Why is continual learning and development so important to you?
To go back a bit, before insight I was always the customer, so there wasn’t as much benefit in learning and gaining certs. At Insight, customers started to ask the question “why should I trust you” in relation to defining the services we were delivering to them. That was the light-bulb moment that really made me realise I didn’t have any IT certifications – I really needed to build out some certifications. Even it was just to be able to say to a client that I had certifications to prove I have proved capability to go alongside my actual experience.
We work in a cloud-led environment that is always adapting and changing, and it’s always nice to be able to play with the new, fancy stuff. Continually learning makes sure I am doing the most appropriate thing in that regard and in touch with the latest trends, a lot of my learning rolls out from there. There is so much interconnectivity between what we work on (as consultants at Insight), so we need to be T-Shaped – meaning broad knowledge in a lot of things, with detailed knowledge in certain things. Certifications give me that and solidify what I already know.
Interestingly in my former role, I made sure everyone in my team was certified, without following my own advice in getting certified myself. I wanted to ensure they were set up and good to move on, it wasn’t until I came to Insight that I saw the legitimate reason for myself to gain certifications. I also get a good feeling when I pass an exam, I like that green tick in the box!
In your mind, what makes a good learner?
It’s really important to understand the way you learn, this is key and something I learned myself from my past in youth work. Everyone can say “I’ll do this and put time into that” but if you don’t understand what makes you tick to make it a productive session, it’s never going to happen. For me, that’s short and sharp sessions, as practical as possible learning through exploration. Half an hour here, 15 minutes there. You must understand how you learn best. Compacting too much knowledge into a short space of time is detrimental too, so bite-size chunks in short periods are the way forward in my opinion.
It is also important that you decide on what to learn yourself. Before joining Insight I had been on many formal training courses, told to go on them by my employer at the time. Often I would find that I knew a lot of the training due to my own preparation. At insight, I get a quarterly target to go and complete an exam or certification, but it is totally up to me what that is – it’s not dictated to me, as long as it is beneficial to me and the company. I love that because everything is relevant, and that makes me a good learner.
How are you enabled by Insight?
A few ways, there is the formal training method available to me, which anyone can choose to do. The company also has a power hour, encouraging everyone here to commit time to learn – I know I should be spending at least that amount of time on learning, it reminds me to do so. This is especially true because whenever there is a kick-off or all-hands meeting with leadership or a director such as Emma De Sousa or Karen McLaughlin, we are all encouraged to make use of that power hour, to embrace that approach to continual learning. I also must keep learning to do my job, to stay credible – this is why it's often part of my goals and funded by the company. But I always feel like it’s my choice.
Do you feel like the employer/environment makes the learner or the other way around?
It’s totally a relationship, the individual has to want to learn and work with the company, but the company has to facilitate it and provide the means and time. As techies, we will all do that to a degree in our own time – but we do so much more because it is facilitated and encouraged by Insight and it is relevant to the clients.
One of our values is Hunger and having a growth mindset, which as you say is regularly referenced and re-enforced by our leaders, does that really influence you and everyone around you.
There are a domino effect and group mentality, it's infectious. If I see teammates taking on learning, 100% I want to do that too. There are teammates that I work with skilled in certain areas who have shifted to cloud environments, other teammates more relevant to their prior roles/vendors have taken on their learnings and responsibilities. We benefit from that growth mindset from everyone, doubling and tripling our learning and certifications.
Our other values are heart and harmony, does learning influence these too.
Yes definitely, especially from a vendor point of view. Not accepting the status quo and always progressing and challenging. Believing in their solutions to solve client problems. We will never know all we need to know, we have to want the best for our clients and vendors – evolution is part of this, continuous learning is critical to this.
Push back from people might be “I don’t have time to do my learning”. What’s your advice to those people to enable their growth and learning journeys?
Breaking it down into small bite-size chunks, for example, Microsoft has acknowledged that and broken down all their learning into small 10-15 minute chunks. I think everyone has 10 minutes in a day. Don’t try to fit in big chunks, because they aren’t there. We all spend time looking at our mobile devices or taking time out to do many other things, utilise a little bit of that time for learning. It will soon become infectious and you’ll want to take that little chunk of learning to the next level, soon enough it's part of your daily/weekly routines.
What’s next on the learning journey for you?
Some of my certifications are reaching 1-year expirations, so I need to plan those in. Microsoft is encouraging the security side of things too as everything we touch has to have security in the background, so I am looking forward to how I can expand my knowledge in that critical area.