Friday, September 16, 2011

One key to career growth is never to stop learning

Takeaway: Don’t stop learning just because your company doesn’t offer formal training. It’s up to you to keep your skills sharp and increase your knowledge.

Earlier this week, Patrick Gray wrote a guest piece in this blog about turbo-charging your tech career. One point he makes is that tech pros should not just wait around for corporate-sanctioned training to learn new skills. He says, “If you rely on corporate-style training to enhance your skills, you’ll likely never get anywhere.”

This reminded me of a situation I was faced with a couple of years ago when my son was in elementary school. He’d been diagnosed with ADHD, which these days is about as common as a second ear. However, in our school system, children with this diagnosis were placed in some special ed classes and/or aligned with a behavior modification plan. His troubles focusing were attributed to a willful disregard for the teacher and the class work, etc.

In one “we have a problem” meeting, I asked the teacher what she knew about ADHD. Her response? Not much because the school system did not mandate knowing about it. I was pretty shocked. I couldn’t understand why someone who, if the statistics were true, would likely have a pretty healthy proportion of her class exhibiting ADHD symptoms would not do some kind of looking into it on her own accord. Knowing a few facts could help her reach these students better and generally increase her ability to do her job. Why would someone wait for an officially sanctioned okay from the department of education?

I think the same holds true for any job, but especially for IT. IT pros should not wait for the company to pay for further training in new technologies. In fact, most of the IT pros I’ve spoken to say that learning new technologies is something they can’t really help doing, given their innate curiosity and interest in the area.

Pick up a piece of software and take it for a test drive. Poke around a new OS-maybe you’ll be the one to find a compelling reason for your company to upgrade. Take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs if your company offers them. Just keep growing and don’t wait around for company-sanctioned training.

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