When it comes to personal and professional development, your job is never done. Maintaining a relevant skill set in today’s professional climate requires a continual learning process. Here, entrepreneur Emily Cunningham speaks about how she used online resources to take the job in-house.
What new skill linked to personal or professional development have you recently learned/taught yourself?
Cunningham: As entrepreneurs, my co-founder Kwami Williams and I are always having to learn new skills on the fly. Our beauty brand, True Moringa, works to connect small farmers in Ghana to the global market for moringa oil-based hair and skin care products. We manage the entire supply chain, so we’ve had to dive into the worlds of agriculture, manufacturing, branding, and beauty. Recently, I spruced up my knowledge of coding to redesign our e-commerce website.
What prompted you to learn this skill? Why did you see it as important to learn?
The necessity to offer our customers a seamless educational and shopping experience, and to share the story of our work with moringa farmers in Ghana prompted me to take up the project. While we were bootstrapping, hiring an expensive team to tackle the website wasn’t an option, so we decided to do it in-house! Though frustrating at times, it proved very rewarding and fun on the whole.
How did you go about learning the new skill?
It’s amazing how many resources are available online with a quick google search. I dove into redesigning the site and relied on tutorials to help me through the process where I got stuck. W3schools.com is great for learning basic html and css, and there are great courses on basic coding/logic skills, and how to think like a computer scientist.
What was your learning process?
Every time I ran into a roadblock, I would search for a new tutorial (sometimes many tutorials!) to take me through the process of implementing a feature.
Did you notice any differences or similarities between how you learned in school and the learning process as an adult out of school?
Real world goal-oriented learning (in my case, building the website) was much more satisfying and motivating than traditional academic learning. At the end of the day, we had a functional website that was helping to introduce new customers to moringa oil and bring new revenue to the farming families we serve in Ghana.
Were there any challenges or roadblocks you encountered in the process?
Many challenges! Each time I wanted to implement a new feature, I searched for a tutorial to help me through the process. It’s particularly difficult to start with a blank slate and try to imagine what a website should look like and what the user experience should be. I recommend drawing it out on paper first, creating a Pinterest board of sites and imagery that you want to emulate, and using whattheme.com to see what themes and platforms other websites you like have used. Also, having a clear vision of your brand, what it stands for, and its personality is a must!
How has it impacted your career and/or your creative or personal life?
It was a steep learning curve, and I’m by no means an expert, but learning to code has empowered me with the tools I need to tackle any future coding issues that arise by knowing which questions to ask and where to search for help.
Would you recommend that others add this skill to their own repertoire? Who specifically would it benefit?
Coding and web design is not only a very practical skill, it’s a great exercise in training your logical brain and developing a new way of thinking. I would certainly recommend it to any entrepreneur.
What is your advice to someone who wants to add a new skill to their set, but doesn’t think they have the time or are intimidated to attempt to learn something new?
Start small and explore the incredible resources out there! Choose a project that you’re excited about to implement your skill.
Emily Cunningham is a co-founder of True Moringa, a clean beauty brand powered by cold-pressed moringa oil. They work with over 2000 small farming families throughout Ghana to cultivate over 270,000 moringa trees and increase family incomes by 10x. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Image via Unsplash