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Into the wind - develop technical literacy

Heather Culbert smiles into the camera.
SAIT graduate Heather Culbert shares a strategy for success through broadening your skill set and developing tech literacy, regardless of your field.

An unprecedented pandemic; a difficult economic outlook; global uncertainty — these overwhelming challenges call for innovation and insight. They also call for conversation, discussion and debate — for gaining personal perspectives from people on the frontlines.

Heather Culbert’s (CT ’79) career has been one of constant evolution.

After graduating from SAIT’s Computer Technology program in 1979, Culbert found success through her own IT management consulting business before branching out into c-suite executive roles with oil and gas companies like Cody Energy and Enerplus Corporation. In 2006, Culbert left the professional world to focus on voluntary board work — a transition she refers to as “work graduating.”

One of many SAIT alumni who have served on SAIT’s Board of Governors over the years, Culbert was the first graduate to serve as its chair. Currently, she serves as chair of the United Way Worldwide Leadership Council and chair of the Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Council. She is vice-chair of Export Development Canada and the founder of the Women on Boards Alberta initiative (now Board Ready Women).

"It’s one thing to not have a technology skill set at the beginning of your career, but today everyone must acquire and expand those skills throughout their careers. From a business perspective, tech-literate employees are an absolute necessity not only for being competitive but also for creating a competitive advantage."

As Culbert tells LINK, today’s workplace demands constant evolution — a strategy for success through broadening your skillset and developing tech literacy, regardless of your field.

From a tech perspective, what’s the importance of broadening skillsets?

HC: It’s extremely important because otherwise you can get pigeonholed. Some people just want to be programmers, and that’s fine. That’s a great career. But you open up so many career opportunities when you branch out.

An education starts the wheels in motion, but it’s up to individuals to expand their knowledge and understand how keeping that knowledge current fits in their longer-term career path. It’s a continuous process of getting new skill sets, then honing and demonstrating them.

How valuable is it to be tech literate, no matter what field you’re in?

HC: Technology is probably one of the most important skill sets you can have. We’re all seeing where everything is going now — the continuous innovation in the brilliant apps and the coming together of hardware and software. So, it’s one thing to not have a technology skill set at the beginning of your career, but today everyone must acquire and expand those skills throughout their careers. From a business perspective, tech-literate employees are an absolute necessity not only for being competitive but also for creating a competitive advantage.

What are some examples of tech skills professionals should be developing today?

HC: While I’m no longer active in day-to-day tech and coding, I would recommend focusing reskilling on technical applications through coding, artificial intelligence and user interface tools, and data mining and integration tools. Just as important as the tech skills, though, is working on project management, communication and entrepreneurial thinking to build value into any work you undertake.

What are your hopes for what SAIT can offer to students through the School for Advanced Digital Technology?

HC: First of all, I can’t reiterate enough how lucky we are to have people like David Bissett — the visionary leaders in our community. His contribution of $30 million to create the School for Advanced Digital Technology will give all SAIT students, regardless of field or background, the opportunity to improve their skill sets in technologies that are an absolute necessity right now. Tech skills are no longer a ‘nice to have’ — they are a ‘must-have.’

 

Into the wind series

LINK magazine reached out to eight past recipients of SAIT’s Alumni Awards, asking for their advice on meeting the future, head-on. Dive into the series, Into the wind...

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