Why, how, and where I learn about tech

Recently, I was having a conversation about what work was going to look like in 5–10–15 years. In the middle of our conversation, I shared with him some insights from some new research about how certain skills and attitudes can help employees evolve and thrive as times change and evolve.

After I shared that piece of information, he said to me, “ You’re a tech consultant. That has nothing to do with your day job. How the hell did you know that?” Without trying to sound like a humblebrag, I said, honestly, “I just read a lot….it helps me learn.”

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It sounded like a silly answer, mostly because I think we take something like reading for granted because many of us have been doing it for so long. In all seriousness, a lot of my best ideas come from what I learn when I read. And while I’ve written about my desire to read books previously, I also spend a lot of time across various mediums trying to sharpen my knowledge on particular topics or be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking.

As a knowledge worker in a digital world, I like to think of the value that I bring as the sum of my knowledge and experiences. The more I increase each component the more value I can provide. Experience comes through working, and honestly, time. But knowledge can come in so many forms, one of them happens to be reading.

After we finished the conversation, it got me thinking that I’d love to know how others consume knowledge for the sake of learning, so much so that I’ve asked a few friends/colleagues to map out where and how they consume digital content. To ensure I’m contributing, I also decided to write out how consume content, who I get it from, and where I find it. So without any further ado, here is what mine looks like.

Some background: I work in consulting but with a technology bend. I like to think I am on the outside (but adjacent) to the tech industry. As such, a lot of what I read is tech related. Having said that, I’m a firm believer that technology impacts everyone, so even if you don’t work in tech, many of the things I list below could be of value to you.

Digital Tools & Apps

I rely on a number of media content apps/sites to get information. Furthermore, I also rely on a number of aggregators/curators to help me find the best information. Here are some of my favorites

Medium  — I like to read Medium at night. I find lots of thoughtful and reflective essays on a variety of topics that get me to think and stretch my mind. This tends to slant towards tech (and startups) but you can really find anything.

FlipBoard  — I follow a number of different media outlets who have setup boards and check this daily to get up to speed on particular sites. Furthermore, you can also set it up on tags (ex: startups)

LinkedIn Pulse  — I’ll check this once a day to get a pulse (sorry, too easy) of what people are reading and sharing about on LinkedIn. It’s usually fairly good at spotting trends or popular articles.

Pocket  — I think Pocket is for storing and saving content when you don’t have time to read something. It catalogues and stores what you save and even recommends articles based on what you save.

Nuzzel  — One of my favorites. I integrate this with my Twitter and it allows me to see the tweets/content that are shared the most from my Followers. It’s a great way for me to see what’s most popular amongst my followers. There’s also some features that allow you to sort by time (8, 16, 24 hours)

Quibb — A community of thinkers and intellectuals (mostly tech-minded) that share and engage in interesting content/articles. I typically find things here that I don’t find anywhere else.

E-Mail Newsletters

E-mail is still one of the most effective engagement channels probably because of people like me. Here are a few that I tend to read multiple times a week.

CBInsights — I love the data and insights they share. I also laugh at least once every time I read Anand’s email.

Mattermark  — Similar to CB Insights, great content and data. I especially like the curated content that they share from Operators and Investors.

VC’s

There are a lot of great VC’s who blog and share content. This list doesn’t do it justice but here are a few of my favorites

Hunter Walk — Hunter is always sharing interesting content, responding to peers/friends and championing startups he backs. When he does share his insights they are always very thoughtful and concise. His Five Question series on his blog has great guests and he asks really thoughtful questions. Plus he just comes off as a likeable and affable guy.

Mark Suster — Mark does a great job of spelling out things as they are and giving his honest and thoughtful assessment. I’m not a VC, but I enjoy reading what he has to say because it really gives me a lens of what it’s like to be one. Also, similar to Hunter, he’s got a really diverse background (entrepreneur, consultant, VC) so it adds a lot of credibility to his thoughts.

Tomasz Tunguz — Tomasz has some of the most insightful posts, usually accompanied by rigorous analysis and data.

Blogs

For regular/consistent content on topics of interest, here are a few places that I check frequently.

Farnham Street — One of the more insightful and intellectually stimulating blogs out there. I have to moderate my reading of this one so my brain doesn’t go on information overload

Stratechery — Ben Thompson’s content on strategy & technology is top-notch and very insightful.

First Round Review — FRR’s content is top-notch. This is an awesome place to get a deep dive on a particular business topic from an experienced tech executive. The content is not only interesting but incredibly informative.

Conclusion

For those of you who also consume a lot of content I’d love to hear what you use and where you go to in order to learn new ideas. With so much great content out there it is hard to fully know if what you are looking at is really the best so I’d love to see what others think.

For Additional Reading

So you want to learn more about startups– Benjamin Hoffman

The Easy Way to Learn Hard Stuff-Per Harald Borgen

On Building a Daily Habit of Continuous Learning– Andrew Savikas

The Ultimate Guide to learning anything faster– Sean Kim

Forget Training – Focus on Learning

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The corporate learning and development industry is enormous. According to HR Industry Analyst Josh Bersin, companies spend over $130B on corporate training worldwide. Furthermore, many job seekers and employees cite learning and training opportunities as characteristics they look for when choosing places of employment.

 

However, despite the enormous amount of money that companies spend on their employee training efforts, results do not always come easy. 80% of training is forgotten in less than 30 days. As organizations learn and refine ways to deliver training, employees need not stand idle – instead of training, employees should focus on learning.

 

What’s the difference? According to John Hall, a business gives training to its employees in exchange for something in return (usually tied to business results.) Learning, on the other hand, is something you invest in so that your employees and your team get better.

 

Or better said, according to LinkedIn Chief Learning Officer Kelly Palmer, it’s this:

 

“Training is transactional, learning is transformational.”

 

According to Kelly, when employees can learn, “they feel valued and know that they are not only gaining skills for their current job, but also for their future careers. Employees tend to want to stay at companies where they feel valued and where people care about their career.”

 

Creating a culture of learning certainly is an investment, but pays off when it comes to employee engagement and winning the war for top talent, which is why leaders of organizations who care about fostering a great workforce should invest in learning today. Furthermore, employees who care about personal growth and development should take action to increase their learning.

 

My hope is that more employers can see the value of creating a culture of learning, and they begin to take steps like LinkedIn has taken to instill this culture. However, employees shouldn’t hold their breath to wait for this to happen. Instead, those employees who care about their personal development and growth should focus on what they can do to learn. Why is learning important? I see three easy benefits:

 

  • It will help you do your job better every day.
  • It will help you become more engaged in what you do.
  • It will open you up to ideas and opportunities.

 

And perhaps most importantly, it will help you provide even more value to your company.

 

I like to say that for knowledge workers, the value you provide is equal to your own knowledge and experiences. The richer your knowledge and experiences, the more value you can provide.

 

Learning is important because it helps you capture new knowledge and increases the number and quality of experiences. The combination of those two increases the value you can provide to your colleagues and your company.

  • Read – Absorb as much knowledge as you can. Read about topics that are relevant to your profession and even ones that aren’t. I also include “watch” with read, so online courses and e-learnings can be included in this too. With resources like SlideShare, Lynda, and Coursera, social media sites like Twitter, and curation apps like Nuzzel, Pocket, and Flipboard, it is easy and virtually cost-free to find and save relevant content.
  • Meet – One great way to learn is from others, so go out and connect with other people to hear what they have to say. Their experiences and knowledge can be imparted to you and add insight and perspective you didn’t previously have. Again, social media sites (LinkedIn) are great for finding people relevant to your profession.
  • Teach – When you’ve mastered a topic, share it with others. Teaching something enables you to gain a much better understanding of a particular topic or issue, and helping others learn is something your colleagues will appreciate. Whether it’s through an informal presentation to your colleagues, or even writing and sharing your thoughts digitally on platforms liked LinkedIn, SlideShare, or Udemy, there are plenty of tools to share what you know and plenty of people to share it with.

 

It’d be great if all companies treated learning like LinkedIn does. Doing so will help companies build a winning culture, which will ultimately attract – and help them keep – the best and brightest people.

 

Until that happens, consider creating your own culture of learning, so, like LinkedIn employees, you can have transformational experiences and increase personal engagement in your work. Doing so will allow you to develop, grow, and open yourself up to new opportunities and experiences, all while increasing your ability to provide value to the people you work with and the organization you represent.