It's no secret that most corporate training budgets have been declining in recent years. But at the same time, technology is changing more rapidly than ever before. "It's just understood that every year you have to take up a new skill," says Johnson County Transit's Caldwell. "You never stop learning until you're dead."
Caldwell has paid for most of his own training, which includes multiple certifications. "The training money just isn't there with companies. It's really up to the individual to decide what they want to do with their career and how to drive it. You can't expect the organization to provide that career training," he says. To fill that gap, he has bought books, taken online training courses and networked with colleagues to learn new skills.
Another option is to find a mentor.
"Everyone seems to underestimate the need for a coach and mentor. You need one, both internally and externally," says Hamilton of Quicken Loans. "If I had to do it over, I would focus on that a lot more."
At Jacobs Engineering, Carmody launched a mentoring program that's open to all IT employees. Staffers can find senior colleagues to team up with at an online mentor-matching site. The initiative includes an educational program called Leadership in Work and Life that features monthly teleconference workshops on topics such as how to protect the Jacobs brand, deploying capital wisely, agile software development and the scrum method, and voice-over-IP technology.
"I believe career development for anyone is a mix of classroom, mentorship, ad hoc cross-functional opportunities and volunteering," says Carmody. Even when the workshops are on nontechnical topics, she encourages her staff to participate.
"I tell people that it doesn't matter how technical you are; you deal with people so your people skills will always need maintenance. And you're supporting a business, so you [must continually] learn about the business," she says. "If you're a technologist, you still need to know the business and communicate effectively."