Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate from college. In this series, our employees share insight and advice from their lifelong learning journey.
We spoke to Katie LaFollette, she specializes in data visualization, helping clients impact their business through improved data insights and communication. Here is what she had to say about her lifelong journey to keep learning:
#1 – When we talk about learning, people automatically default to their college degree and university education. What did you study in school and how does it correlate to your job today? Or does it?
I studied Organizational Leadership and Human Resources in school but started out in engineering because I loved, and was good at math and science. Initially, I had trouble connecting my interests to a career. Things seemed disparate at first since I had a love for many seemingly opposing subjects like English, history, math, science, and art.
Over time I have come to realize that my interests and college degrees make sense for what I am doing now, especially because I work in a business where I need to be able to talk technical while keeping human needs in mind.
#2 – What type of continuing education or further education have you completed to keep your skills current in the marketplace?
I have taken a couple of formal training classes like Business Analyst (BA) Bootcamp and also classes to get my SAFe Scrum Master certification. BA Bootcamp was a weeklong immersive class that used a variety of hands-on techniques to grow my skills as a business analyst. The class covered gathering requirements, managing scope, asking probing questions, and having crucial conversations with project stakeholders. I took the BA Bootcamp class during my first week of joining Centric.
I received my SAFe Scrum Master certification as part of a client engagement. I had recently stepped into the role of Scrum Master on our team and needed the certificate to understand the expectations.
In both instances, my formal training opportunities were “just-in-time.” I was able to directly apply my learnings from these courses to my client assignments.
#3 – What key skills did you learn in your first position that has stuck with you throughout your career?
One of the most important lessons I learned in my first job out of school was that change is hard.
Sometimes we come out of school or classroom training excited about what we have learned and are ready to apply it to our work. However, the people that we work with might not have that same feeling about our learnings.
It is helpful to keep in perspective where people are coming from and their experiences before suggesting that they change the way they work. If you have ideas that you would like to propose to an organization or group that you work with—start small.
Taking an iterative approach to change the way people work is important. Consider what the change would impact for them and articulate why changing the way they work would save them time, money, resources, etc.
#4 – What has made the biggest impact on your lifelong learning journey over the years? (This can be a habit, certification requirement, market shift in technology, love of reading, etc.)
One of the ways I keep learning is by listening to podcasts. I particularly enjoy Criminal (true crime stories), 99% Invisible (design), Ear Hustle (stories from San Quentin prison), Invisibilia (sociology & psychology), and Lore (folklore from around the world).
There are some great podcasts out there – both business-related and non-business related.
Learning does not always have to directly relate to your job. The more we learn about the world around us the better we can connect seemingly disparate ideas, processes, and data points in our lives.
#5 – How have you made sure to continue your learning and development throughout your career? Do you have set daily or annual learning goals?
I typically set annual learning goals. These usually revolve around classes to take in person or online, but I have recently included roles that I want to play or experiences that I want to have in my learning goals.
Experiential learning is an important part of professional growth. If we communicate our desire to have experience with certain situations, projects, and industries, our coaches and managers can help set those plans into motion.
#6 – What are you currently learning about right now, personally and professionally?
Currently, I am learning about emotional intelligence and how to manage myself and my relationships through emotional intelligence constructs.
I also plan to take an online course geared towards adult development and how adults learn.
#7 – What inspires you to keep learning? Is it rewarding or something else?
Learning is very rewarding to me personally. I like it when I can learn something new and relate it back to my professional or personal life.
Sometimes it is not straightforward, but then applying the learning becomes a challenge to overcome and overcoming that challenge can be rewarding as well.