Learning new skills at work

Learning how to do the work, when you already is on the job is rather common, but not always recommended as two sailors found out a while ago.

The question is how to learn how to do the work on the job, while keeping the expectations on the right level. Especially if you are the only person in this role, you haven’t done it before and there are no methods or instructions to learn from. You more or less have a mission impossible situation if the expectations are to deliver full, or near full performance from day one. 

How can we mitigate these situations in before they happen? 

With a certification, the person at least has a basic knowledge of what to do, compared to a person without any formal training. If you do ocean sailing, at least get a basic sailing course before leaving the harbour.  Don’t do scuba diving on your own without a dive certificate. 

As a project manager, be familiar with at least one project management meted. As a business analyst, learn methods and business that are relevant for your assignment before you start. As an Enterprise Architect, learn a method and how to apply the framework in real life.

The best way to mitigate the risks is to be part of a team, so that you don’t have the full responsibility as a rookie, even if you learned the basics before. If you don’t have this possibility, at least have an experienced colleague to call when, not if, something goes wrong.

Navigare necesse est

No money - lights out

Chris advocates for sloth, avoiding taking care of what they already have. But when there is no money to take care of what they have, soon the lights are out and all stores have to close.



Certifications are valuable

But The question is for whom? Is it valuable for the individual, the company, their clients or for the companies providing certifications?

There has been two lenghty discussion about certifications for Security Experts and Enterprise Architects on LinkedIn in late summer and a general conclusion is that the benefits are questionable.

If something is valuable, you have to define a purpose for this. IMHO, I think this is the first mistakes you do when planning for a certification, is to forget the why question, e.g. the reason for putting down effort and money. A business case if you like.

Second, if you know why you take a certification, it’s easier to explain the value for all involved stakeholders. But here lies the problem with most certifications, what real value they deliver and the percived value of them.

As an example, I’m certified in TOGAF, an Enterprise Architecture Framework. (Some people question if it’s EA and that is a third issue with certifications). The certification shows that I have a basic understanding of the TOGAF as a framework/method, not that I have the skills to do an Enterprise Architecture. The problem is that the stakeholders believes that you could do the job as an EA if you are certified.

I’m pro certifications, as it’s give an individual a common language in a field of expertise, EA, security or something else. But it’s not fair to give the responsibility to drive a EA assignment to a person just certified in TOGAF, without help to her how to do in real life.

After the certification, my recommendation is for the person to work as an apprentice to an experienced architect, who know and can explain when to use each tool in the TOGAF toolbox.

The third issue with certifications is that real world problems are complex. One method only will not be sufficient to solve them. So if you only have one certification, the danger is that you use the wrong tool for the problem, e.g. use TOGAF as method when your business model have been disrupted by the market.

So my answer to the question is that certifications are valuable, at least for the organisations providing courses and certifications. For all other involved parties, the value is questionable and very much depends on the situation.