Continuous Learning for a Constantly Changing World

May 15, 2018
By Jenifer Robertson

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 and founded the company that would become AT&T, we’ve continued to evolve and reinvent ourselves. So like Benjamin Franklin said, we’re nowhere near finished.

For 142 years, we’ve made it our business to innovate. Innovation goes hand-in-hand with risk-taking and change. But managing change for employees can be challenging, especially in a world where technology grows exponentially.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum noted that in many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago. And 65% of the jobs our children will do in the future don’t exist today.

In today’s work landscape, employees are asked to learn new skills at all stages of their careers. And companies must rethink how they provide training and opportunities to these employees.

To keep up with the speed of innovation and equip our employees for the future, AT&T is committed to reskill our workforce. We invest about $220 million each year in internal training programs – providing nearly 20 million hours of training a year – and over $30 million annually on tuition assistance.

Rapid change in the work place and constant technology advancements demand each one of us to become a life-long learner. We have to learn the new systems, terrain and technology to survive and excel in today’s environment.  

I’ve worked at AT&T for over 17 years, in many different jobs, and have realized how much I need to keep learning and constantly reinventing myself. And I’m not done learning. From technical roles in network and operations to jobs in sales and customer service – I’ve had several opportunities to pivot my skills.

My current team focuses on technology design, strategy and execution of large-scale programs to include reskilling our technical workforce. We create tools that help more than 150,000 employees transform their skills.

With our reskilling effort, employees have the opportunity to reinvent their careers. We want them to be able to immediately apply their new skills in their existing positions, or use them to successfully transition into a new role. According to a 2016 study by Gallup, from an employee perspective, 87% of millennials feel development is important in a job, as do 69% of non-millennials.

In addition to opportunities to reskill, mentorship also plays an important part in continuous learning. I’ve benefitted from a diverse set of advisors and advocates spread across all areas of AT&T. Each has had a different impact on my career.

  • The Risk Taker pushes me into growth and learning opportunities I would never have pursued on my own.
  • The Cheerleader is the voice of positivity and optimism who lifts me up when I’m down, and has proven to be my most vocal advocate.
  • The Realist is who I go to when I need a dose of logic, tactical planning and brutal honesty.

The balance of perspectives and personalities means I can lead differently, approach challenges from a different angle and practice humility when I take risks or ask for help.

Change can be scary and hard – and often requires risk. But, as Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

Taking risks will give you the confidence to do and the humility to learn for a lifetime.

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