All things upskilling: Are you on track for 2025? (Part 3)

Straight road travel with a start and finish line view from the window

Written by Sumeet Kukar

Hello! I'm Sumeet, a Learning Nibbler. I like to find bite-sized learning in everyday things and share these to enhance critical-thinking. *Fusing cyber, digital strategy, risk and technology for a resilient tomorrow*

March 30, 2022

Today we conclude with the final part in our three-part upskilling series. If you need to revisit the first part, please see All things upskilling: Are you on track for 2025? (Part 1) and for the second part, please see All things upskilling: Are you on track for 2025? (Part 2). As a recap, we discussed the difference between upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling, their interlink with studying and training, the features of an upskilling program, the reasons to upskill and invest in your team and the skills one should focus on as we continue our digital transformation journeys.

What are the three pillars and how are they structured for my learning journey?

Pillar 1: Educational institutions

These are your traditional studies that are of a degree, diploma or certification in nature. They’re usually classroom-based with a structured syllabus and long in duration. They’ll give you a sound foundational understanding and is best for when you need to learn all the theory. Equate this to having a personal trainer and undergoing a fitness program. You’re shown the ropes right from the beginning with the right technique.

Pillar 2: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

These are usually self-paced online courses that can be short or long in duration. You’re presented with structured videos that give you greater awareness of a topic and is best for when you want to refresh a topic or know a bit more. Equate this to going to the gym and doing your own workout, but it’s based on the equipment available – the video topics.

Pillar 3: Upskilling with work outcomes

This a relatively new pillar that provides an immersive experience. They’re a lot more flexible and tailored to you, while giving you practical work outcomes. This is ideal when you need to learn how to apply something. Equate this to doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), “an effective exercise option to increase endurance and strength in those who have limited time to exercise” (The Nutrition Source, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), Harvard School of Public Health). It’s with your peers, targets the muscle groups you need to focus on, short and sharp duration and has a direct impact.

Source: Buissinne S. Photo Collection

While they’re often found lurking in platforms that teach you coding through projects, there are some that also focus on non-coding portfolios.

The dilemma: Multiple skills combined and also having a business impact

This is one of the most common questions I get asked. “Sumeet, I need to do [so and so] at work but to upskill in all that, should I do two or three separate Masters degrees now?”.

While not unusual to be your first thought, it can often be impractical from a time and cost perspective. If only 33% of capability-building programs were called out as having a business impact then this avenue may also be problematic.

I would recommend that you consider upskilling on those incremental steps for the work deliverable you need to accomplish. This would be a lot faster and cost-effective.

The ambiguity: Unlearning

I can appreciate that there is some noise across the industry that promotes the concept of unlearning. While I’m no expert in this framework or field, here are a few thoughts. To remain impartial, I will evaluate this on the conventional definitions of “reversing information or experience” or “removing what you’ve learned from memory”.

When we learn or acquire new skills, they are usually incremental in nature. Recall the first time you cut a fruit open with a knife. You may have been slow and possibly even cut yourself during the first few attempts. You would then have adapted your technique as opposed to forgetting how to hold a knife and starting from scratch. We don’t often hear about deliberate memory erasure. Rather, learning is linked to growing. We learn from the past and from our mistakes rather than deleting the events and trying again.

From another perspective, think about when you see something really horrific or even surprising. How often do we say “Oh wow, I can’t unsee that”? By remembering the scene again next time, we are better prepared to respond. This suggests how our brains adapt and process things as we continually learn as opposed to unlearn.

How often do we say “Oh wow, I can’t unsee that”? By remembering the scene again next time, we are better prepared to respond. This suggests how our brains adapt and process things as we continually learn as opposed to unlearn.

The fallacy: Not everything is about coding

When it comes to emerging technology, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking about coding. There is a flood of courses out there on development with Python, Java or even creating smart contracts in Solidity. But many roles outside of IT are also affected and requires them to upskill.

Consider this. A company is looking to transition one of its databases to a public cloud. Aside from the technical matters being covered by IT and Security, here are just a few examples of how your peers would also need to be in step on the knowledge front.

  • Operations: Understand the cloud model adopted and what this means for changing processes and procedures.
  • HR: Know the cloud skills to look for in candidates and find relevant training programs on cloud migration to support your staff.
  • Finance: Understand cloud pricing and costing factors to be able to adequately review and challenge underlying assumptions or estimates in proposed budgets from IT.
  • Audit: Grasp the change in business model to that of a cloud-based one, revise the audit strategy according to new risk and controls and introduce new audit procedures based on the model.
  • Risk: Know the cloud model adopted and the inherent risks arising, review and challenge the changing risk profile that the first line is introducing with the cloud migration and advise on the suitability of the overarching Risk Management Framework in a cloud model to the Board Risk Committee.
  • Compliance: Understand the setup and data structures in play, review and advise the front line on regulatory/industry compliance requirements such as data privacy.
  • Legal: Understand the setup and data structures in play and comfortably advise on data sovereignty issues or other technical legal requirements.
  • Sales/Marketing: Know the impacts from placing client data in a public cloud and how this needs to be communicated during onboarding.
  • Third-party partners: Understand the change in your risk profile and security posture based on interactions and integrations with the partner organisation.
  • Regulator: Understand the use cases of the emerging technology, in this case data transfer to a public cloud, and have a deep knowledge of the impacts this has on the wider industry such that you can oversee and regulate that portfolio.
  • Board: They’re ultimately responsible. Have a strong understanding of the technology such that you can question and examine changes by management, as well as the effect on your company’s risk profile, the security posture and whether actions are within risk appetite.

We’ve almost reached the 50% milestone according to the WEF indication. How have you fared in your upskilling journey and are you on track for 2025?

The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2020 estimates that 50% of the workforce will require reskilling by 2025. As we approach mid-2022, we’re reaching our 50% milestone check-in post.

Now that we have understood the nature and reasons for upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling, how is your journey going so far and are you on track for 2025?

Ask yourself the following:

  1. What upskilling have you done to date?
  2. How confident do you feel about applying that training to a live work project?
  3. What kind of skills forecasting will you start doing like Ms Vaughn (Hidden Figures) and Mr Bucket (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in order to stay relevant through disruptive technology?
  4. How much impact has the upskilling your employees undertook had on your business?
  5. What’s stopping you from upskilling yourself or your team today?

Before we go… No, it’s not too late to upskill

I leave you with some inspiration from Robert De Niro’s video CV in The Intern, whereby he applies to take on a vastly different role, perhaps even his way to upskill.

Video CV scene from the movie The Intern (2015)

“I read once that musicians don’t retire. They stop when there is no more music in them. Well, I still have music in me. Absolutely positive about that.”

Well, what do you say? How much music do you have left in you?

That ends our three-part upskilling series; thank you for staying tuned. If you’re looking to increase your skills in cybersecurity, check out the work we are doing at Arascina® – Cyber for non-techies. We enable non-techies to be work-ready in cyber. Afterall, it is being able to apply the skills at work that gets you paid a salary, right? (In case you were wondering, yes that is learning and upskilling with work outcomes).

Let me know your thoughts and as always, I’d be happy to connect, have a chat and support you in your skills journey 😊

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