Why Resilience is One of the Best Skills You Can Learn in Tech and Beyond

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I am a woman who has been working in technology for 15 years. I started in IT, then IT became New Media, then Digital Media, now it’s Digital. Soon it will just be ‘work’ – technology is so fast-moving and pervasive we won’t need a special department for it.

And I am sure I am preaching to the choir when I say that it has not been easy. I’ve been talked down to, talked over, hit on, stalked, lied to, shouted at, underestimated and underpaid. And yet I keep at it. Why? Because I love technology, and I love solving problems with technology. How do I keep at it? Because I’ve learned to be resilient.

And so I want to tell you what resilience means to me and how it can help you too…

1) Be flexible
One of the misconceptions about resilience is that it’s about being tough. The definition of resilience is not being tough – by definition, it’s actually the ability to spring back into shape. You don’t have to be cold or dispassionate to be resilient, you can be gentle. You can even be cute if you want to. But you have to be flexible.

Think about squishy toys (like a stress ball) or ‘squishies’ as I like to call them. The great thing about them is that no matter how much they’re squeezed, they always return to their original form.  The message here is ‘you do you’. You may need to bend into uncomfortable shapes temporarily, but you can always return to form. Don’t be afraid of staying true to what you are and what you believe in, even if you have to act against your impulses for a while. Be patient, and know that your squeezed, contorted self is not forever.

The other great thing about squishies is that they have friends. There are loads of them. They’re a toy marketers’ dream because there’s a whole network of squishies. And you have a network too. Your colleagues, friends and family can all help you to be resilient because they can guide you, offer advice, a new perspective or just feed you wine and listen. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

2) Change your view.
This is probably the tool or approach I rely on most. And when I say change your view, I don’t mean change your mind or compromise your values; I mean try to see things differently. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a little obsessed about this, and I am. Remember: You can’t solve a problem with the logic you used to create it. I didn’t say that first, Einstein did, and he was way smarter than I am. But thinking differently about a problem, re-framing your view and your approach, will give you the fresh perspective needed to tackle issues again and again, and that’s the real core of resilience.

My yellow-tinted princess glasses allow me to see the world in a different way which helps me consider things from another perspective. And I would encourage you to always try to do so too. Empathy is an overused term, yet it continues to be an underused psychological muscle. Step away from how you’re feeling and try to see things from someone else’s point of view. Try to understand their emotions, motivations and concerns. It will help you negotiate, and critically it takes the focus away from you. It becomes less personal, and you start to see what’s really going on.

There’s an old Cherokee proverb that says ‘Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes’ which is particularly useful when dealing with difficult people – because you’ll be a mile away from then AND you’ll have their shoes. Winning. But seriously, being able to understand where someone is coming from helps you see the problem in a different light and know how to respond to them better and hopefully, vice versa.

If things are still tough, what do you do then?

3) Know when to quit.
They say that ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. But I say, not always. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you anxious or stressed; it makes you mentally unwell. It impacts your relationships and it damages your health.

Consider the cost of the opportunity. For every hour you spend doing something futile and unbearable, that’s an hour you’re not spending doing something rewarding, valuable and fun.

So when you’ve exhausted your support network to the point that they start avoiding you, when you’ve tried all of the ways to think differently about the problem and to empathise with others, and yet you’re still prevented from doing valuable work and your core values seem like a distant memory, then it’s time to bow out gracefully (or, disgracefully whichever is preferred).

I’d love to hear your stories of resilience working for you, so please feel free to comment below.