What do you hope to accomplish here and beyond? Right now, my here is “Degreed.”

When I was prompted with this question, it was a month after I joined Degreed. Founder, David Blake, led with his curiosity that day and asked us about our hopes and dreams. It’s the kind of question some of us dread (enter: Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation). But oh boy do I ever love this kind of stuff. I have Leslie Knope levels of enthusiasm about it.

One of the reasons I embrace this question is because I ponder similar questions often. Such as: What are my core and peripheral gifts? Which ones are needed for whom and when? The answers to these questions are how I make sure that I’m aligned with my “Why.” The more I understand why I join, serve, labor, or otherwise share my gifts, the more I can bring my full self to whatever I do.

I framed my answer to David’s question with three goals:

1) what I hope to accomplish here (at Degreed),
2) what I hope to accomplish next,
3) what I hope to accomplish before death.

Responses are italicized below:

  1. Hope to accomplish here: Reframe learning for individuals and organizations.
  2. Hope to accomplish next: Untether and experience the world as a digital nomad. City hop and country hop while working remotely until marriage or health forces me to re-anchor.
  3. Hope to accomplish before death (key theme for eulogy):
    • Friend to the forgotten (someone who upheld dignity in the final stages of life for hospice patients).
    • Storyteller-in-residence for my daughter. (someone who coached more than dictated, who inspired more than proscribed. We read together a lot and share a love of stories. I want her to remember me as a guide and not a warden).
    • Hacker of expertise (Real estate broker. Architect. Doctor. And whatever else I reach for next. I want to demystify the cult of hidden titles and inspire others to be boldly curious).
    • Creator of beautiful experiences(Delightful architecture. Global Excursions, Walking Classrooms).
    • A fulfilled Legacy (someone that brings pride to my tribe, here in the states and in my father’s country of Eritrea).

My core gift is to be a herald. Some characterize their gifts by identifying it as a spirit animal, MBTI type, mythical assignment, or divine purpose. After exploring the many paths to self-discovery and being described as a foxy ENTP that might be a “3rd-grade teacher with a secret life,” I simplified mine to herald. I’ll explain.

Goal #1 (Hope to accomplish here) Explained: Each day, I serve to reframe learning for individuals and organizations by heralding the promise of this brave new world of learner-led experiences. I have many assignments in my current role, but I thrive most in those face-to-face or virtual modalities where I can show and share the path. It flows naturally and I could do it for hours on end with unwavering delight. My core gift provides the fuel to perform not from a place of obligation, but from a place of joy.

Goal #2 (Hope to accomplish next) Explained: As much as I enjoy sharing my gifts through my work, I enjoy recharging and soaking up the beauty of the world. Before using the Degreed mobile app, I was missing some visibility into my own curiosities and personal growth. Meticulous as I am, I tried to close this gap by journaling my ideas and learning into a Google form that fed into a Gsheet, complete with quantitative and qualitative questions. The problem with that is…I would only use it once a month or so. Now, when I’m riding in a cab in NYC I can kill time by reading articles in my feed or capture the hours of learning spent listening to an audiobook while on a flight. And the app captures it all for me, making it easy to track and cultivate that habit of learning. Given my love of data, seeing what I’ve learned tracked in one place along with my trending topics and interests offers me exciting insights.

Goal #3 (Hope to accomplish before death) Explained: This is the long view. It answers the question “How do I hope to be remembered?” Without expanding on all the bullets, I’ll end with a story. I received a text a few weeks ago from the volunteer manager at an organization where I normally serve as a hospice patient care volunteer. She needed help with an event. I checked my calendar and responded with “Yes.” I arrived at my post at 7:55am on a Saturday and was charged with directing cars at the lower level of the parking deck until 9:15am. She mentioned that she was disappointed because the other volunteer was a no-show. I was instructed to guide arriving guests to park and go to the lobby where they will wait to be escorted to the rooftop restaurant venue. Not only was I unbothered the other volunteer was a no-show, I was excited. Why? I would have the privilege of being the first person they encountered–to wield the power to set the tone for the guest experience.

What the volunteer manager did not know was that I had been hired to greet visitors and deliver presentations at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, VMworld in Barcelona, CES in Las Vegas, CES in Shanghai, Bett Show in London,  to name a few. I was about to show up in that parking deck in the most magical way for these people– for free and with a huge smile! What you learn from working with industry titans at events on that scale is that your message is bigger than your talking points. My mission was not to give the arriving guests a list of instructions on how to get to the lobby. My mission was to surround them with warmth and confirm that “Hear Ye, Hear Ye: We’ve been waiting for you! Welcome!”

Most of the guests who arrived were kinda sorta sure they were in the right parking deck. Each time they tentatively drove in and rolled down the window, I knew why they were there. No one else was hosting an early morning event. But I still let the experience unfold for each person by asking “Hi there, are you here for Missing our Mothers?” Each time, they would answer “Yes.” And each time I would start their journey with “You’re in the right place! And we’re so glad you’re here!” Each time they would smile. Then I would tell them next steps.

That wasn’t on my list of talking points. That was the core gift of knowing the difference between reciting instructions and heralding good news. Each of those women were at this event to celebrate the memory of their mother– mothers they do not have when others are with their mommies on Mother’s Day. No matter whether the volunteer post was to be an emcee (that job was taken by a famous journalist) or to play a medley on a violin or to park a car, every moment of the guest experience at that event was meaningful. We all made sure of it. What an honor it was for me to be their first smile.

Truth be told, 9:15am came all too quickly. Most unexpectedly, when I finished my shift I enjoyed a front-row seat at a reserved table to enjoy the program. All because I said “Yes” and I showed up. That other volunteer really missed out– maybe she thought it was just about parking cars.

So I leave you with this question: What are your core and peripheral gifts?

Consider how you practice using them and what you hope to accomplish with them wherever you are. Continue to build your collection of learning and tag them with skills to look for patterns. And remember that the more you understand about your gifts, the more you can unlock experiences that help you bring a fullness, a purpose, and an enthusiasm to all that you do!

As the year draws to a close, I spend some time reflecting on how I spent the year.  With coffee in hand on a cold Minnesota morning, I consider various things: What did I accomplish this year?  What did I learn? What skills did I develop?

All of this thinking then leads to the anticipation for the new year.  What skills should I develop next year?

Maybe you’ve done something similar reflecting on your accomplishments.  But, why do we wait until the end of the year for introspection?

I suppose it’s because we’ve associated the end of the year with the annual performance review that organizations deploy: filling out forms, struggling to recall accomplishments and skills developed throughout the year and wondering how to put into words what you will accomplish 12 months from now.

Been there, done that.  It can feel frustrating.

Truthfully, the end-of-year annual performance process is an outdated process and many organizations have moved away from the annual review, but many have not.

If you’re lucky enough, you might be employed by a company that has evolved to ongoing feedback and regular development discussions with your manager.  Be thankful, if that’s you!  I hope you’re actively engaged in collaboratively building a skill development plan that aligns with your career goals and growth.

At Degreed, I used our Skill Development Plan feature to create a personal development plan where I’ve identified a few key skills I’d like to develop.  I’ve self-rated my level in each skill and set targets of where I’d like to be with each skill.  I’m beginning to work with my leadership team to coach me along the way.

But if continuous feedback and ongoing mentoring does not describe your current experience in your workplace, please keep reading!  The good news: there is hope. Sure, your manager should be there to help and coach you, but YOU are ultimately in control of developing your skills.

As you navigate through the annual review process and begin the new year with goal-setting, go into it with a new mindset. Initiate your learning and development plans with your manager.  Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Be proactive in building a development plan to improve your skills. This means thinking about and writing down your career goals, or the next role you are interested in pursuing, etc.
  • Think of areas that you want to grow your expertise or think of new skills you’d like to learn about and develop – it doesn’t have to be a long list.  Start with one skill.
  • Ask your manager to help you build a development plan with learning resources you can benefit from.
  • Find and ask a mentor for career development and guidance.
  • Seek and use learning resources you can find on Degreed or elsewhere.

Whatever the case, be proactive in making a personal development plan to build current or develop new skills.

I’ve been lucky to have worked for various organizations and managers who have implemented continuous feedback and development discussions in conjunction with a full year performance review.  The common thread was the honest and transparent discussions with my manager of where I would like to develop my skills.  Start with questions like “how am I doing in my role?” and have an answer for  “where and how do I want to progress in my career?”  The key: build a development plan collaboratively.

If you don’t have a way to begin to track and measure your skill development, consider signing up for a Degreed account.  It’s free! And if you have Degreed, add your skills to your profile and accurately rate your level of expertise.  Better yet, certify your skills through Degreed Skill Certification.

As you reflect on your accomplishments and your learning and development this year, ask yourself: What did I learn this year?…In what areas did I develop my skills? How do I want to grow my skills next year?  Take 5 minutes right now to put your development plan into action!

Alan Walton is a data scientist at Degreed, but he didn’t start at Degreed with that job title.

Alan got a degree in math, with a minor in logic, and then landed his first job as a developer. Data science is currently one of the hottest jobs in America, but the term “data science” has only recently emerged. It was not a career that Alan had even heard of when he was in school. Like most millennials, Alan tried a few different jobs. His first job out of college was working for a startup where he wore a lot of hats. He worked on integrations, technical support, implementation, and technical writing. Alan started at Degreed as a developer, then worked as a product manager, and now a data scientist.

Alan’s career agility is enabled by his passion for learning. While in college, Alan’s quest for knowledge led him to learn speed reading. But, when walking through the university library one day, a quick calculation led him to realize that even when speed reading, it would still take him 200 years to read every book in the library. He knew he needed an alternative way to focus his learning.

Before Alan started working at Degreed, he stumbled upon Degreed online and became one of its first beta users in 2013. Alan has now accumulated nearly 40,000 points on his Degreed profile, which might make him the highest point earner in the entire Degreed platform. To give you some perspective, I have 12,000 points on my Degreed profile, which is more than most people on Degreed.

Alanprofile

When Alan first became interested in the data science role, he leveraged Degreed to make the transition. He created personal pathways in Degreed with resources from within the Degreed library, online resources, books, videos, and podcasts. He built pathways for data science in general with additional lessons focusing on sub-topics specific to the projects he was working on and the technical tools for his job.

Alan is a member of the data science group on Degreed, follows other data scientists, and follows the data scientist role so the popular articles, videos, and books his data science coworkers are reading plus the resources the organization recommends for this role show up in his Degreed learning feed, which he routinely takes advantage of.

Takeaways

Will Alan be a data scientist for the rest of his career? I doubt it. He says he’s really interested in AI. If you’re interested in gaining the same level of career agility as Alan, Degreed has the development tools to help.

  • Enroll in a pathway on the topic, create your own pathway, or clone an existing pathway and customize it for your needs.
  • Follow experts in the role you are interested in.
  • Join a group.
  • Follow the role, which will automatically link you to learning, pathways, groups, and experts.
  • Interested in learning more about data science? Follow Alan on Degreed or enroll in the Data Science pathway in Degreed.

Already a Degreed client and interested in initiating a targeted development plan at your organization based on roles and skills? For more information, contact your client experience partner at Degreed.

If you’re just getting started, check out get.degreed.com.

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