The must-have ingredient for an incredible career

The global corporate and technological landscape changes rapidly and relentlessly in the world we live in. Fresh challenges and oftentimes ambiguous problems hit us faster than we can solve them. New ways of working and doing business emerged last year when the world was catapulted into a sudden pandemic which has added a new dimension of complexity and ambiguity to how organizations operate.

To grow professionally and to keep abreast with new developments around you requires personal enterprise and active upgradation of your skills. While the role of professional learning and experience is undeniable, more and more professionals are acknowledging the importance of taking charge of their own career paths through upskilling themselves continuously by finding new learning opportunities outside of their regular day jobs.

We interviewed CTzens across roles and departments to find out their views on continuous learning and how they keep themselves abreast of what’s happening around them and learn new skills. Here are some extracts:

Mragank Tolwani, Engineering

In this internet centric fast evolving century , the only way to stay relevant is by constantly improving your skill set. The economy is moving from being service based to skill based in almost all sectors and when it comes to IT, the impact is massive.

I had started my career as a frontend engineer but soon realised that backend is what I was a natural at. So I moved to BE development , first nodeJS, then Java and some projects in .NET. Exploring different technologies required a lot of hard work and a disciplined approach towards learning. Over the years I have invested time in learning computer languages, system design, architecture and lately have also been focusing on business and product analysis, people management and investment.

This systematic learning has helped me immensely in my personal and professional life. Apart from handling my current set of responsibilities, I have always consciously invested in preparing myself for the next role. Due to thisI have been able to move to higher roles of responsibilities, earn more, gain confidence and clarity.

Advice to people starting their careers — Take maximum advantage of your energetic years | Contemplate and write down time bound goals for clarity | Try new and different things in all domains to become more skilled and versatile

Vamsi Maganti, Product

You are the creator of your own destiny. I strongly believe that this saying is applicable to professional development more than anywhere else in life. Be it formal or informal, continuous learning is an inevitable in order to upgrade myself and stay relevant.

As a product manager I have to constantly learn the art of creating products and find out how such products perform in the market. My learning sources are my peers, twitter and publications. To learn about tech, startups and product management, twitter has been more resourceful than any formal education setup. I dedicate time everyday to learn from twitter about topics that are outside of my work.

This learning has professionally helped me bring new ideas to the work I do. I refer to the best practices at other startups and reach out to the best talent in the market for some of the problems that I have to solve. The diverse views that are offered by my peers and by my social network have helped me improve my decision making skills. I have learned to evaluate my decisions with a broader mindset having interacted with audiences from different backgrounds.

Advice to people starting their careers — Develop tech and business acumen through formal method like online or full-time courses | Start seeking hands-on opportunities early in your career — working at a startup, freelancing, blogging or doing a project outside your workplace

Vibhav Katre, Strategy

To advance in one’s career, those who hire you and appraise you need to be confident that you are ready for the next level. Next levels always throw you in the deep end, at least initially. Moreover, when you learn continuously, your confidence and conviction on taking up new challenges is much higher. If you are not in a driving seat, it’s difficult to navigate your path.

I realized this need only a couple of years into corporate life. All the “technical training” at the start of my career lacked choice and was not supported by practical application. When I got into a role of my liking, I started realizing the shortcomings I had to overcome in order to excel at my job. This is the same time I enrolled for an MBA. When you are in a competitive environment, you feel the need to learn even more sharply. Thereafter, the “learning attitude” became a habit. I started learning problem solving from MBA onwards and have picked up a lot from my managers. I keep finding better ways to communicate by observation. Every good presentation I attend, every well drafted email or document I read, every sales pitch I get from a vendor is a learning. Research, smart peers and being close friends with those who know things help in improving technical skills.

Advice to people starting their careers — Learning gives confidence | Research + Structure + Creativity = blockbuster combination for problem solving | Observe everything, read and learn from others | Learn from your own mistakes

Ankit Singhvi, Category

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that we live in changing, turbulent times. No one would have ever thought about self-driving cars, but today we have it, all thanks to new technologies like AI, ML, IoT etc. There is high possibility that our current job description could be very different — or even irrelevant — in the years to come. Hence, upskilling will help to enhance competency and create new opportunities.

I always look forward to upskilling myself with new relevant technical skills. This includes learning something new which will help me to perform my current work efficiently like google data analytics, Power BI etc. and also new technologies like AI, ML etc. The source of learning is mostly the internet, reading and participating in webinars. In the past few months I have mainly focused on upskilling myself with basics of system integrations, various stages in product development and digital GTM strategies in product marketing. Learning or improving skill helps me to produce work of a higher quality, timely and of more value to the business. It helps in finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency of my work, become better at prioritising, and hitting important deadlines. It also gives me a great sense of achievement and confidence in both professional and personal life, which gives a positive impact on my mental and emotional wellbeing.

Advice to people starting their careers — Pause regularly and ask yourself the right questions — 1. What have I learnt over the last 6 months? 2. Can I do my current job more efficiently? | Strengthen relationships with seniors

Priyanka Sharma, Category

I believe there is no end to education. Your whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. Continuous learning is as important as a balanced diet or fitness.

Until a few years back I used to think that it is enough to complete your professional degree and then learn on the job. While I was an avid reader and studied blogs, articles, journals I never spent time on doing more. It was when I started reading biographies of successful people, I realized that they had something in common — they were lifelong learners. Then I asked myself what differentiates an individual from their peer and why should they be considered for a senior position — is it their achievements or their college education or the value they bring with their expertise and knowledge? The answer is all. Thus began my tryst with training programs, online webinars and now I am about to complete an executive general management program from IIMB post 9 years of working. The learning has helped broaden my thought process that every problem has a solution, we just need to look closely and think differently to solve it. It has also helped improve my soft skills and mindset — I have started taking more initiatives, saying yes to higher targets, learning from peers, substantiating ideas with facts.

Advice to people starting their careers — Never too late to learn | Ask whether you have the right skillset and how to achieve it

Conclusion

Fear of stagnancy and redundancy seems to be on every mind, driving professionals towards keeping themselves updated and ahead of the game. However positive factors like goals for growth, feelings of self worth and the drive to contribute and innovate are also intrinsic motivators for taking charge of one’s own learning.

Common thoughts among CTzens include recognizing the value of continuous learning early on and investing in it, learning from a plethora of sources, and asking yourself regularly if you are on the right track and how to get there.

We definitely have consensus on the fact that whatever be the source of learning, it is imperative that we take our careers and growth into our own hands and go beyond the regular means of learning to be future ready and productive to the fullest.