Susanne Tedrick
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Growth Mindset in Tech
Career, Professional Development

Growth Mindset in Tech

You may be familiar with the “growth mindset” concept. The term, coined by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, a growth mindset means an individual believes their talents and skills can cultivated through the right inputs—namely, hard work, good strategies, and input from others. This contrasts with a “fixed mindset,” which suggests a belief that your talents and skills are static and cannot be changed.

Simply put, a growth mindset means the difference between tech companies—and their employees—succeeding and failing. I’m not naïve enough to think that only the tech industry experiences these changes. But I believe the innovations made in the tech realm are a catalyst for strong change in other parts of the economy.

So, the companies and employees that truly embrace a growth mindset stay ahead of the curve. However, plenty of misconceptions abound with applying the growth mindset concept (as the article linked above shows). In this post, I want to highlight some ways individuals and companies can get the growth mindset wrong—and how to correct those errors.

Throughout the rest of this post, I use the terms “growth mindset” and “professional development” interchangeably. This is somewhat intentional: professional development should be approached from the perspective that anyone and everyone and grow into a stronger, more well-rounded professional.

Whose responsibility is it, anyway?

With new skill acquisition, there’s confusion over whether employers need to take responsibility for professional development or if it depends on individuals. My sense is that the most effective strategy relies on mutual effort. Employers and employees should work together to identify potential areas for growth. Employers can provide the resources, to cover the financial cost and sanctioning time for regular professional development, to help employees succeed. Employees, in turn, can leverage the opportunity presented and improve a particular skill set.

More than just technology

The specific skills that matter the most often aren’t technical. A group at the Business Journals Leadership Trust, for example, outlined five key skill areas for tech professionals. While artificial intelligence made the list, others include business management and project management. Nontechnical skill sets in management are important not only to cultivate future leaders, but to help all members of a team better understand how to apply their knowledge to solve problems and work together.

Soft skills are also crucial for effectively functioning teams. Increasing competency in communication, active listening, and other related skill sets allow employees to better understand clients and each other.

Growth mindset must be truly organization-wide

Professional development is still frequently dealt with on a case-by-case basis. This approach means that those with fewer external obligations—not having to deal with children, or caring for a parent, for example—are best able to take advantage of professional development opportunities. That can place them on the inside track for promotion. By making professional development an organizational mandate, companies must confront the obstacles that prevent their team from leveraging those opportunities.

Other issues hinder professional development

This could help to explain why 86 percent of women identify professional development as an important component of their job—but less than half suggest the benefit is offered. This issue is compounded by lack of equity in pay, work-life balance, and general opportunities. Lower pay and a poor work-life balance can inhibit an employee from pursuing intensive professional development options like a degree or complex certification. Companies need to consider the implications of imbalanced staff to sharpen particular skill sets.

Don’t let a growth mindset become an excuse for toxicity

An organization-wide growth mindset means the entire team can improve. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a growth mindset factors in hard work, good strategy, and input from others. It’s also important to reiterate that there are factors at play that can prevent an employee from taking advantage of professional development. Senior leaders need to work to identify these barriers and address them, rather than leaving individual team members to “figure it out” for themselves.

What’s your favorite professional development strategy? Is there a particular program or idea that you found beneficial? Let me know on Twitter @SusanneTedrick.