Deutsche Bank has just announced they're reducing their workforce by 18,000 full-time jobs over the next three-and-a-half years. Although the reasons for this aren't linked to some of the common anxieties that spring to mind when thinking about lay-offs, automation chief among them, we couldn't help but take stock of the industrial landscape today. As we've noted before, and as you know, technology is dramatically moving the ground beneath us and changing the nature of our work. Technology has always been evolving, but in the last few decades the pace of innovation has accelerated at a rate that's just astounding, exciting and still overwhelming.
What we're reminded of after reading this truly unfortunate news about Deutsche Bank's staff (some one-fifth of its overall workforce) is the importance of learning. As creatives and artists, we're in very secure positions as creativity and emotional intelligence are skills that are worth their weight in gold, even in the face of intelligent technologies. Yet those technologies will change the way we complete some of our tasks, such as gathering and segmenting user analytics data, micro-targeting our audiences for campaigns or further minimizing the finesse needed to shoot video or a photograph in a specific style. Even without these changes facing us, learning for the sake of learning, for pursuing our interests, for growing our potential, is an aspirational quality we should all prize.
And the fruits such a quality provides us are numerous: Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit biomedical research organization, finds that a specific group of brain cells called fast-spiking interneurons making up "about 1 percent of neurons" in one region of our brains play a fundamental role in cell connectivity and productivity. The more exercise these neurons receive, the faster they connect thus improving the rate and depth at which we retain and process information. In other words, learn.
But when the time needed to fire up those neurons is a luxury, it's quite difficult to actually sit for a class or devote set hours to learning a new language or program. Fortunately, because we're lucky enough to live in the internet age, there are several other avenues you can take to enhance your craft and stay well-prepared to ride the winds of change that blow through the economy today.
All About MOOCs
Have you ever heard of a MOOC? Massive open online courses came to be a resource in 2011 when several Stanford University professors uploaded their courses online and made them available to any user who wished to register for them. Suddenly, 160,000 people registered to take classes on "advanced tech topics like data science."
What's equally amazing is that The New York Times apparently declared 2012 to be the "year of the MOOC" and yet, today, there's almost no mention of them in the national press or digital media. Despite this curious disappearance of mention, MOOCs have evolved today to encompass courses in subjects from biology and business to philanthropy and philosophy. One of our favorite sites is edx.org, which allows you to choose courses by subject, pursue professional certificates and online degrees and take courses for free. Classes are offered from MIT to Harvard University to Oxford University to the University of Queensland Australia.
Let's say you've been a data analyst at a marketing start-up for a year or two, and a new position opens in project management that you're really interested in. You match 70% of the requirements for the role, but you don't have much experience when it comes to budgeting. We searched for 'budgeting' in the course search bar and found several classes on budgeting offered from schools such as the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland and even the International Monetary Fund.
You can complete classes at your own pace (though there are certain deadlines for assignments and tests in each). If you'd like to purchase a certificate verifying your completion of the course, you can also attach it to your Linkedin profile. Edx.org is a great resource for learning new skills!
Learn Adobe from the Ground Up
Adobe is a tool many companies use and one that requires a little more time to teach if not already taught. It's also relatively expensive to purchase and has a fairly steep learning curve. Rather than going it alone, and if you don't have access to the program itself, Adobe Learn is a resource not many people know about. Learn to be an expert with the program by studying with the company itself.
Adobe Learn allows you to download a free version of various apps to follow along in tutorial videos, manuals and FAQs. You'll learn how to layer, create vector graphics, add effects and combine images. You can also learn how to create a business card, design a logo and edit video.
Learn to Speak Six Languages
This one you may heard already of, but DuoLingo is a resource that provides great lessons and assets to help you learn new languages with the utmost efficiency. You can learn languages including Arabic, Swahili, Japanese and even High Valyrian from Game of Thrones. You can earn points for correct answers, race against time on certain challenges, receive quick feedback and immediate grading and have a program customized to your specific learning style. DuoLingo is a particularly strong tool for those of us working in multicultural communities or on products geared to an international audience.
YouTube is as Good as Gold
Let's now say that you've been working in a product development role for a few years, and you decide you want to become an account executive instead. One of the required skills for that role is Cision, a public relations and earned media program that allows users to circulate press releases, monitor news and social media mentions and access extensive lists of journalists and press contacts. You've never used the program before, and that's where YouTube comes in.
Even though YouTube might seem like an obvious resource, the tutorials featured on the site are some of the most thorough you'll find anywhere. While you might not be able to practice using the software by hand, studying the tutorials will allow you to gain an insight into how the product works, the interface of it and how to discuss it. While some recruiters or hiring managers might be wary of someone who does not have "hands-on" experience, many will appreciate the effort you put into learning and up-skilling yourself.
A lifelong love of learning opens many doors. By reading, by practicing and by reflecting, we make it easier for ourselves to learn more and more new skills. In many ways, learning is also a leadership quality. By fostering in your teams that same love of learning, you nudge everyone in the direction of growth. Growing together is how we'll harness the true potential of this era's technological evolution.