Why I Never Stand Still When It Comes to Learning

Never stop learning. My parents taught me that lesson early in life, by example. As the youngest of seven children, they wanted a better life for me than their own.

 

The most important lesson I learned from them – grit. You make your own opportunities through perseverance and hard work. And they showed me what that looked like firsthand. My father, a seaman by profession, didn’t receive formal education. He worked his way up from sweeping the galley to Chief Cook on his ship, and in his spare time, he taught himself to read. I still remember sitting next to him as a little girl as he taught himself to read and write at the kitchen table. As the Chief Cook, he used what he learned to write his shopping lists and to create menus.

My father, deceased now, inspired me by what he said and what he did.

My mother wasn’t standing still either. She went back to school as she raised seven kids: First she earned her GED, and then again to earn a certificate in child care technology.

My mom’s 80th birthday highlight – meeting Michelle Obama.

These powerful examples formed the backbone for my insatiable appetite for lifelong learning, taking risks and trying new things. Often in college I was the only woman, not to mention African American woman, in my engineering classes. When I spent three years on assignment in Beijing after Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s PC business, I looked different from the majority of the population. Like my parents, I had no guarantee of success in any of my endeavors, but I knew the upside outweighed the fear, uncertainty and change that came with each decision. In order to grow, I’ve learned to embrace the unfamiliar and pursued new experiences, beginning early in life. In high school, I went to a predominately white school where I felt the frustration (that precedes learning) of being the different one. In my career, I’ve also experienced the frustration employees have when they feel limited in their role and the exhilaration when they create new opportunities for themselves to be challenged and learn. That reference helps me in my HR role to help create an organization that’s constantly finding new ways to cultivate our diverse employees at Lenovo.

As an engineer and consumer, I’m continually fascinated by technology’s ability to impact our lives. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential, not just in the smart home, but on the go, is becoming accessible and relevant to mainstream consumers. Personal computing now really has become “personalized” computing, as I rely on my smartwatch to track and analyze my fitness, and in the future, to predict and prevent health issues. I recently visited MIT’s AI lab to learn more about how Lenovo can tap into the research and innovations coming from university talent and pair it with our own AI work. I’m truly amazed at how devices are getting smarter, and it’s becoming more important than ever before to make sure systems are diverse and inclusive. For a personal device to be truly useful, it must understand all the nuances of “diverse” individuals, and that comes from collecting diversity of input and context from a variety of people representing different cultures, ideas and perspectives.

 

Back to my engineering roots playing with robots at the MIT AI lab.

Never standing still and continually learning embodies who I am and the company I work for, Lenovo.  From constantly iterating each product to make it better, we’ve got the same drive to challenge the status quo. I’m continually looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve in my personal and professional life. That’s why I keep learning by reading what’s trending on social media, listening and valuing what my kids and their friends say and remembering that new challenges at work are opportunities to grow. That’s what keeps me inspired.

Follow Yolanda’s posts on her blog,  Twitter @YolandaLConyers and Instagram.

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