"eventually, you will reach the point where you are reporting to your leaders what you are doing, instead of being told constantly what you should be doing."
As part of the Teenacers’ series on how young professionals and young adults can help teens, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colten Peddie, with Nutrien. Colten has been a Cybersecurity Analyst at Nutrien (Formerly Agrium and Potashcorp) since May of 2017. Nutrien is one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of crop nutrients for agricultural purposes such as potash, nitrogen, and phosphate, with over 20,000 employees worldwide. Prior to working at Nutrien, Colten studied Information Technology with a major in Computer Systems at SAIT. While studying at SAIT, he gained a passion for Cybersecurity, and eventually decided to pursue a career in the field. During his time at Nutrien, Colten has had the opportunity to be a youth leader within the team of analysts, assisting with co-op student hires and training. Since Cybersecurity is generally a field that has more older folks than younger student-types, it was a great honor for Colten to be able to be a part of the field at such a young age while also honing other young talent.
From your experience, what would you say are the top 3 challenges teens or young adults face today when they enter the workforce? Can you articulate this from your industry’s / field’s perspective?
Personally, I’d say that the top three challenges in my particular industry are as follows:
The barrier for entry. Since cybersecurity is such an intense field of work, it requires a high degree of knowledge and capability to learn constantly. This alone makes it difficult to break into the industry without starting at a very low level.
There is not very much room for error in cybersecurity. Security operations and projects are generally very high stakes. An error can potentially cost millions of dollars, a loss in company reputation, or even the loss of a life. This makes it very hard for a newcomer to feel confident in their work, as they may feel very afraid of making mistakes.
The need to be constantly learning new things to maintain relevancy. Information technology evolves at such a rapid rate, meaning that you’ll need to put in a lot of extra curricular work and training in order to stay on top of the game. This can be a turn off for some young adults looking for a job where you can utilize the same techniques for years on end.
As part of the adolescent coaching empowering resilient success (ACERS) series, we are interviewing experts, like yourself, in order to help leaders, teachers, parents, teens, and young adults by sharing our expertise. As an expert in your field, how would you articulate some strategies your employers used in their practice, or organization, to helped you feel empowered, build resilience, and experience success? Essentially, how were you coached?
My employers almost immediately put me onto my own projects and initiatives in order to help me feel empowered, as well as to force me to learn the lay of the land. I was also given the opportunity to join in on more advanced projects as a helper early on to prepare me for the more difficult aspects of the job down the line. Once I had proven that I had what it takes to be self-sufficient, I was given more power and autonomy in what I’d like to work on and how I’d like to do it.
As a young leader, how would you define leadership, as you have come to understand this term in your field, and why do you think it is important for teens and young adults to develop these characteristics and attributes before they enter the workforce?
At my organization, we use David Marquet’s ladder of leadership to define the different levels of leadership. The bottom rung for the worker is “Tell me what to do.” As you progress upward through the rungs of the ladder, you become more autonomous. You might say “I think we should… “ or even higher up, you might say “I intend to…”. Eventually, you’ll reach the point where you are reporting to your leaders what you are doing, instead of being told constantly what you should be doing. This is the true definition of leadership. It is the ability to do what you think is right for the moment while reporting your results.
Leadership is an essential skill in the workforce, as without it, you will be unable to show your potential as a self-sufficient employee who does not need constant instruction from others.
Considering your experience and field of work, what do you think would make the most impact on teens and young adults before they enter the workforce to help them experience success? What skills and attributes would be the most beneficial when they enter the workforce?
The most important thing to keep in mind when entering the workforce is that you need practical experience in addition to theoretical knowledge to be successful. To have one without the other is like having a thick milkshake without a straw. Sure, you can still drink it, but it won’t be the most effective method available.
As for beneficial skills and attributes; you need to prove that you are capable of being a leader, you need to prove that you are willing and able to learn, and you need to be able to adapt.
What 3 tips could you offer teens and young adults as they prepare to make a successful transition from mainstream education into the “real world”?
Take your time! This is essential. You need to take the time to think through your game plan before you rush into execution.
Network as much as possible. I know it sounds boring, but you need connections to be successful. Employers love looking at LinkedIn profiles before hiring someone. Fill it up.
Clean up your internet presence. This is something that a lot of young people overlook. If you have a bunch of pictures and videos of you doing wild things online, get rid of them. Almost every potential employer will Google your name to see what pops up. The first thing they should see is a well polished LinkedIn profile, rather than you drinking with your buddies.
I love playing Hi-5 with our guests! Can you please share with us your first thoughts on the ACERS acronym? What do each of these mean to you or what final statements or piece of advice can you leave us with?
Malleable. When you’re young, you’re flexible. Use that to your advantage.
Having a good mentor will take you very far. Try to find someone who is willing to take the time to teach you and teach you well.
Being empowered means being able to create the change you want to make. Don’t let empowerment go to waste. Use it or lose it.
Resiliency is essential to survive the ups and downs of the workforce. Work on emotional strength to protect yourself and stay calm in the face of adversity.
Success is subjective. Do what makes you happy, and be proud of whatever you define to be success.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow me at:
Thank you, Colt, for these fantastic insights.
We wish you only continued success in your great work!