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Importance of learning and experiencing new things

How many times have you heard someone say I don’t have time to learn new things or I don’t have anything to talk about when a request comes in to give a presentation?

There is no good reason you would not be able to learn and experience new things. There is only resistance which can hold you back.

It’s important to learn and experience new things. It’s an essential part of the process to grow on a professional and personal level.

Willingness to learn could get you the job you are trying out for. Stating you are willing to learn and grow is never a bad thing. It can only help you out.

Multimedia and communication technology

Illustrator Car

picture 1.1

Making choices

Choosing the right studies, courses or job is a challenge on its own. The content you get to see is placed in a frame, the good stuff is mentioned, and the boring stuff is never mentioned. How do you make the right decision? Often you don’t, you undergo it and then see if you like it or not.

The other side of Belgium

I studied one year at the other side of Belgium. It’s sounds far away but it’s only 1.5 hour drive, Belgium is pretty small. The Dutch dialect is very different on the other side of Belgium, to an extent that I sometimes would not understand what people are saying.

Checking it out

We (my dad and a friend of mine) went to visit a school there to check out a brand new division called multimedia and communication technology, sounds promising doesn’t it. When we arrived we were looking for parking spot and we asked a local who exited the swimming pool where we could find the school. He said “uweblupzegefgzekblup parking” and pointed in a direction. To me it sounded like he still had water in his mouth. Luckily we were able to understand parking and he pointed in a direction so we managed to find the school.

The content shown was very interesting, creating web sites, drawing in Photoshop, doing photography, creating 3D models using 3Dmax and so on. Great, I love being creative so this will be it for me.

The reality kicks in

Once I started I found out the boring content as well.

The mathematics exam consisted out of vector math and was build around getting the theory to use later on to create 3D engines and effects. I did great at the exercises part which I liked but I failed at the questions on the history of the number PI (3,14..). I wasn’t really interested in the history of the number PI.

I had electronics lessons but it was not something I was interested in so I soon skipped those classes and resorted to a game of Counter-strike (online first person shooter) instead.

After a while I realized this wasn’t all that great and it wasn’t me. Since it was already too late on the year to switch to something else I decided to pick up everything that was interesting and invest my attention on those areas. I attended each Photoshop class, each Illustrator class, and each website creating class, each photography class, each programming class and so on. Only the topics I found to be interesting.

I would be fun if someone could comment and tell which brand and name the car has that is displayed in picture 1.1. It’s a drawing I made after attending some Adobe Illustrator lessons.

The right choice?

The following year I choose to do IT studies with programming and system administration as main focus. For me that was the right choice. Sure there were some courses which didn’t catch my interest as much as others but in general it felt right.

Did I waste one year?

I did not waste a year. I learned and experienced new things and those experiences have become part of who I am. Sometime you seem to make the wrong choice but you learn from it. Did you have a job experience that was really bad? Learn from it. If you would start your own company then take those experiences into account.

Creating time and opportunities

Too often people tend to find excuses like” I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have the opportunity”. On the other hand they are often the same people who are bored at work and complain there aren’t any interesting tasks at hand.

The solution is not complaining. You will not find time, opportunities or interesting work when you only complain. You should create time and opportunities, it’s a repeating cycle really, when you don’t have any interesting content it’s most likely because you don’t engage and you stay in your corner, complaining about it.

Multi-tasking

Seabird Banner

picture 1.2

A possible solution to creating time to learn is to multi-task, I know not everyone is as strong at multi-tasking but you should definitely give it a try. I don’t know where the saying comes from that men can’t multi-task but I’m used to doing lots of stuff at the same time. I often listen to TechED replays, SAP Mentor Mondays, TED videos or whatever interesting content I can get my hand on while performing other tasks.

At this moment I’m writing this blog, I’m thinking about how to enhance the banner I have drawn for my sisters website (see picture 1.2), I’m listening to the song Heads Will Roll which triggers my imagination and makes me see a brutal medieval fight (the song title creates the imagination) and I’m hoping I will get the file system I need to upgrade the TREX 6.1 today.

In picture 1.2 you can see the banner I working on for my sister’s website. I had to shrink it down to be able to use it in this blog though.

Using content to create opportunity

The more things you read and learn, the more ammo you have to create opportunity. Being active on SCN means you receive knowledge, share knowledge, get connected, get rewarded and so on. You can use all that content to create opportunities. Tell your customer which technology is new at SAP, try to pilot products, try to improve business processes that are in place, leverage the content to send out knowledge mails and energize your colleagues to do the same. Do presentations on the content you find.

If you are bored at your customer and you don’t have enough work to do, create work and create art by creating opportunity.

Ask your boss for time to learn

Have you ever asked your boss if you can follow a SAP Webinar live? What if you tell him/her that you then have the opportunity to ask questions to the SAP expert who is presenting the topic and that you can share the knowledge for the whole team? I asked one of my customers if I can participate in webinars during the time that they hire me (since that’s when the webinars take place) and the answer was “yes you can”. The worse that can happen is that you get a “no you may not” answer but at least then you have shown that you want to learn and spread knowledge, if you ask me it’s a win-win situation.

Energizers and believe

People can have a good influence on other people. Some of them are energizers. They will request, discuss, push and propel you in a certain direction.

I have a great connection with Kaneka, the company where I did my thesis work, a PHP program to register visitors. It’s still one of my customers where I perform SAP system administration with lots of energy. They believed in me when I did my thesis and recommended me to the company who performed SAP system administration for them. That is how I started out in the world of SAP. They still believe in me and I’m grateful for it.

The first IT manager who I worked for believed in me after the first talk we had. It was my solicitation talk in a local tavern (since he lived close by). I didn’t know anything about SAP. Of course I had looked it up though but still I had near zero knowledge of SAP. I was one of the first juniors they ever hired and I’m glad they hired some more after I was at work for some time.

Up till today and hopefully also in the future he has a strong believe that I will be able to do great things. This creates a great connection as I have always benefited from his strong believe in me, for which I respect him for and for which I’m grateful. That reminds me I still have to check my calender to set a date to go out and get a drink together.

I see him as an energizer. Energizers have an important role, they can pull people into a story, engage people to share knowledge and inspire them to do great things.

There are many examples of energizers. Kaneka is also an energizer for me. Seth Godin is an energizer for me, lately I have read a number of his books and the stories and content give me energy to stand up and do something.

Sleep is important but so is time

I know sleep is important and you live longer if you sleep long enough but if you want to learn something you have to spend time on it. If you have the time available go learn. If you don’t have the time available, make the time available.

When I started I didn’t have any children and I had time on my hands so I spend lots of time learning SAP. Some of my colleagues were concerned I would crash but I’m still alive and kicking, more alive than I ever was before actually.

Finding the balance between sleep and awake is a key element here. I once fell asleep for 5 seconds (micro-sleep) in my car and I woke up right on time before hitting the concrete border that separates the highway lanes. I was lucky and I had a lot of free space on the high way (as other drivers must have noticed I fell asleep or I was not driving in a straight line anymore). That’s when I decided to sleep a little longer. My message is don’t let it get that far, if you have to fight sleep while driving home then act on it by sleeping more.

Beginners advice

Be prepared

Google is my friend and it should be yours also. Prepare yourself, don’t ask something you can Google and understand in two seconds. Show your mentors or colleagues that you did some effort to find information and tell them what you know already and request more information to get a better view on a topic. Also when you are looking for job you should know what the company you talk with is about.

Learn from others

For the beginners my advice is: learn as much as you can from as much persons as you can. Seek out the colleagues who are willing to teach you things. A very important point: take notes, don’t go and ask the same thing five times to the same person. They will get annoyed by it.

Don’t be afraid

Don’t be afraid to try something new, if you get the question “Do you think you can do this?” your answer should be yes. It doesn’t mean you cannot ask anyone to help you out but being afraid is the first step towards not learning and not growing. The internet is full of content nowadays. Surely you can find information to help you on your way.

Being nervous before you have to give a presentation to a steering board or a big crowd is normal but you shouldn’t give in to the nerves. Give in and you kill your presentation, the crowd will notice you are nervous and they will react to it. Acknowledge the nerves and perform the presentation and things will go fine, yes you will still be nervous but it won’t show that much and the crowd won’t react on it.

I know this isn’t easy. Giving a presentation to your immediate colleagues is piece of cake. When the audience changes and the expectations change, so do the nerves. For me it’s important that I know what I’m talking about, I won’t study it out of my head but I will tell the story of the presentation a few times up front. The end-result won’t probably be the same but it will be more fluent than making the story up entirely from scratch once I have to do the presentation.

Do your best

Don’t be passive. Work won’t get done by doing nothing or waiting to see if something changes. If you don’t do anything, don’t expect anything to change. You have to lean into it even if it’s not really what you are supposed to do, if it brings added value do it anyway.

The yes but syndrome

Avoid the yes but syndrome. If you claim to have no knowledge on a topic and you ask a topic expert don’t correct his answer (you claimed to have no knowledge on the topic). Instead look up the answer if you doubt its correctness. If you don’t, the yes but syndrome can cause you to get no response anymore.

End-note

I subscribed to go talk with students about job opportunities at the end of March, what to look for, tips to start and so on. I hope I can inspire some of the students and I hope I can inspire some of the blog readers.

I have been working for less than five years but I feel I have had a great time already and I feel great times are ahead.

I will keep on learning, reading, viewing, asking questions, grow and work with what I have learned. I hope many more will also do the same.

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9 Comments

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  1. Erika Atencio
    This blog has been very inspiring. Just last week I was wondering if I could ask my customer to attend webinars. I think next time I’ll dare to ask.

    One of the ways I learn more is posting questions in the forum and answering questions.

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    1. Tom Cenens Post author
      Hello Erika

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Some of my colleagues laughed at me when I said I was going to ask my boss to spend time on attending webinars but now I can so I’m glad I asked.

      Yes helping people on the SCN forum is a great way to learn. It’s not only a great way to learn in general, it’s also very useful to improve troubleshooting skills since there are also a lot of questions on stuck situations and scenario’s that are not working properly yet.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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  2. Kumud Singh
    While reading the blog, I could recall my era when I joined as a fresher and did exactly what’s written in the blog. Its good to know that what happens to us is something common. Likely when we change organisation, we face similar situations.
    We keep facing such situations couple of times in lifetime.
    BTW, where are you going to enrich students about SAP?
    Thanks.
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    1. Tom Cenens Post author
      Hello Kumud

      Thank you for your feedback. It’s nice to hear some can relate 🙂

      Normally I will be talking with students (still awaiting confirmation though) in the high school from which I graduated (Katholieke Hogeschool Kempen in Belgium).

      I’m Alumni member and they requested speakers. I will surely be promoting SAP and CTAC but I will also be talking about general topics such as the ones mentioned in this blog and answering questions they might have.

      It’s also a good way to see what is moving in the educational department and what the new trends are among the students so I will also raise some questions, not only answer questions and of course have a drink afterwards 🙂

      Kind regards

      Tom

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      1. Tom Cenens Post author
        Hello Kumud

        My involvement to speak with students has been confirmed, perhaps I can something with the information I receive by posting a blog on it.

        In my opinion it’s interesting to see what lives among the students and to have some insight on their view on studies, business and work.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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        1. Kumud Singh
          Hi Tom,
          Congrats!!!!Sounds great!!!!
          Probably such events can be made still bigger and larger in future with initiatives like this……
          You must be planning to post your experience as well….

          Regards,
          Kumud

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          1. Tom Cenens Post author
            Hello Kumud

            I’m willing to share my experience so it’s very likely I will be posting a blog after the event.

            Kind regards

            Tom

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    1. Tom Cenens Post author
      Hello Santosh

      Thanks for the kind words, the are appreciated. You can expect some more blogs from me in the future.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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