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COMPETENCE WITH A CAPITAL C: HOW TO BEST BALANCE CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND THE ROLE AS A CONSULTANT

As consultants, we depend on our professional expertise. The professional knowledge we possess is primarily used to create value for our clients. Therefore, it is essential that we maintain a focus on cultivating our own professional competence.


Finding new sources of knowledge and skills can be quite overwhelming and demanding, especially when we must look beyond our own organization. This article aims to give you a push and help you find good sources to acquire new knowledge, as well as provide you with some tips and tricks for the journey ahead.


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Let the learning begin!

It is vital to find the right sources and formats that suit you. A central part of succeeding with continuous learning is that it does not feel like an additional job, but rather a natural part of your everyday routines.


I have gathered a handful of different channels I use to stay updated, dig into subjects, or acquire basic knowledge about topics outside my chosen field.


Digital channels:
Youtube

I primarily use YouTube to deep dive into topics related to new technologies, resources, or to solve general issues with the solutions I'm working on. There is a vast number of videos on the same topic, so take some time to find the creators from whom you learn the most. This will make future searches much faster.


Here are two channels I particularly like:


Microsoft Learn

This is Microsoft's learning platform, where you can find everything from documentation and established learning modules to sandbox environments and certifications. I use this platform mainly to study documentation related to specific resources in Azure or to study for certain certifications.


It's worth noting that Microsoft organizes Microsoft Build every year, and through Microsoft Learn, you can obtain a free certification voucher in connection with the event. For me, it's a highly motivating way to study for a certification since you get two rewards in one.


I am currently working on the following Microsoft Build challenges (deadline June 20th):

  • Microsoft Build: DevOps Challenge

  • Microsoft Build: Power Platform Developer Challenge

  • Microsoft Build: Azure AI Challenge


Social media

If you use LinkedIn or Twitter effectively, you can also keep up with new trends, launches of new solutions, and receive input from your network.


I recommend following the technologies you use in your daily work, relevant companies, and the event pages of conferences that interest you. This way, the platforms will suggest posts that align with your interests, helping you stay informed about new trends, launches, etc.



User groups, Seminars, and Conferences:
MeetUp

If you don't already have an account on meetup.com, I highly recommend creating one. It's a platform where you can find many events and gatherings, both technical and non-technical.


For example, I am a participant and a member of the board at Microsoft Data Platform User Group (MDPUG) Norway. This user group organizes sessions covering various aspects of the data platform field and more.


BrainFood

BrainFood is one of the better breakfast seminars I have attended. NoA Ignite organizes and invites speakers for interesting presentations and panel debates from their customers. It's one of my preferred ways to network and get new insights, plus it starts the day with a great breakfast.


DAMA

Data Management Association offers webinars, literature, conferences, and much more. I recommend checking internally within your company if there are opportunities for membership and participation in their seminars.


Conferences

There are plenty of conferences available. Many of them have free admission, so the only cost is the time you invest in expanding your skills.


Here are some Norwegian conferences I would recommend:

  • Data Saturday Oslo

  • Make Data Smart

  • Power BI dagen

  • SHE Conference

  • Oda Inspirasjonsdagen

It's also possible to participate as a speaker in several of these conferences, especially those focused on specific fields. It's a great way to become even more comfortable with your own expertise. If you haven't spoken at conferences before, I personally recommend New Stars Of Data. It's an online conference specifically for new speakers, so everything is set up for you to succeed.


Be your own instigator

In QUARKS, I have had the opportunity to instigate my own skills and development. However, sometimes it can be challenging to know where to start, what's worth learning, and how to establish good learning routines. If you've experienced or are experiencing the same as me, I recommend considering the following three tips:


  1. Set measurable goals: It's a very common advice, but there's actually something to it. Look at the tips above and decide on two things you want to achieve. Start by dedicating five minutes a day to your goals. It's important that achieving your goals doesn't feel like extra work but rather a natural part of your everyday routine.

  2. Let your learning be defined by what interests you now: Learning something that immediately benefits you can be a great motivator for further learning. While it's easy to follow advice about which technologies, programming languages, and tools to focus on, my tip is to instead focus on what you work with or what interests you.

  3. Start small: It's not possible or necessary to learn everything all at once. Begin with small steps and focus on the measurable goals you set in step 1.

  4. Utilize your network: It can be smart to take advantage of the platforms you already use daily for further learning. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to get small nuggets of development happening within your field or industry. Additionally, I encourage you to use your network even more actively and reach out to someone who possesses the knowledge you wish to acquire. These can be people you already know well or individuals you'd like to establish better contact with. We humans like to hear that others look up to the knowledge we have or our achievements, so we are usually happy to share our experiences. It's, therefore, a win-win situation for both parties.


Learning happens gradually

Learning happens gradually, and it's entirely natural that we cannot and should not know everything all the time. It's important to become familiar and comfortable with that feeling. There is a lot of integrity and value in saying, "I'll look that up" or "Let me connect you with the right person" when faced with a request beyond your expertise. There are very few who are experts in multiple fields simultaneously, and you do yourself a favor by early on utilizing your network and their expertise.


With that said, I wish you good luck and happy learning!


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Emilie Rønning

Contact Emilie Rønning - emilie.ronning@quarks.no if you want to discuss more about continuous learning and competence development!



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