Earlier in the year I wrote on LinkedIn on how I was going to address the diversity issue in technology, and why I believe it’s important.

I must admit before my first class I had some nerves – almost like I was about to go for a job interview.  I had no idea how the children would receive me and the program, which was just an idea in my head a few months ago.  After all, the last time I was in primary school was….. 20 something years ago.

After a few classes under my belt, I’m reminded of F.E.A.R. being an acronym of False Evidence Appearing Real.  It was awesome to see their faces light up at the opportunity to solve a problem with technology.  I’m amazed at how well they’ve understood the concepts early on, and the joy they experience from learning. (more on this as the lessons progress)

As I reflect on these lessons, I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been able to learn from them, particularly around leadership.  The three important lessons they’ve taught me: (so far)

You are what you believe

I asked them to describe themselves in 3 words, and nearly all included “creative” and “funny”.  Whether this is a coincidence or not is irrelevant, what’s important is that they believed they are.  They demonstrated this by:

  1. Looking back on their experiences, connecting the dots and presenting creative ideas
  2. Making each other laugh, and in turn making me laugh! (it’s contagious, and just makes things enjoyable)

My takeaway was that no one will magically anoint you as a leader, it starts with your own mindset, and then we need to take actions in line with this belief.  Of course, there are many incredible mentors to support your journey, as long as you keep an eye out for them!

Using emotional intelligence and assertion to lead others

While we were brainstorming on which problem the team wanted to address, two of the children were passionate about progressing their idea they came up with.  When I asked them to talk through why they wanted to pursue it and the potential impacts, one of the boys offered for the other to go first.

After listening intently, he carefully said:

“I think it’s a great idea, and I can see that it will reduce accidents..”  and after a pause, he said with a quiet confidence:

We’re going to be in school for the next 7 years, I want us to do something for the students and the community”.

The result?  He inspired the others with his vision and purpose, made it of interest to them, and they happily continued to build on the idea.  There was no destructive arguing and belittling that is unfortunately apparent these days.

Without being able to engage and influence others, it’s difficult for your teams to get things done and realise your vision.

Think big and focus on serving others

Which leads me to the next point – virtually all their ideas are focused on serving others, on a significant scale.  I love that mentality, because there’s not much new ground to be gained by sticking with the status quo.

In a world of silos and funny KPIs, it’s energising to work with people who genuinely want to make a better place for their fellow human beings.

It’s also a key component of customer success, happiness, and advocacy.

Doing good and doing good business don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Where to from here?

Even with the rising use of the internet and technology in everyday life, the perception of tech careers being for super intelligent male “nerds” is still evident even in primary school.  Saying that a career in tech can be for anyone is one thing – this realisation has reinforced my drive to help them experience it for themselves.

In addition to how children perceive certain careers, what also intrigues me is our perception of ourselves – how do we as adults, lose these beliefs and qualities that make us capable of fulfilling our potential and doing good for others?  In the same way children may limit their possibilities due to stereotypes, why do we “grow up” and declare that we’re “not creative” or “not smart”?

I’d love to hear any reasons why you think this may be the case, as it would be super helpful to inform how I communicate with these kids