1. Computer Science 101: how computers work, from software to hardware. No technical background required – a good starting point.
2. Intro to Databases – i.e. what databases are and how to work with them. It’s important to know what SQL is before you can learn more about NoSQL and “Big Data” platforms like Hadoop. This is a bit more technical but you can take portions of the bigger class (there are mini-modules) and use Google/Wikipedia for whatever is confusing.
3. How the Internet works: a 12 minute starter TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_blum_what_is_the_internet_really?language=en
4. Intro to Computer Networks: basically, how the Internet works, in a lot more detail.
5. Human-Computer Interaction: A great intro to how user experience design works. Important for how you take technology and turn something like an algorithm or a bunch of working code into an interface that actual humans can use.
Then find out what your company’s internal documentation is about the product.
- Go through the company’s internal wiki (may require a VPN depending on your company/location).
- Find new hire training for sales people – since they have to explain the product to others.
- Look at your company’s YouTube channel for customer interviews/case studies, product demos, and whatever the PR department puts out.
- Watch videos from your company’s past conferences (if available).
Read up on the industry – ask colleagues or just search online for
- What conferences do people attend? Even if you can’t go to the conference, you can often watch a livestream or download presentations after the fact.
- www.meetup.com has excellent events in person by topic. If you don’t have a lot of money and events aren’t free, contact the organizer and offer to help with setup or cleanup in exchange for a free ticket. Often, event organizers are happy to have the help, and you can often attend for free!
Share what you know.
Take notes and write about what you learn.
Start with word docs or google docs of interesting things you learn. You can do this in a blog post on www.medium.com and publish your learnings once you feel like you’ve hit a milestone. A good format to take is “how to do ___” or “10 things I learned about ___.” For more ideas on topics/headlines, see here.
If you want to take it to the next level, organize an event and meet people in the topic/industry/area you want to learn more about. You can start by finding an existing Meetup organizer and offer to produce an event for free for that community, for example.
The best way to learn is to teach, so if running an event sounds like a lot of work, start with explaining to a colleague, friend, or family member what you’ve learned.
What tools or approaches have you used to become more technical? Share with us in the comments.
Katharine Bierce works in email marketing at a tech company in San Francisco. She loves reading, writing, and understanding how things work from technology to business processes. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, singing, hiking, planning and attending “tech for social good” Meetups and advising nonprofits. Katharine graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago with a degree in Psychology.