by Francesca Miglietta
Some weeks ago, during what was supposed to be a super boring training course about work organization, I unexpectedly found myself examining my whole process of personal and professional growth of the last year, when the trainer asked an apparently simple question: “do you ever stop to think about what you have learnt through your job?” Honestly, I never did. Not with such a methodical approach, at least. He actually said a useful exercise would be to do this every six months and write down your answers, like in a sort of a journal.
So, after more than one year as a Localization Project Manager, I made my first serious attempt to answer that question. Interestingly enough, what I found out by looking back was how much my learning process had changed during the previous months.
When I started, I was completely new to this job, and to the localization world as well, so I firstly had to learn the basics: at the beginning, what concerned me the most was how to keep in mind and apply the incredible amount of new information, notions and tools. Every single operation involved new things to learn: how to reply to an email from a client, how to address a vendor, how to create a quote for a new project, etc. Each of these basic operations implied a big effort in order for them to be memorized and assimilated.
Surprisingly, after just a few weeks, most of this was already part of my daily routine. I did not need to think about every single thing I was doing anymore or check my notes every two minutes. Everything started to become pretty much automatic and mechanical. And that was the point. I was faster, but when something stepped outside the box, I was not able to handle it on my own. I still needed tutoring.
This was quite frustrating, but I soon realized that the following step towards operational autonomy could be achieved only after experiencing quite a few ranges of different situations. This is because, when you can master all the main aspects of a job, you also start developing some extra abilities, the so-called soft skills. You are no more worried about forgetting how to perform the most elementary operations and have already internalized the main technical knowledge, so your mind is free to go beyond those initial basic data.
The moment you start developing a clearer vision and a better understanding of the reasons why you are doing what you are doing, is when you can start changing your whole vision. And this is exactly when you finally become more independent, being able to make your own decisions faster and with more awareness and to develop your personal strategies.
After a few months of experience, I had actually taken on some behaviors and attitudes that could really improve my performances at work: I was more focused on the solutions, more flexible, more able to prevent problems. And this happened so naturally I did not even notice it.
Analyzing my learning process led me to reconsider my whole idea of professional training.
I had always thought of learning and training from quite a formal and traditional point of view, which did not imply much more than learning through the example of more experienced people or studying and then putting theory into practice. But there is much more than that.
Working in such a dynamic industry certainly pushes you to seek a constant personal update in order to always be informed on the innovations related to new trends, technologies and tools. But, generally speaking, a lifelong training can generate countless advantages from both a professional and a personal point of view: it does not only allow you to learn new things or improve what you have already acquired, but it also leads to more creative ideas and different approaches.
In this sense, we should all consider the concept of training as an investment and, ultimately, as a strategic choice: when you open your mind to new perspectives, constantly sharpening and upgrading your knowledges and experiences, you are actually investing in yourself and in your expertise. And this can be achieved through very different channels.
What really helped me develop a more global vision, indeed, was to go beyond what was strictly related to my own job. New skills and knowledge can also be acquired by simply observing, talking and exchanging ideas with people who do a different job. In a translation company, there are many different people who work together as a team and this can definitely add value to each one’s experience, as this implies developing a shared understanding of solutions through discussion, conversation and exchange. This way, each individual can learn something new from the others. Everyone can represent an extremely valuable experience for one’s personal and professional growth, if we only allow this to happen.
Actually, what surprised me the most was to find out how much can be learnt from less experienced people as well. A few months ago, I was asked to tutor two new members of the team and I unexpectedly realized that they had many things to teach me as well. I used to believe that this was linked to the fact that they paid much more attention than me to every single operation, as they were not used to this job like I already was, but the real truth is that observing other people and, consequently, different approaches will help you change your own perception. So, if you are open to learn from the people around you, and you are lucky enough to be in a workplace where sharing, cooperation and discussion are encouraged, you cannot but benefit from the situation.
Curiously, after just a few weeks from that training course, when I was listening to a webinar about soft skills for PMs, from Nimdzi, I heard Tucker Johnson saying these very same words (https://www.nimdzi.com/webinar-pm-soft-skills-part1/).
So, what have I learnt in the last few months? I have realized that answering this question is not as simple as it appears to be. It actually leads to many other questions: what can I still learn? What am I good at? What are my weak points? What can I improve?
In other words, my new idea of training can be summarized with a constant attempt of finding the answers to those questions, still being aware that such answers can change every day. You can learn something new in every different situation you are involved in and from every single person you meet along the way; a very good option is to stop thinking about what you have learnt today, put it into practice immediately, and think of what you want to learn tomorrow.
Francesca Miglietta – With her head in the clouds since the day she was born, she discoverd her rational side thanks to the role of PM. She lived for a few years in Spain, where she left a piece of her heart and where she goes back from time to time to find comfort in tapas and sangria. In Italy, she finds her vital source of energy in coffee and focaccia.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Nelson Mandela