Education is key23 Oct 2007
Education is everywhere and essential.
I have about three or four jobs in various workplaces to do with event production and IT development and design, and probably spend about 10% of my time as an educator. I probably spend twice that time learning new things and keeping on top of everything that happens in my corner of the world, but without that thirty-percent education time, the other 70% would be far less effective.
In that thirty-percent time, I stay ahead of the curve and similarly keep my employers ahead of the curve.
At Youthworks, I have spent less advocacy time of late, but the first several months there was alternately spent in learning how people were interacting with technology, and training people in effective (and efficient) use of it to solve ministry problems. My role was first and foremost to learn, and without that time the consequent project would be lacking in vision and engagement with actual need.
I’ve also recently been working again with a past employer, solving some pressing front-end development issues they have faced due to their need for quality training for staff. In the time I’ve spent there, I built a handful of frontend things mostly with technologies I knew, and spent some time looking into and creating solutions with one particular technology I haven’t had much experience with. This is ‘learning’ in a way that isn’t disruptive to conventional employment: my related expertise accellerated the learning to the point that it remained cost-effective for them to allow me to spend time doing that. Apart from that learning time, I implemented some quality testing systems and trained people in how best to apply them, and spent a few hours engaged in front-end development training with another employee.
In freelance work, I find that unless I explain my role and actions to prospective clients, there is a dramatic decrease in efficiency because expectations aren’t properly established. Part of doing this often includes explaining some things about technologies and techniques that are being used. In order for me to do my job effectively, I need to find non-technical ways to explain technical problems. That means avoiding non-essential jargon, having a cache of analogies to apply to a given situation, and patience to make sure everyone remains on the same page.
As someone who brings a particular area of expertise to a problem, it is my responsibility to share that expertise appropriately with everyone else on the team, as well as acquiring (learning) area-specific expertise from others on team in order to effectively solve problems.
There is absolutely no way to do a job properly without constant acquisition or transmission of knowledge. Education is key.