“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

~Abraham Lincoln

No great adventurist starts a worthy journey without first acquainting himself with the likely challenges to success. Also, such treasure hunters will always work out plans to overcome each obstacle.

What better treasure is there than becoming a tech expert in this age and time of AI and big data?

Perhaps this is your story, then you are one of many. According to research, of every 100 people who start a journey into becoming a tech expert (particularly programmers), only 15 go ahead to accomplish it.

How many courses have you enrolled on? How many videos and books do you have, right now on your phone and computer, on every tech area of interest – data analysis, programming, data science, cyber security, UI/UX Design, Project Management, AI, Machine Learning, etc.?

If we are charging people to court for starting and not finishing a tech training, would you be guilty or free? From the research I mentioned earlier, a lot of people at one point or another started learning so many things in tech but always failed to finish.

As an instructor, I have met and seen countless people tell me they want to learn a particular tech skill. Some would not have a computer at the time. A few have been NYSC members. I have seen these people go ahead and buy computers just to learn the tech skill of their choosing. The NYSC members who usually told me they would learn this and that after service, have gone ahead to complete their service. Buh… after they buy the computer and after they finish their national youth service, the story changes.

A friend, whom I still make jest of today, once told me that as a student; his priorities were to graduate first then he’ll have the time to learn the tech skill he’s always wanted – Web Development. Today, he has switched course.

I make bold to attribute these failures to what I call the first big obstacle in becoming a tech expert. Well, it may not be the only reason, but I am confident it is a major contributor.

What is the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert?

The answer is simple, it is choice and focus. This Siamese twin is both the obstacle and the way, to use the titling of Ryan Holiday. What do I mean by this? Come with me…

Choice and Focus, the Obstacle

Choosing an area of specialization is not an easy decision for the majority of people. This difficulty is twice so when it comes to picking a tech skill to become an expert in, recently. This is because tech, as we know it now, is a relatively new field in comparison to others like medicine and engineering. As such, new areas are branching daily, each with unlimited prospects.

The root of the problem in picking a tech area of specialization, as in conventional academics, is that the majority of enthusiasts base their decisions on hearsay and present trends.

I can tell you without equivocating that there are people who want to learn data science, cybersecurity and the rest without knowing exactly what it entails. They heard it is the new trend and future trend. So, they are jumping right at it.

Believe me when I tell you that someone who is only able to play music and video on his computer came to me that he wanted to learn JavaScript. I mean, he literally could not fill out a form online.

Do they know what it requires? What is the learning curve? How much do they need? What is the job description? Do they have or are willing to give what it takes? They leave these questions to the oracles to answer.

They dive in headlong, discover the ocean is deep, and then come right back with discouragement. Next thing, they fabricate alibis for why they are unable to continue with that training.

Those strong enough to go halfway only master the act of copying what has already been done while claiming credit for it. I see this a lot in the world of web development. Many people claim to know JS but cannot successfully write a short routine. Those who claim to be experts in CSS but only copy bootstrap codes and edit them without understanding the logic behind them.

Do not claim to what you are not. Read on, let’s overcome that first big obstacle.

Before then…

Another aspect of the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert is that enthusiasts are interested in far too many areas – because they are catchy. Only one person, a beginner, wants to learn Data Science, Web Development, Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, Project Management, AI, Machine Learning, Big Data and all new catchy areas.

This basically, is still because they do not know what each of those fields entails. I mean, how can you possibly master all these areas at once? Even one of them is almost a field of its own with specializations within it already!  Maybe two or three, but I have not met any professional who is an expert in all these areas at the same time.

This is where focus comes in because having many catchy areas at the same time is a big distraction. Even in mastering one of the areas, there are many things to learn. Take for instance, to be an all-rounded web developer, you need to learn HTML, CSS, JS, a backend programming language and a database management language. In addition, you may have to learn version control and other deployment utilities.

Each of these has many alternatives. While you might be trying to master one thing, you will get people asking if you know/do its variants. They tell you a lot of juicy things about the variant and why you should learn that. Social media adverts are not helping either. Every day, you see juicy offers to become an expert in different things through ads.

Commonly, beginners are unable to overlook the distractions. Switching between many things at the same time but mastering none.

This is why we have many people who claim to know many things but in reality, lack the in-depth understanding of any.

Overcoming the Obstacle of Choice in Becoming a Tech Expert

Overcoming the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert begins with an understanding. Against the seeming trend, an understanding that there are equally a lot of prospects in not just a few but most of the tech areas of specialization.

An understanding that tech is a rapidly evolving field and that tech trends seldom last. Every one to a few years, new trends may arise, with new areas of specialization to be explored. Just over a few decades ago, the trend was to just be “computer literate” and proficient in office packages. People go to training institutes to learn how to use the internet. Today, nobody talks about those.

Overcoming the first obstacle to becoming a tech expert requires an understanding that when it comes to tech skills, how many does not count as much as how well you know and are able to do.

Finally, to overcome the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert, you need to understand that when it comes to tech skill trends, mastering the basics is what really counts. This is what will enable you to scale along with new trends.

But how do you master the basics in the face of all the distractions I mentioned earlier?

I have outlined four steps below which I explained further in the following sections. The four steps to overcome the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert include:

  1. Suspend the idea of being a professional in many areas.
  2. Research, Consult and choose the first skill to master.
  3. Empirically decide on your first skill to master.
  4. Choose where/how to learn and concentrate 100% on your first skill until you master it

Suspend the idea of being a professional in many areas.

Yes, this is the starting point. I know you heard a lot of juicy things about programming, data science, Cloud Computing, etc. I am aware of your dream to become a professional in all these areas. Yet, if you truly want to become an expert, suspend that idea. Do you know that there are many specialties within programming and data science? I bet you are not well acquainted with all the options. So, start by deciding to suspend the idea of being a professional in all the areas. Tell yourself, that you will start with just one and one alone.

Research, Consult and Choose the first skill to master.

You have decided to start your tech journey with just one skill. Congrats! Next, you have to choose which one tech skill you need to start with. To do this, forget about the juicy things you heard about the various tech skills. Just forget it! Most of those hearsay is not from authoritative sources. You need to hear from authoritative sources and actual practitioners. First, make a list of the skills you are interested in. Then one after another, search online and write down the following about each:

  1. What really is the skill all about and the specialties within it? What do the professionals in that area do – list job roles and duties? How do I become a professional in this area, what steps are involved, and in what order? What do I need to have before I can easily learn this skill? Is there any special education that will help me acquire these skills easier/faster like mathematical skills, accounting skills, communication skills, writing skills, etc.?
  2. How difficult or easy is it to learn?

Afterwards, look for a real professional in each area you are interested in. Then ask them the following questions:

  1. How profitable is the area? Does it pay well?
  2. How easy is it to find a job or contract in the area of specialization?
  3. What is the word-life demand, is it stressful, does it require travelling or sitting down in one spot all day, etc.?
  4. What is the professional’s advice for you?

I strongly recommend you ask a real and practicing professional these questions. Not just any tech professional, but a professional in the exact same field you are interested in and researching about. Online search will likely not give you the right answers to these questions. Similarly, professionals in other tech areas will only give you their ideas and opinions. To choose right, you need authoritative answers.

Empirically decide on your first skill to master.

You have gathered enough information to help you make an informed decision. This is where you get to make the actual decision. Some people make all these findings only to forget about them and choose based on a hunch or just a single piece of information. Do not do that. If making money is your only reason for picking a tech area of specialization, understand that you can make money from a wide range of options. It is true, you can randomly pursue and acquire a tech skill. But it takes longer and more effort to arrive at that expert level which will yield dividends. If you take the unplanned route, especially if you do not have an IT background, you will have to do a lot of faking in your journey to expertise.

Be sincere to yourself, and make it easier and smoother for yourself to become a tech expert by being methodical in choosing the first skill to learn. How?

For every tech skill you researched, assign an arbitrary number to each of the questions I listed earlier based on its importance to you. Use a uniform rating of importance all through. After ranking all the questions, add them up to get the average. The skill with the highest average is most like the first you should start learning.

I have prepared a simple template to help you make this decision. Click on the button below to download this template for free.

Choose where/how to learn and concentrate 100% on your first skill until you master it.

Once you have empirically decided on the first tech skill to master, make it a mission. Consider yourself on a treasure hunt for indeed if you pursue it until the end, you will discover your treasure. This is a quest that demands full concentration. Decide not to be distracted by anything else. Be blind to other adverts to learn other things and deaf to any juicy thing you hear about another tech skill – at least you have gotten firsthand information from real professionals. Be committed, master the first skill to the expert level and then move to the next as you have found out during your research. Whatever tech skill you want to learn, your goal should be to be the best in that skill.

But it begins with choosing the right place to learn.

I always say nothing is too difficult to learn. This is corroborated by educational psychology. If you have the right motivation, and meet the right teacher who adopts the right teaching method, you can learn anything.

As you start your journey to becoming a tech expert, avoid the temptation of learning from different sources at the same time. This is because each instructor structures their course with different goals and in a way, they feel will quickly and easily help you achieve that goal.

In this era of YouTube, I have seen courses designed just to get you started with coding right away. Such a course does not bother to explain some things you need to know before coding. I have seen courses designed just to teach you how to replicate a solution like say creating a website. Such courses do not bother to give the details about the basic concepts. All of these types of courses are super helpful if you have already mastered the technologies and are looking for ideas on how to approach a problem.

But if becoming an expert is your goal, I strongly advise you to enroll in complete courses, one that takes you from step one to one hundred; not the ones that teach you how to do this and that. With a firm grip on the technologies, you will be able to do this and that or “this and that” videos will make more sense.

Above all, do not make the habit of piling videos or subscribing to adverts that offer 1000 videos in all the areas for just N1,000. Do you not wonder or question the quality of such videos that other people pay hundreds of thousands to acquire? Some awoof suppose fear you oh!

Where can you get these types of complete courses?

Today, the internet has made quality courses like this more accessible. There are renowned platforms that people trust for quality courses like this. Some of such platforms are Coursera, Allison, Skillshare and freeCodeCamp. There are others too. While a good number of them are free, most require some sort of payment to complete. These payments are meant to be little when you earn in their currencies but not in naira. This makes it more expensive for Nigerians.

Secondly, beginning tech enthusiasts in Nigeria may find some of the courses a little more challenging to understand due to elements of language. Instructors of these courses, who are mostly American, European or Indian, make use of analogies their primary target can relate with but which mostly alienate learners in other countries such as Nigeria.

Analogies are cues. Cues in education support comprehension. So, if you cannot relate to the analogies, you may not be able to fully grasp the concepts.

This is why I took the pain to prepare the best ICT/tech courses for Nigerians. I use examples you can relate to help you easily understand the concepts. In addition, you can take the entire course in Pidgin which you can relate even better with. Most importantly, the courses are affordable!

Click here to check them out on Naija Online School.

Meanwhile, regarding overcoming the first big obstacle to becoming a tech expert, if you have any questions about web development, feel free to shoot me your questions, any time.

Also, I would love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comment section below.

Not a member, but would like me to send you a mail whenever I publish? Subscribe to my newsletter below – free forever, only once in a while, you can unsubscribe at any time. Enter you email below and hit the subscribe button: