There are so many virtual programs out there, specifically in times of Covid-19. While it seems we have a lot of time to spare and nothing better to do — how can you make sure that when you put in the time, that you maximize your outcome? As a graduate of the DLT Talents program, I was exposed with exactly that question on my mind and here are my two cents about this topic.
I applied for the program when I was at the end of my master thesis, knowing I want to continue to learn more about Blockchain. The DLT Talents program fosters leadership in the blockchain, crypto assets, and DLT space and thereby empowers ambitious female talents. At first, I did not know what to expect and then realized it is a lot about cryptocurrencies. Nothing I was specifically interested in…until then. Yet and in hindsight, I would like to say I got the most out of it. While you are moving into the first sessions or start a different program (the learnings are not unique to the DLT program), I would like to share my learnings with you.
1. Take it seriously.
On average I spent at least 6 hours preparing for my homework and also took the learning sessions very serious. In total this adds up to 8 hours of workload every 2 weeks. 4 hours per week. This is feasible. Specifically the learning sessions were like a business meeting for me and like any professional, I would not skip it for drinks with friends. I came prepared and listened carefully. (For further reference: the learning sessions were scheduled every other Monday, from 7–8.30pm.)
2. Just like on any journey, you do not have to travel alone.
Since Day 1, I was carefully listening to the other peers in the group and I proactively reached out to a few that were most outspoken and whom I felt I can learn from. After one call, I asked one of them if she would be interested to form a learning group with me. She accepted and we immediately set a specific time and date to discuss our learnings before we went into our next session. We were “religious” about meeting our commitments and that led to two things for me personally:
1. I had my homework done early.
2. I always had someone to learn from or with.
There will be topics that are very unfamiliar, and you do not really know how to get started. Or the contrary happens, and you are being asked to engage in a topic that is very familiar to you. The second opinion, in both cases, will be worth gold.
You learn that she is lost, too (thank god…I felt lost many times). It takes away pressure and you do not feel overwhelmed and alone anymore. In the best case, when both of you are OK with the assignment or topic, you get a different perspective about something that felt very familiar beforehand.
3. Take it back to work, your private life — don’t make it a “separate business”.
Now, after the program, I started to speak about bitcoin and blockchain ALL THE TIME. To that point, even my parents and some of my friends became investors. They might not educate themselves to the level that I do but they trust that I know what I am talking about. They see the effort I put in. That in return helps me to build up my own confidence that nowadays I dare to go on panels, talk about it with investors and people from the banking sector (which is not my home turf) or even expose my knowledge and opinion at work. I’m not scared to share and stick to my opinion.
Now, is it a good thing that they rely on me…no, I wish they would educate themselves as well and join our purpose but one step at a time. :)
4. Be simple.
Blockchain, just like any technology, can be very complex and complicated. Don’t fall prey to that and become the next expert who sounds smart, but no one knows what he or she talks about. Albert Einstein once defined five ascending levels of intellect. Being smart is only the first step — taking it to simplicity should be your goal.
5. Be pro-active, contribute but do not dominate.
During the sessions, you will be asked to share your learnings or contribute during the discussions. Step up when no one does and contribute. Be a role model in demonstrating that it takes gut and only by doing so, people will hear and acknowledge you. Also, your thoughts need to leave your head otherwise they will never reach anyone but yourself. It also supports your own learning process.
The same time I ask you to be careful here. It is a fine line of being outspoken or being dominant. You should not dominate conversations and rather carefully lead or contribute to them. Keep Dalai Lama’s words in mind: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Be open for other opinions, step up when no one else does but also allow others to take the first step (sometimes it is those two seconds of silence that no one can bear. Usually the same people step up and take the lead to “save” the rest because they cannot bear the silence anymore.) However, sometimes it would have taken another split second for the others to speak up because they are too shy. Risk to endure the silence.
6. Sharing is caring.
Don’t keep wisdom to yourself. Share it (i.e. via Slack or during the learning sessions) and you will see that the same will happen to you. Be kind to one another. Offer your support and re-discuss your learnings before you go into the next session. You already enter the session with a broader and more in-depth understanding. It is always about give and take. You give, and something comes back. Just taking without giving will not work.
7. Set a Google Alert.
Is there a topic that you are inherently interested in? For example: Bitcoin, NFT or simply blockchain. Set a Google Alert and get a daily summary. You might not notice it at first, but every little piece of information will gradually add to your knowledge and then one day, it will form a picture and the complexity in itself will become less complex or at least less intransparent.
8. Have a mantra.
Whenever I start something new, I have a mantra, a credo, something to hold on to. Learning something new, means you need to step out of your comfort zone which per se will be uncomfortable at times. Pick a mantra that speaks to you and that you can relate to. Something to help remind you why you did this in the first place.
Years ago, my mentor sent me a video clip from Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. In that video she introduces her concept of the 5 C model which I find very powerful. She recommends focusing on Competence, Courage & Confidence, Communication Skills, Consistency, and Compass but please see for yourself in this video.
9. Enjoy the ride.
Have fun. Learning helps us to evolve as individuals and to see the world in all its different shades and perspectives.
10. No one can build your network for you.
Reach out (also via Linkedin) and connect with as many as you can. Don’t wait for others to connect with you. Build a relationship and stay in touch. Building a network is something you have to do proactively and which cannot be done by anyone else but yourself.