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MCP TechMentor: Who's Responsible for IT Training?

TechMentor keynote from Thomson Corp.'s Martin Bean pins responsibility on IT pros as well as their employers to keep abreast of technology through training, and gauging training's effectiveness thro

Martin Bean, chief IT business strategist for Thomson Corp., which owns the Prometric training and testing centers, was the keynote speaker who kicked off the last day of MCP TechMentor Conference. Bean's lively presentation was a wake up call to the profession to take shared responsibility in keeping abreast of and learning new technologies.

"It's not about the technology; it's about the profession," Bean said. "It's all about our ability to deploy and support the technologies."

First, Bean suggested that IT professionals need to grasp the philosophy of self-directed lifelong learning. "If there's anybody in the room who thinks somebody else is going to direct your learning for you, you are sorely mistaken."

"You've got to have the ability to play with technology in the broader area.... Programming and systems engineering used to be very different, but the lines have blurred," he said. He observed that technology convergence is a constant in the industry and it happens in some strange niches. "Telecommunications used to be very very different from IT, and what we've seen is a major convergence between the two."

Then, Bean also acknowledged that a major disconnect exists between business managers, who imagine their IT staff spending their free hours surfing to find a new job that pays more money, and the IT staff, who simply want to "not worry about job security and not worry about income security and get on to build a great IT organization and play with some new stuff along the way."

Bean said that business managers have to be more in tune with the needs of the IT staff. "If you want to lose [your IT people], make them work on legacy systems and don't let them learn, and they will be gone within 12 months," Bean warned. "That's your recipe for losing those people."

Bean then continued, dispelling the myth that certification training plays a role in poor job retention. "I frequently hear [from employers], 'If I train and certify my employees, they will want more money and they will leave.'" His response: "What if you don't train them, and they stay?"

Bean speculated that there isn't any research to support that myth. Nonetheless, he said the number of certified and non-certified employees staying in their jobs stays about the same. "If anything, the certified employees stay longer, he said. "The ones who leave do it because they paid for it themselves, did it at night, because their companies didn't care, and they went back with certificate in hand and said, 'That's it! I'm out of here.'"

Excerpts from Martin Bean's keynote:

  • The scarcest resource in the world is not the ability to acquire great technology. It's the ability to use that technology to gain a competitive advantage in the market place...
    bean-resource.wma (2.8MB; 3 min. 1 sec.)
  • A lot of IT professionals fail or derail in their careers because they fall in love with a particular type of technology or architecture....
    bean-fail.wma (3.5MB; 3 min. 43 sec.)
  • What IT professionals want is, they need to be wearing a bullet-proof vest when presenting solutions....
    bean-loyalty.wma (4MB; 4 min. 32 sec.)

[To listen to the audio excerpts, we recommend Windows Media Player 7 or newer. We also recommend that you download the files to your hard drive to listen at optimal quality.]

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