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Four Tips for Growing Beyond Our Geek Speak

By Jacquelyn Adams

Friends, geek speak is no longer enough when it comes to growing in our careers. Yes, it’s vital to have the technical acumen and the skillsets to thrive in your career. And, of course, it’s crucial to understand jargon and be aware of the many acronyms that are an intrinsic part of any field. But all of those are mere qualifying factors. It takes more than just talking the talk to be a star candidate or top performer. So, how do you do that?

We’ve talked before about soft skills (recently renamed power skills), and these are the skills that are reshaping the terrain on our career paths. Today, we will take a step back from the power skills themselves and focus on the opportunities to cultivate these skills in our lives.

1. Own your personal brand

A great place to start is by identifying who you are and what represents you. As an engineer, we are not known for keeping up with trends. However, it is vital for us to be aware of the professional image we are cultivating online in our digital age. Power skills are not confined to how we act in person, but also are shaped by our online persona, including:

    • our posts
    • the articles we share
    • the posts we like
    • the images on our page

In the end, the central themes running through these interactions all culminate in your personal brand. My brand focuses on curiosity, lifelong learning, and content creation. By knowing my brand, I am able to create a consistent image.

2. Find your Obi-Wan


Once we have established who we are, we need to find the people who will walk with us along the way. Some people have mentors. Other people have thought sharers. Regardless of what you call them, the important thing is that you have people in your life who help shape you and take your thoughts outside your box. The primary component of this is having a teachable disposition. Obi Wans cannot teach young padawans who already know everything. We need to bring humility to our relationships, and a willingness to grow. When we surround ourselves with trustworthy individuals, it opens up new lines of communication and keeps us from being trapped within our own small thoughts. These are the people who will stretch us beyond our geek speak, and keep us from getting stuck in ruts.

3. Leverage storytelling

Once we have established our brand and have a solid network, I have found storytelling to be one of the most valuable among my power skills. We have all been held hostage by a story of someone’s golf game or their most recent trip, so not all stories get a pass. However, a well-placed story in a meeting has the power to remind everyone of our purpose as a team. It can be a reminder of our mission. Additionally, a story can be used as a conduit that allows us to flex our other power skills. When leveraged correctly, it will enable us to display leadership, critical thinking, persuasion, reading body language, presentation, and so much more. However, to leverage it correctly, it might be necessary to circle back to your Obi Wan and get some critical feedback. Reminder: don’t be the person with the long-winded golf story.

4. Be a fangirl of failure

Finally, we will end with the tip that is the hardest for me. I love the idea of failure. It stretches me. I grow. I learn. So much awesomeness can happen when we fail… but, oh my goodness, it is the worst. I still struggle with becoming self-conscious and letting this one failure become my whole identity as a “failure.” I want to live out the cliché of collapsing on the couch with a tub of ice cream. Instead, I battle against these shortcomings and try to embrace the beautiful growth that comes with failure. When I want to hide from the world, I choose to run through my list of why failure is good and remind myself (out loud if necessary) that I love it. The truth is that, at this point, I am a fangirl of the idea of failure, but I am gradually working on becoming better at the experience of failure. With each experience, I whine a little less, grow a little more, and have more to offer in the future.

Whew… there may be moments when we get a bit nostalgic for the good ol’ days when geek speak could cut it. But the demands have increased, and now we are forced to diversify what we bring to the table. I hope that this makes us better. We are more present and aware as employees, coworkers, and hopefully just as people too. I, for one, am glad to be more than just my geek speak.


Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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