Establishing a Growth Mindset starts with the CTO | Forte Group

Establishing a Growth Mindset starts with the CTO

About nine months ago I found myself in a rut. My calendar was fully booked with meetings and I was knee-deep implementing operational efficiencies across our teams. Meanwhile, I felt like I was a backseat observer to the rapid innovation taking place in technology.

I was missing out on the excitement of technology’s next and current promise. I missed the fun of getting my hands dirty with the craft I’m tasked with leading. But first I took a step back to look at the big picture. I decided to take this approach:

 

Stop. Rethink what is most important. Refactor your mindset.

 

 


About the Author

CJCJ Montano is CTO at Forte Group and a devoted technical leader with a deep passion for technology and continuous learning. In this article, CJ shares his personal experience of relearning and provides insights into the importance of prioritizing learning in leadership roles. 



Immersing myself in technology

And with that I decided to take the plunge and immerse myself into technology learning:


I’m currently working through AWS Cloud Certifications. I also read an enjoyable book by Eric Redmond titled “
Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything.”

Learning took on a life of its own. Like the curious software engineer I was earlier in my career, I couldn’t consume enough information. I was once again “in flow,”  inspired to enjoy technology by interacting with it at a fundamental level.

 

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Five lessons from prioritizing relearning as a technical leader 

During my immersion into hands-on technology, I expected to learn because that was the point. Other lessons revealed along the way were less obvious. Here are five lessons I learned during the journey.

  1. Change is as easy as just doing it

    Sign up for online courses. Break the cycle of inaction. Tell people you are going to do it. Even if it “doesn’t take” the first time, it will if you just keep doing it.  But actually “doing it” is the most important part. 

    It reminds me of the riddle about five frogs sitting on a log. After four decide to jump off, how many are left? Most people answer “one,” but the true answer is five. You see, they decided to jump off, but deciding is different than doing. As Nike would say, “Just Do It.” 

  2. Reprioritize your schedule to learn in the workplace

    You’re a technology leader and it comes with the territory that you will be in more meetings than there are hours in a work day. While that may be frustrating, nobody is going to sympathize with you or help you change it.

    People want your time because they want your thoughts, guidance and leadership. This is fine in the short term, but what is the point of your time if your thoughts and leadership are decaying? 

    You need to carve out time to grow. You certainly did not earn your position by just going to meetings. You learned, practiced and produced at the fundamental level.

    The first technique is simply scheduling blocks of time on your calendar each day for “research and development.” By blocking it on your calendar, on cadence, you will (mostly) keep people out of that time slot and give yourself the needed focus.

    The second technique is turning off notifications and putting the phone in another room. Give yourself the mental space to focus.

    The third technique is to not learn all at once. Learning requires time for the establishment of neural pathways. It’s best to consume learning in small chunks, but frequently (i.e., daily). Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

    The final technique is to make sure your learning time slot is the first thing you do in the morning. In my case, learning comes right after some early morning pick-up hockey – some things will always take priority.  Getting started early is when the brain is functioning at its peak. You will need this capacity to learn some of the newer concepts. 

  3. The content is almost irrelevant (it all comes together anyway)

    As you can see, my learning journey has been all over the map – cloud, web3, a new language, techniques of modern architectural software design. Perhaps that is the point as a technology leader. You’re expected to know a wide range of technical concepts. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this is knowing how they all fit, so I wouldn’t get too worked up about “what you should know” or “how you want to specialize.”  Answers to both of those questions will be revealed as you get deeper into your learning path.

  4. Learning reframes the purpose and place of future tech

    To continue on my last point, all things in tech tend to come together. Part of that coming together helps build a frame of reference for where technology is headed. Without this context, it could be very confusing to understand something like artificial intelligence and where it will live or whether web3 will make it.

    The ability to better prognosticate enables you to introduce innovation in your own organization.  It helps you understand the risks and evaluate the size and location of innovation.

  5. Learning is deeply connected to one’s own sense of self

Outside of our ability to talk, sophisticated learning could possibly be the most significant trait unique to humans. Yes, I know AI exists. The point here is that learning is fundamentally important to us.

Learning has more benefits than helping you become proficient in your job or to generate income. Learning creates purpose and confidence. It brings satisfaction through accomplishment. Learning regulates your time and helps your mind put things into perspective.  In short, it helps keep you mentally fit.  

I personally find learning to be directly connected to improvements in my physical health. If you don’t know why, take the journey and you will be pleasantly surprised!

 

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Five considerations of your learning journey 

Here are five tips to consider as you embark on your own learning journey. 

Step 1: Fair Use Act and Creative Commons licensing

There is so much content that is available for free use under the provision of learning and experimentation. It gives you access and opportunity previously unavailable. You can find excellent course material from all the top universities in the United States. Two sites you can start with are Coursera and edX. Enter your area of interest in their search bar and you’re bound to find relevant free courses.

Step 2: Udemy courses are cheap, but YouTube is free

Udemy has a mix of free and paid online courses. Obviously all courses are not equal, so do a bit of research, but $20 for a 50-hour course that results in hundreds of hours of learning is incredible value. There’s also a wealth of learning videos on YouTube. They’re free, although you might have to sit through some advertisements.

Step 3: Certifications matter

Tests can be scary, especially as we get older, but proving one’s ability (largely to oneself) to know something is satisfying because you verify knowledge to a proper level. Whether it’s Agile (scrum.org) or Cloud (AWS has great training), the exam certifications often cost $100 or less. Moreover, your company will likely cover the cost. Don’t shy away from getting certified – a certification makes you more valuable to both your current and future employers

Step 4: Cloud training is fundamental

It just is. Everything we do – at least until web3 comes along – will continue to be based on IaaS, PaaS or SaaS. Cloud training helps you understand the fundamentals of running a technology shop. It puts everything in a place and creates a place for everything. A technical leader simply must know about cloud computing.

Step 5: Use it or lose it

Make sure to apply your learning. Go beyond your official work assignments to take on some personal projects. Find a fun software project, perhaps one you have always wanted to build. Take an MVP approach and then go. A personal project acts as a training ground and provides fertile opportunities for learning different technologies and concepts.  

Shameless plug: for those of you interested in my personal project, it’s called “MyHockeyIQ.”

It’s software that helps hockey coaches extend training from the ice arena to the virtual arena through the lens of the athlete. Let me know if you want to learn more about MyHockeyIQ or if you want to contribute to the project!

 

Conclusion

It’s been a heck of a ride. My immersion into hands-on learning brings me back to the start of my career in tech – a time when things moved quickly and everything seemed possible. The best part is that it’s only the beginning.  I’ll continue this learning through the remainder of my career. It will make me a better and more informed leader.  Thanks for reading this far! If you’re interested in the services we provide, fill out the form on this page and we’ll be in touch.

 

Got Questions Left?

Let CJ know and he will be in touch.

CJ Montano

by CJ Montano

CJ is a CTO at Forte Group. He is an immersive leader and quality craftsman who works with IT enterprise teams to overcome large-scale engineering complexities and achieve constant value.

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