by Shannon Bloemker
You don’t have to be an expert at everything. Really. As professional women, we certainly understand that it’s important to acquire new skills and broaden our understanding of the areas that are most important to us.
Still, there are only so many hours in the day, so it’s tempting to stay focused on the many details that we manage on a daily basis. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential to stretch ourselves, to look up and make some observations about things in our day-to-day life that we may take for granted.
This idea took shape as I became familiar with the “Hour of Code” movement , which is in its second year. This is a worldwide effort to expose students to the experience of participating in computer programming. President Obama has been a big advocate for this, and events are held across the globe. Obama became the first president to write a line of code, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to work for IBM.
I’m not a programmer, but the idea behind the “Hour of Code” movement inspires me to look beyond my immediate sphere. Since I rely on apps and digital tools every day, it is logical that I should have some basic understanding of how computing works and an appreciation for what goes into software development. I don’t have to be an expert, but I want to be aware of what the experts grapple with daily.
This idea applies to all sorts of areas for professional women. In addition to knowing your own job, you’re responsible for informing yourself on managing your personal and business finances. Do you need to go get an accounting degree? No, but you should be familiar with some basic principles and practices so that you can understand the terminology and concepts that are used by professionals when they advise you. It’s about digging our heads out of the sand to make sure we are educated and can make knowledgeable decisions in all areas of our lives.
You may not change your own oil, but you should understand why it’s an important part of car maintenance. It’s not likely that you can fix your ice maker either, but having a basic knowledge of simple mechanical systems can go a long way toward handling simple repairs and, more importantly, not feeling railroaded by a professional that says it’ll cost a fortune to fix.
Even if you don’t own a wrench, it’s liberating to know the basics: How does a refrigerator work? A clothes dryer? What are some key systems and parts to check, so that major breakdowns, which are so costly and inconvenient, can be prevented? This is important information to know, and time spent learning about it is well invested.
Basically, the Hour of Code idea reminds me that we should never stop learning about how the things in our life work—especially the ones we most depend on. Computers. Finances. Cars. Appliances. Learning a little bit about how things work gives us an appreciation for the experts who do these jobs, and it also improves our confidence in those we hire to do the things we don’t do ourselves.
We can’t do everything ourselves and still have time for business and family (and leisure, recreation, hobbies… remember those?). But there’s a difference between outsourcing things we choose not to do ourselves and blindly hiring someone simply because we don’t know any better.
Spending some time to become more knowledgeable about our world can help us make better decisions and can protect us from being taken advantage of simply due to our naiveté. The time invested pays off, even if it’s just an hour. What would you spend an hour to learn more about?