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Technology, Talent and the Hidden Benefits of Taking the Road Less Traveled

As the tech industry continues to expand in both scope and reach, creating products that touch every part of our lives, the innovative potential and power of including more ‘outsider’ perspectives within the sector – and bringing in those from different industries and backgrounds entirely – should not be underestimated.

30 March 2023 • 4 min read

Traditionally, roles in technology have been occupied by those who have traveled along the more well-trodden paths to reach them: those of computer science, web development, engineering, system administration, computer networking, database management, and the list goes on. Degrees and academic qualifications in these fields provide weight and a defined direction, serving up tech-savvy graduates to a market hungry for their specialized skills. 

And yet, as the realm of technology grows ever vaster and more sprawling, there are other roads into the industry opening up. Roads taken by those who didn’t necessarily make a deliberate choice to pursue a career in technology, but found themselves inside its slipstream thanks to unexpected opportunities.

And these roads are bringing in voices that are much needed in the technology sector. Voices that introduce unique perspectives, and that ask that technology consider new ways of thinking and doing things.

The value of ‘outsider’ perspectives and perceptions

Careers tend to change and evolve over time and according to opportunity. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person changes careers five to seven times during their life, and around 30% of the total workforce is likely to change jobs every year. Each career decision that a person makes leads them to another road that then will then unfold in new directions, and each one grows their skills uniquely and offers them fresh perspectives, enhancing their capabilities and the way they engage with their roles.

Perhaps one of the best ways to visualize this is by picturing a career not as a ladder or a pathway, but rather like a map of the London Underground. Each turn, each station and interchange, each train a traveler boards, opens up new directions to follow and environments to explore. There is opportunity in changing lanes and in moving into an entirely different career, without limiting yourself by thinking that your existing degree or experience isn’t a fit. Your skills, your life choices, your training and experience all converge to create a unique package that has potential across multiple career trajectories. 

While Apple’s minimalist design ethos has reshaped our world – from laptops to smartphones, watches and everything else in between – perhaps it’s time to move away from simple and plain? 

And in fact, these unique skills and perspectives might be precisely what technology needs. While Apple’s minimalist design ethos has reshaped our world (and been emulated by many competitors) – from laptops to smartphones, watches and everything else in between – perhaps it’s time to move away from simple and plain? Imagine a smartphone that not only sports a bejeweled case of my choosing, but one that I can make digitally resplendent with floral tributes or the like, in honor of days or deities significant to me. 

The art of creative agility

Diversity is proven to improve creative agility. This is unpacked in a 2019 analysis undertaken by researchers for the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The research found that deep level diversity – which involves ‘unobservable attributes, including personalities, values, and attitudes’, beyond more readily observable, surface-level differences such as nationality and race – is positively related to team creativity and innovation. If this is applied to technology, then it’s easy to see how such diversity can introduce ingenuity, perhaps changing the ways in which technology is handled, or re-thinking how people might use it to connect.

Taking this concept a step further, you can see how someone with an education and background in architecture could bring something different to the technology table: the two worlds can merge coherently and become beautifully symbiotic. For example, there is a very important aspect that’s introduced by this line of training: constraints. Most people dreaming about the house they wish to build imagine a site with no limitations – no water, no hills, no trees, no pesky right of ways – just a blank canvas that allows for absolute creativity. However, ask any architect and they’ll tell you these constraints are invaluable, as they necessitate innovation. How can you take this constraint, work within it or around it, and turn it into an advantage? And then move onto the next…

It’s the alternative perspective that will pull a team over a hurdle – because by reframing a situation in a new way, novel solutions can come into focus.

This learning, when applied to technology, is just as powerful. It’s the diverse viewpoint, the alternative perspective, the fresh outlook that will pull a team over a hurdle – because by reframing a situation in a new way, novel solutions can come into focus. This benefit alone underscores the value of difference: of using different disciplines within specialist fields like technology that can spark a revolution. Perhaps one that forever alters its course, just like the London tube you once boarded. 

Embracing change

LEGO is a fascinating example. How do different people, from different disciplines, with varying levels of expertise, training and perception, approach LEGO? Some will sort all the blocks first – perhaps by color or size; others will seek the instruction booklet, others might throw everything together to see what happens. All of these approaches are valid, and all of them can benefit from one another. The engineer may query the loading capacity, the architect is probably fixated on how the space might direct human behavior, the creative will be asking what’s attracting the user, and the business director will invariably be questioning the return on investment.  

We need all types of LEGO builders at the technology table for the sector to evolve.

All viewpoints add value and deliver the diverse perspectives that the technology sector needs in order to evolve and become creatively agile. We need all types of LEGO builders at the technology table for the sector to evolve. Minimalist is wonderful, but so is diamante, bejeweled and chunky. In 2023, where almost every sector already intersects with technology in some way, a career shift into the tech industry from elsewhere should be embraced – each skillset and background stands to add a unique flavor and diversity, and transform the potential for innovation, creativity and brand new ideas. 

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