Software engineers, architects, programmers and project managers are often left to their own devices when it comes to training. If they’re interested in learning new programming languages or updating certifications, the work often gets done on their own time. But according to Edmond Freiermuth, a Los Angeles-based management consultant, there’s a link between training and corporate culture. Companies that want to train their people, he contends, generally pursue a longer-term commitment to their workers, one that translates to the employee’s emotional well-being and professional success.
For tech professionals who often decry the lack of employer-backed training, that conclusion comes as no surprise. The problem, it seems, is that company training is the exception nowadays, though more businesses are using it as a retention tool.
For candidates, the challenge becomes figuring out whether a prospective employer is serious about learning. After all, “all companies are not created equal,” observes Jeff Kagan, a technology industry analyst in Marietta, Ga. Some are purely focused on their investors and customers, while others give their employees much more consideration.
“Some companies invest heavily in their technology and the training to better utilize this technology,” Kagan says. But since some don’t, candidates have to dig deep to find out exactly what the business’s approach might be. And that means you can’t rely on what hiring managers and others have to say. “Try to talk with the workers, if you can, and not just the managers to find out what kind of company it is,” Kagan suggests.
Not surprisingly, the financial health of a company is one indicator for prospective employees to consider. If companies have cash, they’re more likely to think about technical training, Kagan says. He notes there’s usually a direct path from a company’s financial strength to education and training.
Larger companies, especially those in tech, generally have formalized programs for tuition reimbursement and certifications. For instance, Adobe kicks in the cost of fees, tuition and books for appropriate business courses and certifications up to a specified amount. It also offers on-site technical programs. Microsoft has a similar deal, providing business-related tuition assistance for undergraduate or graduate coursework and extensive internal training programs online or in classrooms.
At Smaller Companies
Most smaller companies aren’t able to afford similar benefits, says Freiermuth. However, you shouldn’t overlook the value that a company or outside mentor can offer in the way of both direct hard skills and softer ones. Plus, if you hitch your wagon to a more entrepreneurial company, it’s possible that you’ll have more learning opportunities by holding greater responsibility, he says. “That’s especially true at tech companies.”
It’s Still on You
However, just because a company is concerned about keeping its technology staff current doesn’t mean that you can turn over your continuing education plans to your employer. Freiermuth argues that you can’t blame the company for a lack of learning new things. Whether it’s keeping up on your programming skills or learning how to blend business and tech knowledge, you need to be aware of how the wind is blowing at your company and sector. And, you may have to go out and pursue a training solution yourself. Simply put, complacency can be a job killer.