Let me tell you about my mum!

Learning

How strong is your desire to learn?

This blog was first published on Zuni blog.

I recently returned from a holiday in the United States and at the request of my mum, brought home a number of sheets of handmade decorative paper for her new craft hobby. Mum retired earlier this year at the age of 68 and has always been someone with 2 or 3 books on the go and her hands in some type of craft work – whether it be knitting or sewing as well as running the house and working.

When I gave mum the paper, which also had a great holiday across the US, I ventured into her sewing room and was amazed to see a new-age sewing machine that looked like something that should belong on the set of Star Trek and only Dr Spock could operate with his Vulcan intellect. Admittedly, sewing machines are not my forte and probably not Dr Spock’s either, but we both would appreciate the technology which has seriously infiltrated the sewing/craft world. I commented on this to mum and her blasé response was, “Oh yes, it does a fair bit and there is a tablet that connects as well.”

You may well be thinking, “Well, what’s so amazing about learning a new craft hobby?” In 1995, mum was made redundant from the Public Service and at 50 years old was told by the CES (Commonwealth Employment Agency) that she was unlikely to get a job and should retire. Not happy with being told this and after a few temping jobs, mum started work in the call centre for a government agency in 1997. During this time mum taught herself HTML, DHTML (we are talking late ‘90s) and then a few years later moved on to Homesite, Dreamweaver, Photoshop etc and ended up rebuilding part of the intranet for this government agency with a colleague. Now I’m not sure of the level of knowledge or expertise mum attained, but I remember her sending me HTML code to check over when I was working for a web development company in London in 2000-2001. I’ve been working in digital for over 15 years but on the business side, so I do not code. But being the dutiful son I gave it to one of my team members to review and it received the thumbs up.

Mum completely embraced the digital world from her early 50s right through to retirement in various types of digital and technical type roles in the Public Service.  Over the years we’ve had some surreal conversations relating to developing websites and the selection and implementation of web content management systems. Not the type of conversation you’d expect to have with your mother!

Now, remember the handmade paper? After years of knitting and other crafts, mum has developed repetitive strain injuries in her hands and has regularly attempted new craft hobbies and, at 68 years old, is making very detailed handmade cards for birthday and Christmas etc. I’m not talking simple cards – but cards with embossing, cut outs, layered paper and equal to the quality you see in high-end specialised card shops. And of course mum has another space-age looking machine to assist with cutting the paper into intricate shapes. Now you can see why I was instructed to bring home this paper from the US!

Mum has always been someone who has never really stood still from a learning perspective and has always taken it upon herself to keep learning – and at 68 years old this still rings true. I probably don’t say it enough but I’m very proud of my mum and my drive to keep learning definitely comes from her genes.

When I was a kid and asked mum a question about something, she would often reply, “Use the encyclopaedias. That is why I bought them.” Mum’s view was that you need to find the drive to learn and find the information out yourself.

To be successful in today’s digital business world, you need to keep learning otherwise you will be left behind. Actually, you need to keep learning in all aspects of your life. As a the leader of a team of marketing, digital and customer experience people at different levels of skill, education and experience, it is very interesting looking at the various levels of desire to learn in each person and everyone is different.

It is the people who want to keep learning and attend courses or conferences, or who want to learn a new skill to better themselves both professionally and personally who inspire me at work and throughout my life. I see my leadership role with my team to facilitate access to resources in the business to learn, to advise on the skills needed for new roles and responsibilities and to provide motivation to keep learning and developing in their roles.

But at the end of the day, I can’t really make someone learn – that has to come from within.

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