Saturday, 20 December 2014

Translational Momentum

I've got momentum again! After passing my Prince2 Foundation exam on Sunday I've felt spurred on again. A few people have congratulated me - one in particular seemed quite excited that I'd passed - and it's given me the impetus to carry on while the going's good. It feels good to have educational energy again.

With all the changes following my exit from my last job I completely lost my way and started concentrating on other things (running, for one. I did LOTS of running in 2013). I had always expected that I would never stop learning and I would be a student in some guise forever, so disappearing from the learning arena so unexpectedly and for so long took its toll on my confidence.

I'm so out of practice at studying. I found it really hard to concentrate on what I was trying to learn during the Foundation study, and I found it even harder to get myself sat down in front of the computer to actually do the studying in the first place. I just kept thinking of the satisfaction I used to get from my OU study; the happiness at having really nailed a module and how good it felt to get a good mark on your TMA (as they were called in those days) and it helped keep me planted at the laptop.

So now that I've passed the first level, I thought it would be wise to carry that momentum forward so I've booked the Practitioner exam for the 18th January. I figured that I'd book it for a couple of weeks into the New Year so that I've got the Crimbo hols to do the requisite studying for it. I've also cashed in the voucher for my Six Sigma course so I have access to that from now so the aim is that once I've sat the Practitioner exam I'll be able to knuckle down for that.

Perhaps putting the rationale behind my decision to do these particular courses down on paper [sic] will help make more sense of it in my own mind; somehow consolidate my reasoning behind doing what may seem like a bit of a mish-mash of subjects. I'm known for having done a mish-mash of subjects in the past, from my foundation degree in Quantity Surveying to my Open degree with social science and philosophy and a few more random picks like psychology, earth sciences and ICT, but none of these were strictly for career progression; these were purely for personal gain, but now I'm trying to concentrate my efforts on a more coherent plan that will contribute to a more secure and structured future.

Prince2 is the obvious one - I could see that the company was likely headed down a project-based route and wanted to make sure I could offer some kind of value should that end up the case. Despite being turned down for company funding, e-Careers offered me the full Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner course with exams, PLUS the Six Sigma Green Belt package for £950 payable in 4 instalments. Considering that The Knowledge Academy - one of the more common companies to learn Prince with via a 5 day intensive classroom  based course - charge £950 for their full Prince package this seemed like too good a deal to pass up. I decided that the £1000 up-front cost would likely pay dividends in the future and was worth the outlay. Compared to the cost of other less vocational courses it seemed to represent good value for money when considered against potential returns.

I applied internally for a Projects Officer role in the summer. I didn't get it because of my lack of actual project experience, but it was the General Manager who interviewed me and he gave me some tremendous feedback which really buoyed me. He assured me that there would be additional opportunities on a more team-based scenario to get involved in projects in the near future and this just confirmed to me that I had made the right decision choosing to do Prince.

The second course I signed up for at the same time - the Six Sigma Green Belt - seemed a little trickier to justify at the time, but is going to end up being a really clever choice on my part. I had spent a bit of time looking at some profiles on Linked In, and had looked at the types of qualifications people had and I often saw Six Sigma twinned with Prince2 so it seemed a natural course to investigate further. When I looked it up and saw it was all about process improvements, efficiencies and error reductions it sounded really appealing to my inner-geek. I'm actually quite interested in elements like that and thought if I could foresee myself heading down a management route it would be a useful set of tools to have in my kit. I toiled between the yellow belt and the green belt (two different levels with black belt being the highest) and decided if I was going to do it, I might as well go for the higher of the two. At the time I signed up for it the team was brand new, I had barely been made Lead Analyst and there was no need for me to be thinking of process improvements or error reductions. Was there?

When my new team first started, our work volume doubled almost overnight. Since then it's been a constant battle against a raging torrent of work. All things considered, we've done really well. The team is profitable, we get good feedback on quality from our clients, and our staff are a bunch of really intelligent and switched on people. But there are some fairly major gaps that need filling. Because of our constant fire-fighting we've not had any opportunity to conduct additional training or follow up on training already done because we simply haven't had time. Our Training and Development Lead has been busy with other teams and I think, because we've had to concentrate all of our efforts on getting up to date with our ever-burgeoning workload, we've been kinda left to it.

I've made mental (and actual) notes of all of these gaps I've noticed over the 11 months we've been 'in business' with some rough ideas on how to address them even though that wasn't part of my job (at the time), but now that I'm Training and Project Lead I'm really thankful I started jotting notes down all those months ago because now they provide an index of issues to help me as I prepare to start this Six Sigma course and prepare to get stuck into my new role in the new year. It seems my decision in March to buy the Six Sigma course - while fuelled mostly by a mix of curiosity as to what it was all about and a slight desperation to find something that would give me an edge - has proved to be one of the wisest I made at the time because I'll be reaping the benefits in no time.

So at least I can provide some reasoning behind the two courses I've paid actual real-life money for. It would be foolish of me to sign up for all-and-sundry courses and spend a fortune I don't really have. I have to be really selective with this, but also very cunning. I may need to invest a bit to achieve a grander plan and that's fine, as long as there's solid justification behind it.

I'm still fairly sure I can get some really incredible added value from other means too. There's a growing trend for more auto didactic styles of learning. They're more difficult to prove, but still not impossible. Now there's something for me to give some thought to.

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