The only constant in technology is change. To stay relevant, it’s critical to keep up with the ever-evolving world of technology that we all work and play in. To promote continuous learning and celebrate the power of tech skills, Pluralsight hosted its fourth annual Tech Skills Day on April 20.
Open to everyone, this event brings a range of inspirational sessions and speakers, all aimed at making technology more accessible. With a focus on inclusivity and community, Tech Skills Day aims to provide a space for people to explore new tech skills. Dive into the highlights below and then get the complete experience by watching the event in full.
Code is for everyone: Highlights of Sonic Pi with creator Sam Aaron
Sam Aaron is the creator of Sonic Pi, a free, code-based music creation tool. Sam is passionate about making creative coding accessible to everyone. Sonic Pi is his way of teaching computer science in a fun way, and he loves the ability to express himself through music. Sam sees creativity and programming going hand in hand; Sonic Pi is used by students in the classroom and DJs alike to explore music and programming to their hearts’ content.
In fact, Sonic Pi has become a tool of communication and a basis for a community of educators, students, programmers, and artists alike. Before treating us to a performance, Sam left us with this food for thought:
“Code is for everybody. You don’t have to do complicated things. If you want to do that, it’s there. Just in the same way that sports is for everybody. Not everyone will be a professional sportsperson, but everyone should have a bit of sport in their life. It’s good for your body and your soul. Coding is the same.”
"Our path to success was failure" session with Scott Hanselman and Sophy
One of the most effective ways to succeed might just be by failing. In their session, “Our path to success was failure,” Scott Hanselman, Partner Program Manager at Microsoft, and Sophy of Code by Sophy shared ways to learn to succeed by embracing failure. Both Scott and Sophy have leaned on moments of failure to recover, learn, and get out there again.
One of the biggest aspects of learning and succeeding is having a community you can lean on and learn from. “Reaching out for help can be demonized in tech when it shouldn’t be. It can be one of the most valuable things you can do. It can allow you to get solutions in a more productive, efficient way,” Sophy said. Yet Scott acknowledged that it can be hard to ask for help when you’re new to tech or new to a company. The key is to learn to ask questions in a solution-oriented way and to do your homework before you ask for help. That way, you don’t have to worry about wasting someone’s time. Instead, you’re asking for someone’s input and insight.
Plus, as Scott pointed out, “Everyone is an expert at something, but we’re also all amateurs.” There’s value in juniority and the ability to provide a unique perspective as well as see problems through a different lens.
Scott and Sophy also touched on the theme of luck in tech. We see successful folks in the industry and may assume they’re just lucky.
Yet, as Sophy and Scott see it, luck in tech equates to opportunity meeting preparedness. Luck comes and goes; preparedness is the only thing you can control. Take the time to be prepared for the moments when luck works in your favor, whether that’s prepping for job interview questions, taking a Skill IQ assessment, or jumping on a live coding session to brush up on your technical skills.
Key insights from the "Overcoming barriers in tech" panel
Aisha Blake, Director of Developer Relations at Pluralsight, broke down some of the biggest barriers in tech and tips to overcome them with Corey Weathers (Developer Relations Manager at Auth0 of Okta), Pariss Chandler (BlackTechPipeline Founder & CEO), and Jessica Tai (Engineering Manager at Airbnb). This lively discussion has nuggets of wisdom for tech newbies and seasoned experts alike. You’ll have to listen in yourself to capture them all but here are some highlights.
Aisha: What are some of the questions you recommend that people ask when looking at a potential role?
Jessica: I ask everyone to describe the culture at the company to see what it’s like at different levels. If they say, "We have a good culture" with no specifics, I know that anyone can say that. I’m looking for a little bit more. If the answer is very flat, it’s kind of a red flag for me.
Pariss: Something that people don’t talk about as much is the interview process itself. If you’re going to be interviewing at a company, ask what to prepare for and what you can expect. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, either. I think sometimes people feel scared to ask, but there’s no reason to be.
Corey: I like to lean into the things that feel ugly and uncomfortable. If I’m talking to an individual contributor, I ask the question, “What’s the last major headache that you had that was job-related?” If I am talking to someone who is a manager, I ask, “What’s the last major conflict the team had, and how was it handled?”
Building a LEGO set wishlist with React recap
Be sure to watch our coding session from Laurie Barth, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, and hear advice she gave on best practices for building React applications. This isn’t just any coding demo, though. You’ll learn how to build a LEGO set wishlist while diving into the tools, tips, and patterns for building these web apps. Laurie showcased how to use components, events, hooks, and semantic HTML. No matter what you ultimately want to create, Laurie’s imaginative and playful way of demonstrating best practices will inspire you to believe and build bigger.
You can also explore the source code file, which includes instructions to run the code and a glossary.
Depth vs. breadth: Key takeaways from the "Tech specialist vs. generalist" panel
Is it better to be a generalist or specialist? Do specialists even exist in today’s fast-paced tech world? Are four-year degrees unnecessary or a stepping stone to a successful career? These are just some of the thought-provoking questions discussed in our Specialist vs. Generalist panel session hosted by Jeremy Morgan, Senior Developer Advocate at Pluralsight.
Adrienne Lowe (Leadership Consultant), Angela Andrews (Solution Architect at Red Hat), and Faye Ellis (Principal Training Architect - AWS, Pluralsight) shared their experiences in both specialized and generalist roles across a variety of industries.
Angela highlighted the generalist side of her role as a solution architect, boiling it down to “needing to know a lot about a lot of different things” from networking to software to operating systems. Yet she turns to specialists to take that granular view, saying, “I lean heavily on a specialist in my role as a solution architect. Those are the folks we call when we can’t figure things out. They’re people who spend their time digging into a particular topic. They are the subject matter experts.”
For Adrienne, her untraditional journey to tech gives her special insight into breaking into tech. “What is very important if you want to break into tech or you’re in tech and want to continue to be successful is a growth mindset, curiosity, and an internal locus of control,” she shared. “Be willing to put yourself out there, keep learning, keep trying, and rely on your fabulous community.”
And for those just starting out or changing careers, Faye recommends realizing that despite the fact that opportunity costs will always exist, there’s a payoff in focusing on what you’re passionate about. She explained, “If you can follow your heart in what you decide to generalize around, you’ll succeed in whatever you do. That almost negates the opportunity cost around what you’ve forgone by going in a different direction.”
Key takeaways from "Building a robot arm with .NET 7, Raspberry Pi, Blazor, and SignalR”
Pete Gallagher, Full Stack Manager at Avanade and Pluralsight Author, brought together coding, VR, robotics, and IoT. This session allows you to team up with Pete to learn how to drive a 3D robotic arm with .NET 7 and Raspberry Pi. He covered everything from installing .NET 7 into Raspberry Pi, building blocks of code, to using Raspberry Pi GPIO and the circuit.
Get insights into device binding, driving servos Blazor and SignalR. Pete showcased how to use .NET 7 and Raspberry Pi in IoT applications through an exciting demo of driving a robotic arm. As you watch the session, take a look at the source code and follow up with the full workshop for more detail.
"Learning: The most important tech skill"
Mattias Andersson, Principal Developer Advocate at Pluralsight, unveiled the most important skill for tech in his learning to learn session—and it might not be what you think. No, it isn’t React or Clojure, though those are important too. It’s the ability to learn. Even more specifically, it’s the ability to learn continuously. In fact, this skill is the primary one for any successful tech career.
But don’t worry, Mattias didn’t suggest that you spend eight hours studying a day instead of working. Instead, he shared:
- Key fundamentals of brain and learning science
- Techniques you can use to help you learn more quickly and effectively
- Three tips on how to sustainably apply these techniques in your everyday life
The session included necessary techniques for incorporating learning into your life, engaging your curiosity, and making daily consistent progress toward achievable learning targets.
Key takeaways from "The reality of developing an artificial world" with Angie Jones
The consequences of not testing AI can be disastrous, yet as Angie Jones, Vice President of Global Developer Relations at TBD @ Block, noted, people tend to blindly “trust the algorithm” more than they might realize.
Even tech giants like Apple have fallen prey to this problem, perhaps, most notably when a married couple applied for their credit card. The husband received a credit limit 20 times higher than the wife despite all key income reporting factors being the same. In fact, it turns out the wife had a higher credit score than the husband. Apple couldn’t accept that their algorithm for credit card applications might be unintentionally discriminatory, but as Jones put it, it seems like Apple either skipped testing AI algorithms due to “blind trust or didn’t test with diversity in mind.”
Jones shared her own experience testing an ecommerce algorithm and how sticking to rigorous testing approaches paid off even when subject matter experts were wrapped in jargon and a never-wavering belief in the algorithm’s infallibility. In the compelling keynote session, she urged us to engage in thoughtful, critical testing and remember that sometimes all it takes is a bit of good old common sense.
“There's a real need for thoughtful and critical testing of these applications,” Angie expanded. “And finally, no matter how smart the machines become, having blind faith in them is just not good. Plain good ol’ common sense can still trump an algorithm.” After all, the future is here. So, please test it responsibly.
AI Q&A with Angie Jones
Simon Allardice, Creative Director & Principal Author at Pluralsight sat down with Angie Jones, Vice President of Global Developer Relations at TBD @ Block, for an engaging Q&A session on AI, testing, and the importance of being a T-shaped technologist. There are so many bits of wisdom in the Q&A session that we can’t capture them all (more reason to watch the full session), but we’re sharing some of the highlights below.
Simon: For those who are not in a hands-on software testing role but in a related role, how much should I expect to learn about AI testing so I can sit in a meeting and understand what everyone is talking about?
Angie: I believe that quality is everyone’s responsibility. No matter what role you’re in, you should strive to have an idea of what high quality is. What does it mean for our application to be high quality?
You might not know the ins and outs of software testing, but you should know enough to understand who is using a product and how. Then, keep those users and their use cases at the forefront of your thoughts when doing your job.
Simon: For someone who is in their first entry-level job in development: As they’re becoming aware of AI, machine learning, and blockchain, but they’ve never touched it, how do they even begin?
Angie: First of all, it’s overwhelming for those of us who have been working in tech for decades, so don’t let that intimidate you. Aim to be T-shaped. Obtain a basic understanding of a breadth of topics. Decide which one or two topics really interest you. Obtain a deep mastery of those one or two areas that you’re interested in.
Simon: It’s easy for anyone to be a bit anxious about AI and worry it may take their jobs. It’s no surprise that people are pessimistic about AI. What are the things that you focus on that give you hope about the AI field?
Angie: It might get rough before it gets better. There’s a lot of hype around AI right now. We’re seeing substance to match that hype right now. We may see businesses believing they can get rid of certain jobs and just use AI to do those jobs. I’ve used ChatGPT enough to start recognizing patterns with the output it’s giving me...If I wanted to utilize it over and over again for similar tasks where I want different outcomes, this might not be the best tool. That’s where that human creativity comes in.
Get your Skill IQ to grow your tech skills in 2023
With another Tech Skills Day in the books, you may be wondering what your next step is to moving your career forward and expanding your opportunities. Might we recommend taking a Skill IQ assessment? You’ll find what you don’t know, discover how to close skills gaps, and identify knowledge strengths. By assessing your skills, you can stay up to date with the latest technologies and trends, enabling you to excel in your tech career and reach your full potential.
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