Weathering Change Signals Need for Digital Dexterity
About This Episode
Following a year that brought lightning-fast technological change, the rate of transformation will only continue to increase in 2021. Developing digital dexterity will be vital for employees going forward, and those with this attribute will build a significant edge over their colleagues. But what exactly is digital dexterity, and what does it take to become digitally dexterous? Skillsoft VP of Technology and Developer Products, Mike Hendrickson, rejoins host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek to discuss the critical need for employees to become digitally dexterous to thrive in our forever-changed workforce, and teases out insights from Skillsoft’s recently released annual Signals report, Lean Into Tech: 2020 Tech Skills Trends & 2021 Predictions.
Interested in further exploring the resources mentioned in this episode?
To download Skillsoft's annual Signals report, Lean Into Tech: 2020 Tech Skills Trends & 2021 Predictions, visit skillsoft.com/resources/skillsoft-signals-report.
To view and register for Skillsoft’s Tech and Dev Bootcamps, visit skillsoft.com/bootcamps.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB 00:00:07 Welcome to The Edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike happy 2021. In every episode, we're here to engage in candid and thought provoking conversation on the topics of learning and growth in the workplace. Yes, this is our first episode of the year and we're ringing it in with a conversation. That's all about a vital workforce attribute called digital dexterity, and we're going to discuss what it entails and how to develop it and why it's so important in a year that will no doubt bring lightening fast, technological change, and perhaps a host of challenges. But first I think we can all agree that, you know, when we look at our personal lives, we've done this amazing job of adopting new technologies that make it easier to go about our day, whether we've got smart home solutions that we're controlling through voice activated assistance, to fast digital payment systems like Venmo, that allows us to send money or pay the babysitter quickly.
Michelle BB00:01:07 And yet as individuals, we haven't fully adopted technologies in the workplace in that same seamless banner as we have in our personal lives. And I think that's where building a digitally dexterous workforce comes in. So let's do a quick primmer to get things started. Gardner defines digital dexterity as the employee's ability and desire to use an apply existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes. And those who have high levels of digital dexterity have a significant edge over their counterparts with moderate levels. In fact, they are three times more likely to quickly launch complete and deliver value from digital initiatives, such as app development, cloud migrations and cybersecurity implementation. So what does it take to be digitally dexterous tech savviness will? Sure, but I think you're going to find that there's much more to it going back to Gartner. Um, we found that nearly every other element of digital dexterity requires those power skills that you hear me talk about over and over again.
Michelle BB 00:02:14 And in this case, open-mindedness flexibility, willingness to take risks and they thrive in working models that are collaborative and iterative like agile. So how do we create a more digitally dexterous workforce while our guest today is here to help joining us as Mike Hendrickson, Skillsoft's Fife vice president of product for tech and dev. We first discussed this topic and its importance in a special episode about key trends that will shape the learning and development world in 2021. And we're welcoming Mike back today to hear his unique perspective on the topic rooted in his day-to-day work with Skillsoft customers. And he's going to share some insights as well from new signals report, which features trends on what customers were learning in 2020 and a forecast of the skills they must develop in 2021. Mike, welcome back and thank you for joining us on The Edge.
Mike00:03:13 Thanks Michelle. Glad to be back. I'm glad you went back, especially after a safe and restful holiday season and looking forward to 2021 and hope all the listeners have a happy and healthy year ahead. We're all well aware that 2020 was quite the interesting year, but see how we can go forward from there.
Michelle BB00:03:34 Oh, Oh, without a doubt. So, you know, I think that, you know, we didn't have a lot of time. The last time we spoke in terms of sort of getting into your role and what you do and how you collaborate with Skillsoft's customers. Can you, can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you do and what makes you so passionate about the work that you deliver for our customers?
Mike00:03:53 So, part of what I do is kind of digital. Dexterities like I get to use all different tools and techniques to figure out what we're going to put on our roadmap. And we're going to define, I use market intelligence, analytics and plenty of customer conversations. So the human touch there, because I need to address forefront technology solid every day, enterprise technology, as well as legacy tech that still may be in demand. So I typically joined customer calls where we share our roadmap or plans for the future. And I truly believe that we can better meet our customer's needs if we listen to what they want. I tried to elicit insights out of tech people in those companies that I interact with to find out what drives them forward. And perhaps more importantly, what drives them crazy. What's difficult to deploy, understand and use what keeps them up at night. It's quite the balancing act
Michelle BB00:04:54 I can imagine. And, you know, it's really interesting because again, we know that people are far more likely to be digitally dexterous in their personal lives. And yet we're still seeing transformations taking place where people aren't necessarily as adept or, or it's not as common to utilize a lot of these new technologies in a seamless way in, in our work environment. So why don't we, why don't we pick off a pick off why don't we pick right up where we left off in our 2021 predictions episode? You know, we were really intrigued, I think, by your views on the hybrid skillset that today's workers must develop in order to be digitally dexterous. So you believe that it encompasses, we talked about these additional skills and attributes beyond just that kind of core definition. But one thing that resonated with me that I recall is that you recommended that workers with digital dexterity, you know, they really, um, have to be ambitious and not just in the context of career advancement, but really, um, in this idea of becoming lifelong learners. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Mike00:06:09 Sure. So if I remember correctly, I said something like ambition to continue to learn and keep learning as long as you want to keep your edge. And I truly believe that all technologists, when they start their career in tech, they've made an implicit commitment to learn because they know that the rate of change in tech requires constant and regular up-skilling and re-skilling of their capabilities and skills. And what we've seen happen during the pandemic and various phases of quarantines that we've been in was that learners around the globe did have ambition to learn and voraciously learn our hours of consumption in tech and dev content was up significantly in all our major topic areas. This you can find more about in our signals report, which was just released, but signals came out because of me wanting to be a little bit more dextrous with my own job and understand what our customers were consuming.
Mike00:07:11 So I could have more insights into a well-balanced roadmap and help them learn the topics they need. So then we decided to publish the signals report, and I think it truly does provide those faint signals that may have bearing on what they want to learn in the future. And here's a small example of what we just released. So we debuted a new product about a year ago, called bootcamps, and we keep a close eye on things and how they're going. And our customers are consuming bootcamps content at a very high rate. In fact, more than 200% growth in a year, we saw more than 21,000 learners attend live boot camps last year. And not only do we look at the volume of this, but the quality, our average NPS score for bootcamps is 71 where mid seventies is considered excellent or top of the delete heap for everyone. So we're, we're doing something right, but it's more than just doing it, right. It's also making sure we watch what we're doing. We monitor it, we measure it, we evaluate it. And the, we either rinse and repeat it, or we do something slightly different to me.
Michelle BB 00:08:29 You know, it, it makes so much sense that people would need that sort of constant and curious form of ambition to fuel their contributions. It also makes sense that we would adapt the, what we do, um, and how we provide that continuous learning during a time of, of frankly, great change and challenge. You know, I mean the, the, the pandemic really forced a lot of organizations to evaluate their own transformation priorities and in fact, accelerate them. Yes. I mean, it'd be interesting to understand from you what you're seeing in terms of our customers learning needs and what they're so interested in right now,
Mike 00:09:13 Michelle, one of the constant themes I hear from customers is part of their transformation includes modernizing their tech infrastructure. Some because they're moving to the cloud or moving more of their services to the cloud. Some because they're wanting to use data across their organization. Others need to make sure they're handling security threats before they happen. And there's this constant need to be more agile in developing software services and systems. An area is that always garners. A lot of activity is programming and specifically Python, R Python courses are just skyrocketing. And you can read more about that in the signals report. In addition to consumption data though, the that's kind of the trending view. I also look at demand oriented data like search data and scrapings of developer watering holes, you know, there's stack overflow and there's other places where you can scrape. Typically this involves getting the data and organizing into a taxonomy that fits our current state of the tech space.
Mike 00:10:18 Then allocating each query question or string in the taxonomy and then viewing how that looks compared to our supplies. So we look at both supply and demand, and I think it's important to see what tech people are looking for. But more importantly, what are they looking to understand their questions there for a reason, because they're trying to understand something and that's where learning and education comes in. So from all the data sources we collect Python still leads in all measures. I think the promise of an easy to learn programming language is here, especially because it worked so well with data science, another growing area. And if you have not used Python to read a massive dot CSV file that someone sends you an Excel chokes on it, when you're trying to open it, do it because Excel can only read 1,048,560, 76 rows of data.
Mike00:11:20 And if you get anything larger than that, it will choke. Python is very easy to use in cases like that. And it will really surprise everyone how easy it is to read a large file like that. Our demand data truly does eliminate the need for digital dictionary for all, but perhaps more importantly for tech professionals, it's a requirement to keep relevant our search data when visualized shows, how important the technology topics like Python, Java, cloud security, and agile, all the components of the tech infrastructure modernization that I mentioned, Java is part of that, but not as the new technology, but as the legacy technology that people still have to learn and understand a quick note. I think about Java, although Python's clearly the dominant language today, it's evident in search and web scrapings. The Java is by no means going away. It still ranks very high among programming languages, but among tech tech topics in general, it's numbers are really well well up above everything. So even if you want to move your infrastructure to Python, you're likely going to have to deal with the legacy code in place, which is most likely Java. So it comes back to dexterity. You will likely be more proficient and nimble by knowing both. So one note, two developers programmers out there basically know both know a little bit of both, but not just one only because you're going to be using both in the future.
Michelle BB00:12:59 So that's, I think that's really interesting when we talk about kind of the, the tools that are prevalent now. Um, but what's interesting as well is this notion of you've got, you've got the, the programming language, the applications, the tools that you need, but there's also a sense of skill, right? What skills are organizations or people going to need in order to survive or thrive in 2021? And, you know, I think everybody is hyper focused right now on executing a 20, 21 game plan. That's predicated on knowing a certain amount of information about what will happen likely as a result of the pandemic. But, but we don't know. And we know that plans are meaningless if we're not anticipating and solving for the unexpected as we learned, uh, quite clearly in 2020. So I'm thinking about, I'm thinking about things that perhaps are on the minds of CEOs, CEOs, risks, worst case scenarios, breaches, and threats. Have you, have you seen any data that indicates whether we're seeing an increase in organizations looking to build these skills and the aptitudes needed to address these kinds of challenges?
Mike00:14:15 Yes. I think it's pretty clear in September and October of 2020, we saw a 77% growth in hours consumed for our security courses. And the number one title for our government oriented customers was the present threat landscape. So when we look at our industry, vertical security titles are likely to be in the top five, twice as much as any other type of title. So when you think about that, all the different verticals that we have, pharmaceuticals, government, retail, energy, all of those security is twice as likely to be in their top five titles in those different industries. So security is definitely top of mind for most people. And I think there's a quote from the CEO of security innovation. They're one of our content partners at Adams, and he really said something that really resonate, resonates with me about how we can apply what we learned from COVID to our real life.
Mike00:15:23 He basically says apply what we learned about COVID-19 protection to security trust cautiously sanitize frequently share carefully and cover exposures in this really speaks to digital dexterity to learn, apply relearn and reapply from all domains to truly be more well-rounded and hired digital dexterity. So I think with solar winds security breaches everywhere, spanning from the government agencies to private organizations, we know that nobody is safe from cyber attacks and by state actors or rogue individuals who want to extort ransom from their victims. So again, if we all just think about COVID-19 trust, cautiously sanitize frequently share carefully and cover exposures, that goes a long way for security.
Michelle BB00:16:22 Oh my gosh. We have to, we have to put that in the quote, when we, when we promote this podcast that needs to be out there. I love that by the way, because it's applicable beyond just, you know, there obviously it's a, it's, it's a great lesson beyond just COVID, but certainly something we can take away from that, you know, as you look, Mike, you, you obviously deal with a number of customers and, and you're, you're talking to them on a daily basis. When you, when you're talking to these customers, the ones that you work with, what specifically are you hearing from them? And what are the kinds of skills that they're talking about in terms of needing to build, needing to, you know, to help them win, um, in their industry to help them be more productive, find, uh, create better outcomes for their organization?
Mike00:17:13 Yeah, that's a great question. I, when I think about it, I think about a team's call we had with one of our large pharma companies, that's deploying agile software development with a good dose of dev ops practices, and they're moving much of their infrastructure to the cloud and they're wanting to make sure it's all secure to top it off. They want SRE to make sure they keep their service agreements lined. So you can see right away, there's like four or five different elements all working together. And to really be digitally dextrous, you need to have them all working in concert together. So what I would look at here COVID is thrust many of us into areas that may not have been our responsibility. It may have been someone else's role, but we need to be performed by us now personally, or at least be conversant to have more productive discussions with the tech teams about what you're trying to accomplish.
Mike00:18:13 One of the things that stands out the most during our calls is this is all happening while the race for vaccines and cures were in full flight. So they're implementing a lot of things in a large corporation. It's like changing your tires while driving 80 on a highway, they cannot fail, but they need to move forward with what they know will help them. We help these sorts of challenges by having a wide and deep library covering all the technologies. So from my perspective, the digital dexterity, they get, you can imagine changing a tire on the freeway. You'd have to be pretty dexterous to be able to do that. A lot of companies are facing that today, but pharma seems to have been really thrust right in that forefront.
Michelle BB00:19:00 That is, you know, that's incredibly fascinating, but also inspiring in a way Mike. So, so thank you. I mean, our customers are working through some amazing and unprecedented challenges, and it's great to know that that you and your team, that we as an organization are listening to them and partnering with them so thoughtfully. So Mike, I, I kind of want to go back a little bit. Is it, do you think it's a tall order for organizations to upskill their entire workforce, right. To become more digitally dexterous and to create a strong line of defense against threats? Or do you see a connection between the two goals that can inform a learning and development strategy that achieves both?
Mike00:19:40 Absolutely. I see the connection part really well. Um, I think the two do intersect if we remind ourselves that digital dexterity is having both the ability and desire to use and apply existing and emerging technology for better business outcomes to have digital dexterity, we need to all either habit or acquire a few essential mindset skills. And those mindset skills are part of your technological aptitude, your open-mindedness, your awareness of company, vision and ambition, all these skills move, but say a security professional or another tech, a data professional to become more complete and digitally dexterous contributor. I predict that adjacency skills attainment becomes one of the most important indicators of success in the future to prototype professional of the future is someone who has solid core tech skills conversant in adjacency domains and skills, and has a well honed digital dexterity mindset that they have the drive to do it. These people will be in high demand around the globe. And unfortunately there will be a shortage of those people. So most organizations are realizing they really do need to up-skill and re-skill the folks that they have.
Michelle BB00:21:08 Yeah. Thank you for that. I, I think that, you know, there's a lot of, you've talked about a lot of positive trends as we head into 2021, which I think is, is good organizations that are ready and willing to take on some of the challenges, um, that in fact, they have done a great job of meeting the challenges that I think have been posed by the pandemic and, and others that have, you know, moved up or accelerated digital transformation in a way where, to your point, they are driving the car while changing the tire at 80 miles an hour. I use that. I use that analogy quite a bit by the way. Um, but I can't help, but think that, you know, there are still some realities that might hold today's workforce back from reaching its full potential look. I mean, with COVID-19 we, we see that light at the end of the tunnel, right.
Michelle BB00:22:02 With a vaccine. And yet it's still a ways out for, for many of us. And, you know, the world is still struggling to balance work and personal life. People are playing multiple roles and you know, there is a general weariness, especially here in the Northern hemisphere where we're entering or where we're in the midst of winter. And I, I, I know that that people are feeling like they have no time for themselves. And does that then potentially do we run the risk that people are not necessarily taking the time to learn and to grow, not taking care of themselves and identifying those ways in which they can perhaps increase their skills, do more from a learning perspective and, and what do we do and how do we help them? Yeah.
Mike00:22:55 This is something I think about all the time, you know, Daniel pink wrote a book, the scientific secrets of perfect timing. And that has me somewhat obsessed with the notion of learning when your mind and your personal chronotype are aligned to absorb what you're attempting to learn. You know, some of us are night owls, others are early birds, others are more comfortable mid day. The point is whether it's late night, early morning or mid day, no, when you are the best at learning something set aside two or three times a week, this time to learn it is very much like exercise or forming something that becomes a habit, stick with it for a while, and it will become more ingrained into your activities. If you want to maintain an edge in your skills, arsenal, make learning part of your daily routine, there is nothing wrong with routine.
Michelle BB 00:23:52 Yeah. And you know what, there's nothing more important than prioritizing yourself. Right. You're worth it. Um, and, and, you know, I think to your point, I certainly do that with exercise. Uh, I got my Peloton, I'm always on it. Um, but I think that you raise a good point the way that we prioritize other things, we have to prioritize the learning because it will give us the edge. Um, all right. I got one final question for you. It's something I ask all our guests, it's my favorite. Um, and you know, it's one, at some point that I'm, I'm going to retire and I'll be happy to retire when, when we are perhaps not in the midst of the pandemic, but you know, this time has allowed us to look at things really differently. Perhaps we're giving ourselves more grace, um, we've shifted perspective, taken up a new hobby, hopefully learned a few things.
Michelle BB00:24:45 Um, so I've asked several of my guests this question, and you know, all the responses are so different and I want to really get your take on, um, three things. It's a start, stop continue. So, number one, three partner, number one, what have you started doing since the onset of the pandemic? Something maybe you didn't do before? Number two, what have you stopped doing as a result and are so grateful for a lot of people's, uh, responses involved traffic, um, and then number three, as we continue to create, uh, this new world for ourselves, what is something that you're going to hold on to continue to do that you just didn't do before?
Mike 00:25:27 Uh, there's a couple of things there from a work perspective, like everyone we've all witnessed the explosion of teams, zoom, WebEx, but that creates the need to make sure what you say is understood and you're not on mute yakking away at the same time. So one thing I've done is pause more often and prompt for are people hearing me clearly. And am I understandable? So that's something I'm going to take with me for good and kind of a mic check, so to speak the double entendre. And also since now I have about three hours of commuting that I no longer have to do into Boston with those three hours. I can now spend more time with data. I'm a firm believer in the notion that data finds data. When you start doing analysis, you find things you may not have been looking for. And lastly, though, on the personal side of it, I've also taken up making bread, which is really bizarre because I thought it was such a thing to poopoo when everyone was getting into baking bread. But I have, and I have a big spreadsheet with all my calculations of every recipe that I put together. I calculated down to the fine, like what I'm putting in it. So there's a healthy science to that bread making, and I'm now dabbling into pasta making as well.
Michelle BB00:26:54 Awesome. All right. So that's the start. What have you stopped doing Mike,
Mike00:26:58 Stop the community into Boston for Netflix, the short period of time, which, you know, three hours a day back in your life really is, um, you know, I can get at my computer at six 30 in the morning and be perfectly comfortable that I'm rested and you know, I'm not commuting all these three hours of doing nothing because of the crowded train and, you know, people talking the whole time. So, um, I'm getting a lot more focused time on work, um, which then gives me more time to focus on other things as well. Yeah,
Michelle BB00:27:27 That's fantastic. You know, I that's been the overwhelming majority of people I've spoken with have felt grateful for the, um, the time back from commuting, which, which I think is probably something we're going to have to look at very seriously and probably something we'll start to see when we look at where, um, companies are making those kinds of switches. Cause I think you're going to have a lot of employees who are gonna raise their hand and say, I don't know if I want to go back full-time into an office. I'm not sure that's what, you know, that's, what's going to be best for me, but also what's best for the organization because I'm a better person when I have more rest and I'm, you know, more productive,
Mike00:28:07 But there are those of us that are extroverts that it's still nice human connection.
Michelle BB00:28:12 Okay. All right. So maybe hybrid, maybe hybrid then. Um, so then, you know, as we create this new normal, what are you going to continue to do besides break bread?
Mike00:28:23 I'm going to continue to PA uh, on team meetings, team meetings and zoom meetings, I'm going to continue to make sure that everyone is heard. And we pause because there are blips in, you know, conversations on ti on, you know, virtual settings, because it, sometimes it's bandwidth. Sometimes you're not aiming towards the microphone or something, but just to make sure that people are heard and that I'm heard equally so that we can make sure that people, uh, don't get drowned out just by their, their poor infrastructure or tools.
Michelle BB00:28:56 I think that's, I think that's some great guidance and frankly, you know, I'm trying to pay attention to people's, um, body Mo you know, H how they're reacting it is important because it's very easy to talk over.
Mike00:29:12 How many times have you heard in 2020? You're on mute, Joe, you're on mute. You're on mute. That's just something we're all getting used to like wearing a mask, you know,
Michelle BB00:29:23 I know. All right, Mike, before we go, can you please remind our readers of the title of our new report and where they can find it?
Mike00:29:30 Sure. It's signals and you can go to skillsoft.com/resources and it's right there. Um, and also don't forget to check out our bootcamp. So when you're at.com, you can also search for bootcamp and they're even better now because we've started integrate our new coding labs into them. They're called sandboxes. And you're able to go along in the bootcamp and fire up a sandbox and follow along step-by-step with what the instructor is doing on your own. And then when you come back later, your code is all still right there as you left it. It's absolutely wonderful. So go to skillsoft.com. Search for bootcamp. We do have some boot camps for individuals that may not be current customers. They just have to activate a free trial account and you're end.
Michelle BB 00:30:18 That's amazing. So free trial, take a boot camp, get the signals report all by going to skillsoft.com. That's wonderful. Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us on the edge to our listeners. Thank you for tuning in to this. And every episode as we unleash our edge together in 2021, on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, keep learning, keep growing. And in light of our conversation today, look into developing some of those skills. We talked about. I'm going to go take a Python course, because apparently it's going to help me tremendously, but you know, here's this, you know, this really great opportunity to become more digitally dexterous, and to use it, to drive big outcomes for your organization. So again, take a bootcamp, go to skillsoft.com free trial, all good. I'm Michelle BB. This is The Edge. Be well.
About Our Guest
Mike Hendrickson is Vice President of Technology and Development products at Skillsoft. Prior to Skillsoft, Mike spent 15 years at O’Reilly Media, Inc., where he most recently was the VP of content strategy. Mike is a technology strategist with extensive experience establishing, building and maximizing relationships with industry leaders, companies, and partners.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.