Over the past few months, out of necessity I’ve had to heal my troubled relationship with technology. I am writing today to anyone who has used the words, “I’m not good with technology.” If you are a thirty-something or older perhaps you came of age when computers were beginning to work their way into our lives. Sometimes websites worked, and sometimes they didn’t. Email was being created, social media was being born, and there was a lot of new stuff to learn, lots of little pieces that were sometimes reliable and sometimes not. So when I think of my relationship to technology in a nutshell, I think of getting stuck with something that doesn’t work, some downloaded program that doesn’t open, or printer that doesn’t connect right before a project is due. I think of the panic and frustration. The stress that fogs the brain and leads to irrational behaviors like shaking a printer (don’t worry–Drew, I’ve never done this with our home computer).
I realized recently that no matter how much more reliable, efficient, user friendly, or helpful technology evolved to be around me, I held onto this belief: “Technology is just not my thing.” Any little new thing I’d have to learn would trigger a stress response that eliminated any trace of patience inside of me. I would approach learning something new in a rush, cutting corners, saving things in odd places just to get through it, refusing to read the windows that pop up with instructions (which would cement my limiting beliefs about being bad with technology).
My partner, Drew, who refers to me as “a grandma when it comes to technology,” approaches computers with a completely different attitude: if it’s not working, there is a good reason why, likely related to you, and you can usually find out what it is by “googling it.” Though I resisted his teachings for the first several years of our relationship they began to work away at me. When I began my day job in June, I decided it was time for a fresh start. Not only would I be managing a team in the age of technology, half of which would be working remotely, but I was leading an apparel technology project for my business. No time like the present.
So I began to approach technology with a new attitude: I can figure it out, I can learn what I need to be effective. Need to learn how to manage our team’s activities in Salesforce? – Got it. Need to learn how to make pretty financial reports, or be the person that advocates for our team and tracks down information through a major technology transition? – done. To be sure, it was not comfortable. I had plenty of moments when I wondered how the heck I could be the person in this role.
Then I realized something interesting. As the “grandma” with technology, in some ways I am the lowest common denominator when it comes to technology. If something doesn’t make sense or is not intuitive to me, chances are that I will catch ALL of the ways something might not make sense to someone on my team.
Otherwise put, the disadvantage of being a technology wiz is that it is much harder to understand if something is user friendly for your average person. As long as you are open-minded and willing to learn new things, not being a technology wiz is a strength when it comes to team management.
And the basic workplace skills I’m learning at my day job are certainly coming in handy with my business. At each step of the process, whether it is understanding the differences in the software, learning the software, or learning how to use the hardware and how the pieces interact, I am challenged to let my limiting beliefs around my capacity to learn new technology, fall away.
This past weekend was a milestone for this adventure. We were up in West Virginia, working with the team at CART Inc. to hook the pattern digitizer up to the pattern making software so we could take my paper pattern and start working with it in the software. The digitizer was purchased separately, and therefore it was not entirely certain that the two would work together. Three hours in, the five of us, myself, the three members of the CART team and my partner, Drew, had been working on hooking the two together to not avail.
We were problem solving from all angles. I put some of the hard-earned management skills from my day job to good use, helping to rally a team of very skilled engineers to work through different solutions. In the end, our angel with PAD Systems (the pattern making software company), Kristine Gloviak, came to the rescue to help us find the missing link. Along the way I learned about licenses and firewalls, ports that connect hardware and everyone’s opinions on the different operating systems. In the last minutes, victory was ours. I took a piece of my pattern, traced it with “the puck” and made a perfectly matching digital copy.
If you are like me and you too have had a rocky relationship with technology, I believe in you and your ability to make amends and harness its power. It is a tool to help us to build strong, vital communities, to solve once unsolvable problems, to create efficiencies to decrease waste or to help us spend more time on what’s meaningful.
Go fight win!