Can Digital Literacy Really Change Your Life?

Technology is rapidly changing how we work. It’s increasing our productivity, changing the devices we use, and turning us into better collaborators. With this shift in work, the demand for digital literacy—a term that refers to the competencies necessary to participate in a knowledge economy—has also grown exponentially. For many people, these skills are brand-new and not an area of educational focus; according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 48% of eighth-grade students have never taken any technology or engineering-related classes in school.

So why invest in digital literacy? And what does it look like for the average employee? Digital literacy doesn’t necessarily mean learning a programming language (though that can be a plus!). For many people, digital literacy entails mastering more consumerized technologies such as Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM, or Workato, for enterprise integrations and automations. In fact, consumerized enterprise apps have created a whole new job role: the App Admin, someone who specializes in administering a particular program or bundle of tools like the Atlassian suite.

But not every tool is equal. In fact, creating great software that can be mastered by lines of business users is a huge challenge. Vijay Tella, co-founder of Workato explains: “It’s easy to understand why people would want an enterprise platform that required no coding and was simple enough for the everyday business user. There was, however, a very good reason that no one had created it yet: it was fundamentally very difficult to deliver. Making something that has inherently powerful capabilities – like enterprise-class automation – and yet simple to understand and use is nothing short of ‘the Holy Grail’ of engineering.”

Designing complex software with lines of business users in mind is not only better from a business perspective; it can also have a real impact on the lives of those who are enabled to use it. So while the challenge to create transformative software may be great, the results are worth every bit of the effort. Here are three ways that learning and investing in tech programs can empower the user.

1) Digital literacy opens up opportunities.

The simple truth is that in today’s job market, tech skills are in high demand—and they’ll continue to be as more and more jobs involve high-tech elements. Even if you’re not working in the tech industry itself, chances are you’ll still need some level of digital literacy to succeed.

The high demand for tech skills is reflected in mean compensation for tech sector jobs; software architects are some of the highest paid roles available today, according to Forbes. But even if you’re not looking to work as a developer or engineer, being digitally literate is still likely to boost your income potential. It might even open up a new career path entirely.

Eric Dreshfield, an advocacy manager at Apttus, owes his current job to a willingness to master a new piece of software. “The three years prior to getting involved with Salesforce were my ‘dark’ times. While I was not unemployed, I was under-employed,” he says. “I spent those three years working anywhere between two and five jobs at one time, for sometimes up to 20 hours a day, while making barely above minimum wage.”

Dreshfield’s lucky break came along when, while working as a tech support agent, his contact center decided to adopt Salesforce as its CRM. He seized the opportunity to advance his skills with the platform, he says, and hasn’t looked back since. “I was promoted to Business Analyst and helped drive the transformation of the contact center,” he explains. “I now have a great career, working a job I love, for a great company.”

Likewise, senior Salesforce consultant Celeste Keller credits digital literacy with her success in moving beyond the world of retail. “I never considered myself a technical person, not even on the simplest level. I couldn’t even buy myself a new smartphone or computer without help from someone else,” she comments. “I worked in retail much longer than I would have liked because I did not have other options for employment due to a lack of skills outside of the retail management skill set.”

But when Keller landed a job as an administrative assistant, she immediately embraced the chance to master new skills. “It was just a phone-answering, coffee-making, data-entry type of job, but it exposed me to technologies that I had never worked with previously,” she says.

Senior #Salesforce consultant @salesforcesaint credits digital literacy with her success in moving beyond retail. Click To Tweet

The key to picking up new, digital skills? Keller says the answer is simple: passion. “I began working with Salesforce.com as an admin, and I immediately developed a passion for the platform and all I could do with it. This then grew into a passion for programming,” she recalls. “Now I’m an advanced Salesforce admin, and I’m also learning Apex and Python programming. I’m very excited about my career, and I have more confidence than ever in my ability to learn new things. A happy side effect of this is that I’ve also become proficient in using and troubleshooting most of the hardware, software, and devices that I use.”

2) Digital literacy increases your efficiency and flexibility.

Digital literacy isn’t just a gateway to a higher-paying job. It’s also a means for growth in your current career, regardless of your field. Christian Carter, a Performance and Release Engineer at Salesforce, began his tech journey while working in theater. “[When I was a freelance stagehand] I would tinker around with Excel formulas, access databases, and other things to make my life easier,” he says.

His tinkering turned serious when he began running a theater box office. “I had things I needed to do in Salesforce, and I needed to make them happen faster or more easily. So I started writing little scripts in Python to process CSVs. I learned how to export data, clean it up, and import it back. I learned how to pull data into different tools (like Excel and Tableau) and inspect it. It turned out there was a lot that I could automate without having to learn too many different tools. I was able to make my life a lot easier.”

He notes that even if you don’t pursue a tech industry job, you can enjoy increased efficiency through being digitally literate. Chris Zullo, Vice President of Solutions, Marketing Cloud at RelationEdge, echoes this sentiment. “Almost every business and professional organization can take advantage of digital literacy,” he says. “Those who don’t will struggle to evolve and be as efficient as they can be.”

3) Digital literacy connects you with others.

Beyond career opportunity and flexibility, digital literacy offers another serious benefit: community. Not only are there entire platforms built for collaboration and chat, but individual technologies often birth robust user communities. From Salesforce’s Ohana to tech Meetup groups and events like Workato Jam, there are thousands of ways for the digitally literate to connect, share, and learn.

Dreshfield says that when he picked up Salesforce, he tapped into a new community he never knew existed. “Maybe not all platforms have such a vibrant family feel, but learning about the technology was the key to making it all happen,” he says.

Likewise, Zullo credits digital literacy with broadening his social and professional network. “Digital technology has enriched my life in many ways,” he says. “It has allowed me to keep in touch with and meet many more people than I would have otherwise. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel to a few places, thanks to my career path!”

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