Learn By Doing Real Projects

The current ways of learning real professional skills are limiting.

When I was a product manager and I wanted to take on more projects which would specifically help me become better at wire-framing, I didn’t have many options. I found courses on Coursera, Skillshare and Lynda which weren’t super helpful for what I wanted to do — there were good lessons on how to use Balsamiq, for instance, but there weren’t enough real examples to practice on. I didn’t necessarily want a new job — I was really happy where I was — it’s just that I want to learn more and be able to apply my skills to more diverse projects, ultimately within my own company.

Imagine you are a design manager at Slack. There are a few internal design projects which need to be completed, but none of the full time employees can prioritize them at this point. And imagine a designer — say, at Uber — who is looking for an additional project outside his/her current job to get that experience. This is a great opportunity for someone to learn outside of their job and for you at Slack to get get exposure to new, fresh ideas. It also may be a good way to try folks out and test their work before hiring them. The person can learn by doing a project that counts, and you and your colleagues can get exposed to other fresh ideas from smart people with differing perspectives.

Or imagine you are in college and are keenly interested in social media marketing. You have done a couple of internships and are looking for even more experience. Your options are to either do another internship or take on a full time role. Being in the last semester, you can’t do either. Say there is a new startup which is looking for someone to help on a social media campaign as a project. Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to learn and get experience? For the company, it’s great as well; they can get help from someone smart, who wants to learn, with minimal commitment.

The best way to grow professionally is to work on projects which have impact and the most I have ever learned is by doing. The ideal way to develop skills it is in the real context — theory cannot replace practicality. It can only supplement it. That doesn’t mean to say a good theoretical foundation is not required to be a doctor or a physicist but what it means is that for a lot of skills, especially in technology companies, it’s necessary to learn on the job with real projects after getting past the foundation stage.

This is why I am starting Ionize. I want to talk to you if you are a company willing to put a project out to get interesting and smart talent or if you are someone who wants to learn outside their job or school. Please sign up!

You can always contact me at romy@ionize.co.

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