive companies and Amazon, Facebook, and Google are playing in fields no-one ten years ago thought they would play in. The workplace has five generations working alongside each other – oh and everyone one is wearing jeans.

Organisations are fighting over talent and working hard to create the right employer brand to attract people. And all the time more people choose to work for themselves. There are now more SMEs than ever before. Today people want flexibility and balance and they’re making their own opportunities. Boundaries between work and home are blurring. How to organise it all is a real challenge. One thing is for sure though, there is no shortage of change.

How do you keep up?

Freelancers in all industries need to work hard to keep their core skills up to date. Not just in their area of expertise but also to stay relevant and up to date in this fast-moving world. But with so many ways to connect and market yourself, where do you start? Sometimes it feels like everyone is blogging, has a website, has done a TED talk, has a cool podcast, is arranging meet-ups, has written a book (the new business card someone told me) and has 10,000 followers on Instagram. How on earth do they do it? The opportunity to truly be yourself and be own boss is there but how do you get started in this world of a million things.

Getting going as your own boss is a big emotional leap. You need to think about what you stand for and what you offer, how you want to brand yourself, how you keep your skills up to date, how you make money, how you network and how you promote yourself through social media without feeling like an imposter.

How are others feeling about this?

I am curious to find out how other freelancers and potential freelancers are feeling. I want to talk to people who are considering entering the freelance world and also those that are already in it. I want to find out if there is a demand for some help with all this and if so what would that be? This may come to nothing more than curiosity or it may result in an online course but first I need to do a bit of user research. Can you help me?

If would be happy to share your own story then it’s really easy to provide feedback. Just follow the link below that fits your own situation and fill in the quick 10-minute survey on Survey Monkey.

  • If you are thinking of becoming your own boss then please follow this link
  • Or if you are already your own boss then please follow this link

In addition to the survey, I’m looking to talk to 20 people in person so if you would like to talk then drop your email into the last box on the survey. I’ll feedback on any themes that come out to everyone who contributes so make sure you leave your email if you are interested in the findings (which will be anonymised). Thank you so much for helping.

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