Lessons Learned

What I Learned: Lessons from leaders in technology

No matter the field, a career path is a journey. Here, two leaders in the tech world share what they’ve learned along the way. Scott Robertson is a computer consultant and an instructor in the UCLA Extension program and at Santa Monica College. Chris Bussard is a product management executive with 18 years of experience; he’s currently Head of Product at Twigtale, a parent-focused startup.

Robertson’s work as a computer consultant has given him lessons he now relays to his students:

Break a problem down into smaller pieces. Robertson strives to teach students not only how to use software tools but the means of applying them in myriad situations. “The best way to solve difficult problems is to reduce them to smaller ones,” he says. “Done the right way, the smaller solutions can be assembled into bigger ones.”

Understand the big picture first. When approaching a problem, Robertson encourages students to step back, observe the underlying structure and entities involved, then compose a model that can be used when developing an application. Says Robertson, “Before you can effectively use technology, you have to be able to think on various levels and know how to apply it to the business you’re in.” 

For Bussard, a couple key themes have followed him from job to job:

Teamwork is vital. Teamwork is key on any project. Says Bussard, “This is a theme that cuts through the core of building new technology-based products.” One important lesson Bussard has learned on this front: “When building a technology-based product, no one person can have the complete vision and the execution.” Gaining consensus with other team members is vital. “If it’s a good idea, it should be easy to explain and get the team onboard. If not, there could be a valid reason that should be taken into consideration.”

Team input, says Bussard, is key for a product’s components to gel. “Whether it’s the engineer, designer or business development person, all bring unique perspectives. Building consensus, if done right, will create a better product.” 

Learn from your peers. A second point Bussard stresses: Get out of the building and network. “People get into patterns of just going to work and tending to their personal lives without fully connecting to all L.A. has to offer in terms of networking with other people in your industry or profession.” Bussard suggests taking advantage of the city’s wealth of resources. “L.A.’s tech scene has really expanded in the past several years. The city has thriving start-up communities in Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale, Orange County. … I’ve learned so much from people here.”

Bekah Wright for UCLA Extension

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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