Are you cognitively flexible?

Cognitive flexibility may not rank as high as complex problem solving or emotional intelligence in the World Economic Forum report ‘The Future of Jobs’, but it remains a significant skill to have in order to compete in the global digital economy.

It is defined as our ability to shift our thinking between several ideas or context due to our response and adaptation to new stimuli.

Being cognitively flexible is key to our personal and professional growth because it enables us to keep an open mind, take risks, consider various viewpoints, and learn effectively, thus supporting other vital soft skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, and creativity.

To improve and maintain your level of cognitive flexibility, not only do you need to make sure to keep your brain active, you also have to give it sufficient rest so that your mental capabilities function well on a daily basis.

This can be done through activities that let you gain new experiences and information, challenge your beliefs and perceptions, and apply knowledge and skills in whatever you do.

However, before you start working on enhancing your cognitive flexibility, you need to know if you are cognitively inflexible.

One indication that suggests cognitive inflexibility is if you find it hard to adapt, because you are unable to adjust your thoughts to new perspectives and you are already set in your own ways.

You might then have a difficulty, for example, in having effective discussions with people of different cultures and outlooks.

Your level of cognitive flexibility might also be low if you have trouble solving problems.

This could be the case, if you are not exposed to new concepts, or are afraid to experiment with methods that you have never tried before to solve a problem.

If you tend to take the easy way out, you might be considered cognitively inflexible.

In this case, while you may find it convenient to rely on a Global Positioning System (GPS) during your drive or use a calculator to do calculations at all times, it doesn’t help your brain to stay active.

And believe it or not, always keeping to your routine without any tweaks – whether because you fear the unknown or you don’t want to waste time – might be hindering your efforts to improve your cognitive flexibility.

These are just some of many behaviours and attitude that might prevent you from being cognitively flexible.

Identify those that have been holding you back, and overcome them so that you can be mentally strong and be successful in life.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2MBrZn9

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Getting into the tech industry with zero experience

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to get an IT job without a tech background, the answer is of course!

These days, it’s common to see more and more people with no prior experience in IT moving over to the fast-growing tech industry.

This is mainly because this industry is moving rapidly and producing new and exciting products and services. Bigger companies also offer high-paying jobs with many attractive benefits and perks.

If you’re considering switching to a career in tech, you may want to consider the following:

Have transferable skills

When you’re breaking into the tech industry without any technical skills under your belt, it’s important to take stock of skills that you actually possess now.

Even though the company you’re interested to join is an IT company, they might be interested in hiring for non-technical positions such as for their communications and customer service teams.

So examine how your skills can be used in a new role and if those skills can add value to the organisations you’re thinking of joining.

Learn some tech skills

For those with no tech background, the thought of going back for a three-year degree course might sound intimidating.

However, you must realise that in order to be competent in the job you cannot avoid picking up some basic knowledge on tech.

Fortunately, there are now some great courses that you can find online and best of all some of them are free.

With so many things to learn, follow your interests and teach yourself about the relevant software and hardware. More importantly keep yourself updated on the latest technologies coming out.

Get experience where you can

The best way to get immersed in the field of tech is to get some experience and to focus on closing your knowledge gaps.

At SarawakYES! we always promote the idea of internships, especially for those who’ve just graduated, as it’s probably one of the best ways to gain valuable experience and to start creating your professional network.

For those who may not find it possible to obtain an internship at a tech company, one way to learn about what it’s like to work in a tech company is to network with people who are already in the industry.

By hearing first hand from the experiences of these professionals, you may even feel more motivated to pursue your new career in tech.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2sKTnGX

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels.

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Should you be data literate?

We have previously discussed the benefits and opportunities arising from the increased availability and access to data in the digital economy, including big data and open data.

Yet, the desired improvements that we hope to achieve through data might not come to fruition without the human element, that is if we don’t make use of the data to its fullest potential or, worse still, we don’t even know how to use the data in the first place.

This is why we need to possess skills and knowledge in data literacy. Although its purpose and emphasis may differ from field to field, data literacy can be generally defined as our ability to read, evaluate, work with, and question data.

It includes searching and determining data relevance and reliability; interpreting data visualisations like charts and graphs; thinking critically of data; knowing how to use data analytics tools; and communicating results based on data.

In an era where we are surrounded by massive amounts of data every day, being data literate allows us to gather insights through data collected, interpreted and visualised; and to take proper and effective actions based on our discoveries.

This becomes crucial in today’s workplace, which is increasingly dependent on data to drive its operations, including jobs and departments where data analytics isn’t their primary function.

This means that the demand for individuals with strong data literacy is on the rise, be it data or non-data professionals, and further indicates that data literacy is more common and significant than we think.

In view of this, more academic and practical courses aiming to boost data literacy are being made available online and offline for business, government, tertiary institutions and the general public around the world.

Here in Sarawak, for example, the Sarawak Centre of Performance Excellence (SCOPE) has recently partnered with Kuala Lumpur-based Center of Applied Data Science (CADS) – the first one-stop platform and centre of excellence for data science and analytics in Southeast Asia – to develop up to 2,500 local talents through various data-related and talent development programmes.

These future data-proficient professionals will then become the key to foster a strong data-driven culture and eventually contribute to the state’s digital economy.

While some of you may not have a background in data science and analytics, that shouldn’t stop you from improving your own data literacy, whether you’re in a technical or non-technical field.

For instance, you can develop a strong foundation in your mathematical, statistical and data analytical skills through short courses.

Essentially, get curious, ask questions and be comfortable around data so that you have a greater understanding and appreciation for its potential in your work, studies and daily life.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Friday, June 1, 2018.

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Advantages of creating ‘Smart Campuses’

If you’re young, you’re more than likely to be digital savvy to the point that you’re often stereotyped as being restless without a Wi-Fi connection or if your smartphone is not within reach.

And if you’re a student, you probably should be considered a ‘digital native’, who’s able to embrace digital technology into your lifestyle.

In view of all this, it should make sense for more and more tertiary education institutions globally and locally to adopt smart technologies into their classrooms, and creating a smart campus environment.

For instance, in 2017, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak 2 Campus planned to upgrade itself into a smart campus in line with the State’s initiative of becoming a smart city.

Among the efforts planned include setting up a ‘Big Data Lab’ as well as smart classrooms with high-technology (tech) infrastructure and Internet connectivity.

Some may still wonder how digital learning in a smart campus could enrich the education system and methodologies.

High-tech infrastructure, such as smart classrooms, aims to improve the learning environment.

This infrastructure might include smart parking, high-speed Internet connection for indoor and outdoor areas, way-finding apps, feedback channels or portal, and an attendance tracking system.

By linking the right technology, via devices and applications, with people, it transforms institutions of higher learning into smart campuses that harness digital technologies to provide new educational methods and a more conducive study environment for students.

Data collected from various sources including sensors and building systems installed in campuses, can then be stored, accessed and used by campus operations for various purposes, such as reducing energy consumption, and refining services on campus to make them more convenient and effective.

Smart campuses will help to enhance the effectiveness of our smart cities of the future and as we head into this new and exciting direction, we hope more institutions of higher learning in Sarawak would work towards providing more opportunities for students to experience studying in such campuses.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

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Leveraging on open data

(Above) The home page of the Sarawak Open Data platform, which can be accessed at https://data.sarawak.gov.my/.

At the recent International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) 2018, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg launched the Sarawak Open Data platform.

It was designed to give people access to open government datasets for research, application development, and other purposes.

Sarawak’s Open Government Data platform will now be a part of the hundreds of open data initiatives available around the world.

They are usually developed at different levels, from country-level open data such as Australia, India, and Malaysia, to cities like Buenos Aires, London, and Vancouver, and even individual agencies or sectors such as government agencies in the United States.

Open data is meant to be used, reused, and shared with anyone without restrictions, and while its concept isn’t new, it has become more defined and important in stimulating a country’s economy through digital advancement.

Numerous studies have highlighted the values of open data; for instance, improving efficiency and effectiveness of public services, and building better relations between the government and citizens through transparency, accountability, and engagement.

Here are some other benefits from leveraging on this largely untapped resource:

Makes research less tedious

Finding information through an open data is more convenient because it can be accessed from a single platform at any time, making it easier for academics, the public sector, industries, and students to gather necessary facts and figures during their research.

As the data gets updated, analysing their trends and changes also becomes less cumbersome since both old and new information can be found in one location.

Drives innovation

Reusing and combining information from different datasets in the open data can lead to greater potential in the development of new products, services, and applications, or improvement of existing ones.

In fact, open data has been a means to encourage innovation through the promotion of its usage as seen from the likes of competitions, hackathons, and datathons.

Fosters entrepreneurship

Whether in fulfilling unmet needs or solving problems that can uplift community wellbeing, aspiring entrepreneurs that are in need of information can use the open data to further understand their potential target market.

Entrepreneurs and general users can also provide feedback to data providers regarding the data they are using or data they hope to see in the future, thereby increasing the demand for more enhanced open data.

Creates new jobs

As the digital economy progresses, the need for more open data professionals will increase as a result of jobs created from more open data initiatives or data-driven organisations.

Sarawak, in particular, hopes to develop data-driven technologies that can enhance major sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing in order to spur the state’s overall economic growth.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2LfuyKZ

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Soft skills needed to thrive in the IT field

If you think working in the world of tech only requires you to deal with computers and code, then you’re in for a surprise.

Since information technology (IT) personnel deal with the matter of tech itself, most people assume that IT professionals don’t have to deal with the various stakeholders including clients.

While it’s true that the IT field does require you to be equipped with the right technical skills, the job also requires having the right ‘soft skills’ in order for you to be able to collaborate with colleagues or gather specifications from clients.

Known as ‘people skills’ or ‘interpersonal skills’, these soft skills including having a positive attitude, enthusiasm, and good organisational abilities refer to the way you relate to and interact with other people.

Good communication

A good IT professional should be able to understand the needs of clients when delivering tech solutions and this would require good communication skills.

When working in a tech environment, you would often have to deal with non-technical people and as such you will have to explain technical terms and processes in easy-to-understand language, especially to customers and employers. This is particularly important if you need people to support and understand your projects.

Creativity and problem-solving skills

As an IT professional, creativity and innovation in problem solving, as well as a high level of imagination are vital for coming up with unique solutions.

Problem-solving is also more than merely solving technical issues, as you would also need to give suggestions on how to enhance your existing products, procedures and services.

Teamwork and building relationships

Often times, IT projects would be handled by a team of professionals with different expertise rather than by just one individual. So, for a team of IT professionals to work together, teamwork would be essential.

This is because you will need to understand each other’s problems, ideas and suggestions for you to ensure the project outcome is a success.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels.

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A peek into the e-commerce landscape in Malaysia

(Above) iprice.my’s “The Map of E-Commerce Malaysia”. Read iprice.my’s story here for the details.

Electronic commerce or e-commerce will play a much bigger role in the development of Sarawak, especially with our state’s focus on developing a digital economy.

For those unfamiliar with what e-commerce is, ecommerceguide.com presents one of the simplest definitions: “e-commerce refers to commercial transactions conducted online, so whenever you buy something or sell something over the Internet, you’re involved in e-commerce”.

For those of you who are involved in selling products or services over the Internet, or are interested in setting up an online business, it may be useful to learn what the current scenario of e-commerce is like in Malaysia.

Recently, iprice.my came up with ‘The Map of E-commerce in Malaysia’ for the first quarter of this year, which ranked the country’s top e-commerce players, namely the online marketplaces, based on their average quarterly traffic, mobile application ranking, social media followers and number of staff.

The list of online marketplaces included e-commerce players with more than 100,000 visitors per month or at least 100,000 social media followers.

For this article, we’ll only look at the Top 5 e-commerce players on this list, based on average monthly visits, which is led by Lazada with 48.5 million visits, followed by Shopee (13.7 million), 11 Street (13.2 million), Lelong (9.6 million), and Zalora (2.5 million).

Unsurprisingly, most of the same players also had the largest following on Facebook, namely Lazada with 22.8 million followers, followed by Sephora (17.4 million), Shopee (9 million), Zalora (7.2 million) and 11 Street (1.6 million). On this list, however, only 11 Street featured country-specific numbers of Facebook followers.

With social media playing a big role in terms of creating awareness on the latest deals for their customers, figures such as the number of followers on the main social networks are an important aspect of business for these online merchants.

No doubt, these online marketplaces are familiar to most online shoppers, and as such for those of you thinking of starting your online business, some of these could be the perfect platform for you, while others may not be a good fit.

When looking for the best online marketplace, you should find out what they have in terms of training support, market rate commissions, shipping system, and the traffic that they have.

Most importantly, take the time to research each and every one of the platforms that you are considering so that the online marketplace you pick will be the best fit for your online business.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2wfOidT

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Ask away!

To thrive in a digital economy, we need to be innovative and creative, and that requires the habit of asking questions.

Making it a habit isn’t very hard, but sometimes we find ourselves unwilling to ask questions – perhaps because we don’t think it’s necessary (apathy) or we feel we know ‘enough’ (overconfidence), or we don’t want to appear rude, weak, ignorant and unsure (fear) by asking ‘stupid’ questions.

Yet, asking questions is essential in innovation and entrepreneurship because it’s an effective way to find and identify issues that would come to define the nature of our product, service, or overall business.

Moreover, as we become more dependent on technology in our daily lives, it’s always helpful to know how the apps or devices we use function aside from knowing the basics.

For instance, if we’re not sure how to maintain our smartphones, we can find out with questions such as “How do we ensure our phone is always in good condition?” or “Why do some apps consume more power and space?” or “How can we protect our phone from being hacked?”

Beyond just answers, asking the right questions can bring about other benefits:

A better understanding

Asking a combination of open-ended and detailed questions can lead to answers that clarify your doubts about a process, situation or issue.

The more in depth these answers are, the clearer your understanding becomes, and that can improve your critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

A more open mind

Making ‘questioning’ a habit, particularly when talking to people of different cultures and values, can broaden your knowledge, especially as you listen to their points of view without prejudgment.

This is also applicable to your tackling of new topics because it encourages new exploration and insight.

By keeping an open mind, your brain becomes more flexible, thereby enabling you to absorb and access information more easily.

A greater sense of empathy

Gaining new perspectives can also strengthen your empathy, particularly in being aware of the nature of professionals from different fields.

For example, non-IT individuals will be able to identify with IT professionals by considering their work function and process.

This is because, despite their highly technical proficiency, IT professionals need time to produce the likes of apps and software, given that these products don’t develop overnight.

A better lifelong learner

Above all, asking questions and finding answers constantly helps to boost your learning ability, and even enables you to be more aware of yourself.

This is due to your willingness to take the time to learn about a subject in depth, making you an active learner instead of a passive observer.

So, make it a habit to ask the right questions so that you can become a more capable individual.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Za man Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2Fp97TA

Image Source: Inspiration Bits

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Creating content in the digital era

(Above) Instead of consuming too much content, we should try to create them.

The Internet revolution and development of digital technologies have made information more available and accessible than ever before, transforming the way we watch, listen, read, and share information.

Rather than just constantly keeping up with our social media feed or checking out the latest viral videos, we should also think about the process of generating such digital media content, especially if you’re communicating on behalf of your business or organisation.

Content creation involves producing ideas, facts, concepts, or messages for end users; in the digital age, content can be found in the form of infographics, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and other digital media.

Be it for entertainment, education, marketing, or any other reason, content creation in the digital era can come from official online media outlets such as news portals, magazines, and broadcasters, as well as the general populace, who are getting more connected worldwide through the Internet.

As content creators, the digital platform gives you the advantage of having a better understanding of who your audience is and their responses to your content in real time allow you to engage with them immediately and improve your materials based on their feedback.

If you’re running an online business, having high-quality content crafted as part of your marketing strategy not only draws customers and drives traffic, but also boosts brand recognition and increases revenue.

Building an online presence can be achieved through, among others, the design of your business website, keywords incorporated into your social media posts, or how you title your video to gain more views.

Also, in a world where many might become excessive in absorbing online content, content creation actually helps to enhance your creativity and reduce the stress from being too attached to the source of your compulsive digital consumption.

In fact, creating digital content gives you the opportunity to express and share your perspective on issues that mean something to you, as well as learn different viewpoints from others, thereby building connections with them.

Some common factors to take into account when producing successful content include your target audience, the genre of the material you’re creating, and the medium in which you intend to present your content.

What matters most, however, is the purpose, quality, and value of your content; at the same time the content needs to be produced responsibly for long-term relationships instead of short-term popularity.

Improving your content creation skills requires continuous experimentation and consistency in crafting your materials. With time and effort, you’ll be able to find your unique voice as a content creator.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2qQZM2F

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Common misconceptions about a tech career

There are a lot of mistaken beliefs surrounding working in the field of technology. This has made some youths reluctant to venture into careers in tech.

To help you better understand jobs in the tech industry, this week’s column will debunk some of the common misconceptions that you might often hear about tech careers.

Misconception 1: It’s all about math, science and coding 

Unless you specialise in data analysis or cyber security, you do not need to excel in math, science and coding, as there are plenty of jobs in the tech field that do not directly involve the application and development of technologies.

Among jobs in the tech sector that do not require you to be a programming genius include graphic designer, project manager, system administrator and technical writer.

Instead, these jobs require you to have ‘soft skills’ such as good communication skills and organisational skills.

Misconception 2: Tech is not a field for women

While it is true that the tech industry is predominantly dominated by male workers, more and more women are beginning to pursue careers in the industry.

This is probably due to the waning myth that women are not as good as men in math and technology, as equal opportunities have enabled more women to be represented in the field.

In fact, today’s tech field is made up of a diverse group of individuals with different sets of skills and specialities.

And with access to the right technology, education and opportunities, women can challenge that perception by showing what they can do in the field.

Misconception 3: There is no creativity in the tech field

Strangely many people assume that working in this field requires no creativity. In reality, however, creativity is needed for a successful career as the industry requires workers to have creative ways of solving problems as well as creating new products and applications.

Misconception 4: You will work in a tech company

When pursuing a tech career, you might think that you need to work in tech companies to be relevant. However, technology has created vast opportunities in plenty of other fields such as business, sports, fashion, medicine and art.

As more companies begin to rely on different technologies, you might find that there are numerous opportunities to work in various fields by focusing on the technological aspects.

In the age of technology, the tech sector is booming and there are plenty of opportunities for youths to grab and explore. As the fourth industrial revolution continues to expand, demand from companies seeking employees with various sets of skills will continue to soar.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

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