My “Stay Smart” Quest: 7 Tech Lessons Learned in 2013 + 7 Goals for 2014

coderLessons learned in 2013:

1) Following/learning from/watching Gary Vaynerchuk (aka @GaryVee) is worth every moment. And it's free. I think he is a marketing genius and is one of the few people who seems to “get” it.

2) Learning to code is important. Duh. It’s where the jobs will be. It’s what our kids need to understand. If there is one thing to teach your children – start talking about computer code. Learn about toys like Goldieblox, or apps like Tynker, Scratch, Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, etc. Don’t believe me? Have a daughter? Check out Girls Who Code.

3) Taking the time to learn to improve your digital literacy (and even code yourself) is worth it. OK – maybe not learn to code – but learn the language! In my quest – or even mandate – to “innovate myself” I just “finished” taking Skillcrush 101 How to Get Started in Tech. For what equated to about $6/day I enrolled. [In retrospect, my move was not perfectly timed as far as the calendar goes: Oct 21-December 6th…when running a household of 7, hosting 16 for Thanksgiving and prepping for Christmas – a different month might have been better..but I really did not want to wait!] Several online places offer some free coding or courses for a fee: codecademy and general assemb.ly, coursera, and, of course, Skillcrush. In my opinion, the founder of Skillcrush, Adda Birnir, is someone to watch! BTW, Skillcrush uses Mightybell as its community platform (similar to Chicago-based Big Marker) – working in a community platform is a learning experience in and of itself~

4) TRYING is still the best way to see whether a new technology makes sense. Don’t just read about something new: try it. When peers in my Up n Running group suggested I try several time-saving apps I did just that. As it turned out, Mosaic is now one of my “go-to” apps to create photo books from the camera roll on my iPhone. Even my kids have started using it and creating gifts for their friends. Cost per book: $25.

5) USE Twitter lists – it saves time. I think the lists are the absolute best feature of Twitter. I have spent some time creating several lists and my personal “required reading” every morning comes not only from my go-to news sources but also my Twitter lists.

6) Try something new..and be willing to pay for it. I bought a one month subscription to TheInformation. Why? I want to “try before I buy.” The world is noisy. I read a lot; the fire hose of information is coming at me – I am trying to simplify by going digital..but I still like print, too. When I received my Chicago Tribune renewal notice and saw the price increase – I immediately was willing to try spending $ on The Information. Why? Because I hope to “swap out” some expenses (maybe I’ll unsubscribe from the Trib and be willing to pay for a different form – or even type – of news.)

7) Unless I make change a habit it will not happen. When my sister turned 50 last year and we went on a yoga weekend (I had never even done yoga OR meditation) I returned refreshed and willing to change my patterns to include meditation. That lasted only a few months. I tried meditating each morning before the kids awoke. No luck – I found myself praying. And thinking. In my most recent email from Lift I was reminded that 1) I need Goals Beyond Habits and 2) Finish Lines – I guess if I want to impact a certain change and make it a habit, I really need to “own it”!

In conclusion, to me, it is all about leveraging myself to save time. We all know time is our most valuable resource.

Goals for 2014:

1) Continue to follow/learn from/watch @GaryVee and I will read his latest book (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)

2) I will re-take/review my Skillcrush material, which is still available to me from prior enrollment – this time, I will sit with a friend and learn together. While I am not committing to building a site per se, I did learn through my Skillcrush class that I am not good at learning technical material sitting alone at my computer. Thankfully, I ran into a friend who took the same course: this time we will sit together to review the material!

3) Install 1Password on my computer. Our Up n Running group reviewed the various options for secure passwords and concluded that 1Password is worth the $.

4) Increase my security/identity theft coverage – especially after the Target breach. Whether through Identity Guard or others, I will make it a priority.

5) Get on Snapchat (reluctantly) It’s where kids are spending their time…which means it is where brands will start to be. I need to understand firsthand how brands are using social.

6) Improve my Hootesuite use to save time.

7) Last and most importantly: continue to stay smart; (stay Up n Running) by reading about/curating and trying new technologies, apps, platforms. Reading includes but is not limited to private equity/venture capital reports, blogs, print and online news sources, local magazines, etc. If I do not “own” my skill set no on else will!

Gieriet Bowen has her finger on the pulse of digital and start-up businesses, with a particular interest in those Chicago-based. She is Co-Founder of Up n Running, (‘a community of lifelong learners keeping you in the know and taking the intimidation out of technology.’); and an advisor to several digital start-ups, one of which, The Licorice Project, serves the breast cancer patient, her family and friends. Gieriet can be found on: Twitter @gieriet, or her blog ConnectedChicagoMom, business loving mom making connections on and offline.

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