The rapid technological change that has occurred in the last decade has transformed every corner of our lives, from how we communicate with friends to the skills needed to navigate and prosper in the current labour market.
As Professor Ian Chubb, neuroscientist and former Chief Scientist of Australia, summed it up in 2013: “STEM is everywhere. Our nourishment, our safety, our homes and neighbours, our relationships with family and friends, our health, our jobs, our leisure are all profoundly shaped by technological innovation and the discoveries of science.”
The scale and pace of these changes poses challenges for those at all stages of the education and career ladder. For mid-career professionals moving into roles managing ambitious graduates with a higher technological literacy than their own, the challenges are perhaps greater than for any other cohort. In line with that, there is great opportunity for both tech education and management training.
The base level of tech literacy is higher than ever
Recent and future graduates are reaping the benefits of a growing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) across all levels of education – from primary through to postgraduate. Their skills and perspectives are shaped by a curriculum and learning methodology revolving heavily around inquiry, problem-solving and digital know-how. Rather than being just elements of the overarching curriculum, STEM is now central to the foundational knowledge being taught in classrooms, from early years onwards.
Graduates from all disciplines are entering the workforce with advanced STEM skills: they expect their leaders to be digitally fluent, globally oriented and knowledgeable about future directions in science and technological innovation.
The managers who keep up-to-date with technological advancements – those unique to their industry, as well as business productivity tools more generally – bring the best out of their teams by playing to the team’s strengths.
Talented teams need knowledgeable leadership
A team of skilled technology professionals relies on informed management to make the most of their skills, and translate their work into a marketable and valuable service. So what should the modern manager do to become fluent with the technologies shaping the global marketplace and the skillsets of their teams? What can they do to ensure their team is engaged and supported to achieve their collective best?
More than anything, they must make a conscious and proactive effort to keep up. It is not optional any more; managers have to be as technically literate as the teams they lead.
A continued commitment to ongoing education – whether it’s formal postgraduate education, attendance at relevant conferences, or simply staying up-to-date with industry publications – enables mid-career professionals to progress at a managerial level when it comes to industry developments and opportunities.
Waiting for new trends to become widespread leaves you behind the pack
Today’s managers need to be one step ahead of digital trends, so they can make the most strategically discerning business and marketing decisions. There is no magic crystal ball, of course, but the best leaders out there have a mindset that is always future-focused.
Considering the impact technology is having on industries unrelated to your own is a useful activity, looking out for the opportunities that could translate to your business. A leader that’s dedicated to supporting a talented team needn’t be expected to know the intricate technological details to bring a project to life, but they should understand and appreciate the capability of their team.
Project and stakeholder management are key skills very much in demand in the IT sector. Many businesses are negotiating complex structural transformations to set themselves up for business growth in the new, digitally shaped environment.
IT professionals need a well-rounded skillset
On the flip side, it’s increasingly important for talented technologically minded professionals to develop managerial skills. Whether you’re preparing for career progression or pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, having a strong set of soft skills to complement your tech talent is essential.
More and more frequently, employers are looking for versatile people who can adapt according to each new project’s needs – and the person with a varied toolkit of skills is infinitely more appealing than someone who is an expert in only one stream.
Using tech makes fitting education into your schedule easier
Advancements in tech obviously don’t stop at business. There are numerous ways to introduce tech or tech management education into your schedule. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a great tool for brushing up on fundamentals – accessing courses from universities around the world for free, self-paced learning (without gaining a formal qualification).
However, if you’re looking to advance your career, it’s undeniable that a postgraduate qualification can be the key to unlocking many opportunities. Undertaking a masters of IT online will provide formal technical and managerial education in a practical way, and can be completed in as little as two years part-time.
Southern Cross University is an established Australian public university, with campuses at Lismore and Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales, and at the southern end of the Gold Coast in Queensland. SCU offers on-campus and online postgraduate courses in project management, accounting, business, education, engineering, healthcare, IT and law.