Fallen from the Grace of Learning, Part 1

March 14, 2011

I don’t mean to mock or disrespect my religious brothers and sisters out there. But if there is a God of Career Bliss out there, then surely I have fallen from grace. Or at least veered down the wrong path. Let me explain.

A few years ago I was super-passionate about the field of adult learning and instructional design. As an instructional designer and learning consultant, I had a keen interest in exploring ways to leverage emerging technologies and social networking to enhance how we learn. I loved designing courses of all sorts. I loved consulting with clients to help prescribe the right blend of learning solutions for their situation. I loved tinkering with tools and techniques, from complex software and working with full scale development teams, to rapid e-learning and do-it-yourself solutions. Of course I sometimes cursed deadlines, writer’s blocks, and crashing software, but I was engaged.

And then I drifted. I moved away from my design and consulting roles and moved into project management. At the time I figured project management was a solid field and a good set of skills to learn. I also thought it might be a good segue into more responsibility and more pay.  And given that the economy was tanking (mid 2008), project management might lead to more options.

Most of this is true. I have certainly gained valuable experience. But there is a flip side.

I joined the PM team at a highly creative e-learning shop. It wasn’t bad at all. Though I wasn’t designing, I was able to leverage my background and still had a part in the creative solution. Then, a year later, I felt I wanted more internal training experience within a large Fortune 500 type company. I was in for a rude awakening.

My current company is a great company, and there are a lot of great people there. But as a PM, that is all I do. In this organization, roles are very segmented and specific. The PM role is very much focused on processes, risks, schedules, and the like. Though I am in a training department, my adult learning and instructional expertise rarely comes into play. In fact, PMs are really expected to be content neutral.

That’s all fine, but it’s not me.  As a role on its own, project management is not where my heart is. I miss the creative and intellectual stimulation of design and consulting.

OK, enough of that. Self-pity is a slippery slope, and boring, too. The moral of the story is this:  Do what you’re passionate about.

Whatever career topics you joyfully read about on your own time or will do for free, do that for pay. Don’t follow some path just because it might lead to more pay or more security. Both are over rated, and probably illusory.

"wrong way" road sign

Have tips or advice for a wayward ID? Wanna share your own story, organizational wisdom, or words of encouragement? I would love to hear from you!

Turns out that was true, and I’ve learned a lot. , and a great way to move into higher levels of management.

Pushing the envelope: Requiring blogging for learning

May 16, 2008

Tony Karrer asked an interesting question earlier this week: Should blogging be mandatory (in contexts such as attending conferences, formal learning setting, and sustained learning activities). The post generated a great discussion and a lot of points were raised. Not surprisingly, most of us in the conversation seem to object to anything “mandatory.” But now I am wondering if maybe some form of mandatory blogging isn’t a bad idea. After all, there are a lot of mandatory things in the learning world. Examples from my own career:

  • Taking training courses, I have had to complete certain assignments, often involving some sort of report
  • In various projects, I often have had to report out to colleagues on problem-solving results, project status, lessons learned, etc.
  • For personal development goals (such as reading educational books, attending lectures or conferences) I have had to write a report and email it to the team, or give a presentation.

All of these were “mandatory,” although that word may not have been used. They were required because there is some understanding of the importance of sharing knowledge. We all benefit from sharing lessons learned and knowledge newly acquired.

So, isn’t blogging the same thing? It is just another tool for doing what people have always done: connect and share. But blogging has some new benefits for learning organizations: Being on-line and storable, they potentially become a powerful way of storing tribal knowledge and having it searchable and retrievable by others now and in the future. And unlike Word reports sent via email, blogs are much better for creating conversation and further learning from one another….and those conversations, too, becomes storable and searchable.

How cool is that?

So maybe we should require blogging in certain contexts. It’s a powerful tool for learning. And as learning professionals, we really should be pushing the envelope with new technologies and helping our organizations become flexible, strong, learning organizations. We need to push the power of “We learning.”