3 Technical Skills Every Techy Should Know

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I love blog titles like this. It’s a bit click-baity, I’m sorry about that, but you clicked on it so it’s fun to think about why this title works for readers like you. My guess is that we comprehend at some level how massive tech is and the thought of hacking the important parts are exciting to our brains. I love that! I love hacking learning. I really was just an okay student growing up. My grades were good (not excellent), but I skated by on my intuition and intelligence. I didn’t really work on being a better learner. I was too busy dribbling a basketball. It wasn’t until I was older that I really looked at my learning over the course of my life and I thought — why was I able to learn at such a high rate at some times and such a low rate others.

I remember when I was getting my computer science degree, I was also waiting tables at Ruby Tuesday’s to pay for college. I hated it. I was a seriously bad waitress. I got better though. My finances depended on it. But hating that job was awesome motivation to get really good grades in my Comp Sci classes. It was an external motivation, but still, it worked. I basically hacked my brain to work hard in computer science because the alternative was dreadful to me. No offense waitresses. Those of you who work as servers, I commend you. It’s a hard job and many of you make an art form!

So hacking can come in many forms — pain as the alternative, limiting the scope, learning from an expert.

I can’t promise you that these are the only 3 things you will ever need to know to feel techy. In fact, I’m sure they are not. But just go with me here. I think it’ll be fun. Try these 3 things on (I’ll show you how below) and then interact with people, techy or not, and see how you feel. Also, see how they view you.

I’m wondering if just these 3 things will have you thinking totally differently about your techy-ness level.

But actually do these. Read about them, watch some youtube videos and then practice knowing them in the real world.

Read a box

I recently set up a mesh network in our house. Now, come on, just the sound of that is techy, right? I sound like I really know what I’m talking about! You’re already thinking there is a difference in our technical knowledge. Well, sure you can do that Ellen, but I don’t know anything about that. Here’s what I did to understand and have intelligent conversations with a couple of my very technical friends about the best option for our house.

I started off by recognizing (and hearing my husband complain about) our poor connectivity as of late. We identified the problem. That is the first step. You can do a couple of things to check out if you have a wifi problem. Use this website to check your download speed and then this app to check your signal strength. You’re already feeling like a rockstar, aren’t you? Do all of that without consulting anyone. Just do it on your own! You’ve got this!

The next thing I did was research the best options by an independent source. I wanted to use PC Mag, but I ended up liking the way cnet laid things out so I use them. I read most of the reviews. I first filtered by need. What is the downside to choosing a lower quality option? We run 2 (currently) online businesses out of our house! The downside is huge. There was a time when this would not have been the case. If you do not have this high of demand, you would adjust your needs accordingly. I looked at the most expensive option and read the reviews. They said it was not a noticeable difference between the top end and the next one down. I read lower end reviews, they described the speed, quality and time to set up. I used the specific information and asked two of the most technical people I know about their recommendation. I’m very spoiled to literally live one and two doors down from network experts. They LOVED talking about this stuff. If you don’t have two very technical people in your network who are not your spouse, find them. They will be valuable assets in your network!

This is important:
When I texted my friends, I gave them the highlights that I had read from the article, essentially what would later be on the box. The highlights. The benefits. The specs:

  • What is the name of the product (letter and number sequences included)?
  • What does it do?
  • What does it do differently from its competitors?
  • What problem is it solving for me?

I don’t need to know everything about mesh networks. I read enough to learn the nuances between the choices I was considering and I asked for a personal recommendation. It is very important that you are willing to put information out there even if you aren’t sure how it will sound. If you miss something, it’s okay. Friends will tell you what you did misspoke about without judgement. Can you take that feedback without judgement? Because if you start to think, “I’m so embarrassed. I don’t know what I’m talking about.” You lose. If you think, “huh, I should re-read that, I must be confused about it.” You win! Same situation. Two different thoughts. That’s how you grow in your techy-ness. You learn more and beat yourself up less!

Finally, I made a decision. I made a decision. I ordered the mesh network. It arrived. I read the instructions, installed the software and set up the hardware. I just did what it told me to do and didn’t expect it to work the first time. I expected to run tests and try it out. I’ve been in tech long enough to know that the first time is usually not the final time. That’s okay. Having the persistence and mental tenacity to get to the final time is the only thing that matters to my techy-ness. Doing something more than once doesn’t make me any less technical.

Set up a website

The next technical skill every tech should know is how to set up a website. There will be MANY options when it comes to this skill, but I’m going to give my strong recommendation for WordPress. Here’s why. I think it’s important that you know that knowing how to write code is NOT required to set up a website. That distinction will help you throughout your career. Also, I think that Wix and Squarespace and similar are good for what they do. I also believe that if you set up a WordPress website, you will feel just a little more technically savvy. In my opinion, it’s the right balance.

Yes, it will cost a little money, but really it’s a very little bit if you do it right so it’s worth it for a portfolio that will return much more return when you are hired. If you are really worried about it, I am positive you can find a small business owner who will gladly spend the money if you would do the work for free so that’s another option. You can set up Wordpress SO MANY ways. I’m going to lay this out step-by-step, so you can do this QUICKLY! I fully accept that you come up with a system that works better for your or your client. There are lots of right answers here. The only wrong answer is spinning in indecision.

  1. Sign up for WordPress
  2. Select a host: Blue host is the default. I recommend SiteGround based on research performed by a developer I hired, but I still use Blue host because it suits my needs and that’s how I set it up originally.
  3. Plugin: Elementor
  • Page building
  • Themes

You are ready to get started. There are SO many themes. I have 2 others besides Elementor, but you absolutely want a page builder. I know WordPress says they have a page builder built-in but it just isn’t the same. WP Bakery Pagebuilder is also an option, but I’ve found Elementor to be very effective and the pro version is reasonable and has most everything you would need.

Start to finish, you could have a simple page setup in WordPress in an afternoon. You want to play around with it and see how everything works, but using this setup and really diving into the nuances of how everything works will set you up for success.

The difference between HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Okay, so now you know how to read a box and how to tech up a no-code website. What about code? Can you really be very techy without knowing how to code. Actually, yes. You can. I still think you should learn and are absolutely capable of learning how to code, but I don’t recommend you do that first. The path I recommend is deciding what career you want first. Determining if that career requires knowing how to code next and then acquiring the skills you need to get that job regardless of what else you desire to learn. If you decide that you need to learn to code to get hired in that role, great! If not, I recommend getting hired and THEN learning how to code! What a rockstar you would be!

I do recommend being literate in terms of understanding programming languages and the ways those languages interact. Specifically understanding the differences between HTML and CSS is very important. They are both scripting languages so the way that works is you pretty much type a certain syntax on the back end and then see the result on the screen. That’s different from JavaScript that has functionality like functions. You write and call functions to perform operations on data that is being used in the system. For example, you might have a form on your website where the user enters data that you store and then put on the next page in a different format. For example, “Kendra, you entered 20. Is that your final answer?” and then a response is requested and the interaction continues with feedback on the response. That type of interaction requires JavaScript. You can do a little bit of it with HTML but you won’t want to because JavaScript can interact at such a higher level.

There is another level of programming called object-oriented programming. Languages like C++ and Java are object-oriented. You can also use JavaScript this way if you add a framework like React or Vue. Eventually, all of the data goes into a database like SQLite, mySQL or MongoDB and the circle is complete. Just understanding the difference between these different components will help you understand how the whole system works.

A great reference and listing of popular programming languages is the Tiobe Index. I recommend reading it to learn more about code and what trends are happening. Also, try out the word “stack”. It sounds very techy. Here’s how you use it. If someone says, hey I’m a developer ask them, “what stack do you use?”. That just means what programming language do you use. I also got the answer, “WordPress” one time which is valid and was also interesting.

I hope you love 3 Technical Skills Every Techy Should Know. If so, we’d appreciate some love in the form of claps and sharing. Congratulations on growing your techy-self!

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You are Techy founder, technology learning coach, bringing women to tech, tech mamma.

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