Never stop learning: How 3 Chicago tech leaders promote continued growth at their companies

by Alton Zenon III
December 12, 2018

Who teaches the teachers? No matter what your position is or what level of seniority you have, there is always more to learn. In fact, it’s especially important for leaders to continually progress their own skill sets so they can push their teams to do the same. We spoke to leads at three companies about their efforts to keep their teams, and themselves, learning habitually.

 

Three leaders from Adage Technologies pictured in a cubicle
image via adage technologies

Web design and development firm Adage Technologies provides solutions to companies hoping to optimize their e-commerce experiences. Director of Technology Mathieu Agee said he pushes himself to advance his skills, and those of his team, by setting continuous goals to foster ongoing development.

 

How do you foster a culture of continued learning?

Understanding someone’s career goals and providing training or resources to achieve them is an essential part of what our managers do. Identifying what’s important to someone, and how Adage can support that, goes a long way in helping employees learn new technology and professional or leadership skills, and provides them with opportunities for growth. 

Together, we set quarterly goals focused on learning, then have follow-up discussions to review the material and bring weight to the progression these goals represent. We also make learning collaborative, with guru groups, hackathons, book clubs, and lunch and learns where employees can learn from one another.

I look for trainings to improve my management skills and I coordinate internal book clubs to further Adage’s technical research.”

 

As a leader, how do you continue your professional growth?

I have always been interested in creating professional development goals for myself. I use many sources such as Audible to go through business intelligence books during my commute, I look for trainings to improve my management skills and I coordinate internal book clubs to further Adage’s technical research. I set a new goal each quarter for one to two items across those categories so that I can make meaningful progress and enable real-world application of the knowledge.

 

Staff from Label Insight take a group photo at an event
image via label insight

Through its data platform, Label Insight allows retailers and manufacturers to give their customers more transparency into the ingredients featured in their packaged goods. Donald Cook, director of engineering, said he and his team follow a tailored roadmap that charts various opportunities for staff to further develop their skills.

 

How do you foster a culture of continued learning?

Our engineering career ladder, which provides a guide for engineers to follow as they progress in their careers, includes ways to ensure they are learning regardless of their levels of experience. This includes attending or speaking at conferences and local meetups, presenting at our bi-weekly engineering learning sessions, or taking a class on a relevant subject. Our functional groups also watch and discuss conference talks together during weekly watch parties. 

I continue to grow by remaining as curious as possible and doing the research required to fully grasp the important aspects of our business.”

 

As a leader, how do you continue your professional growth?

As my career progressed, my focus shifted from the highly technical to the strengthening of my communication and leadership skills. As an eager learner, I found every way possible to gain experience in communicating, including working directly with customers, having one-on-ones with as many people as possible and speaking or networking with peers at conferences. As a leader, I’m focused on fully understanding my domain. I continue to grow by remaining as curious as possible and doing the research required to fully grasp the important aspects of our business.

 

Four staff from Strong Analytics chatting around a table
image via strong analytics

 

Strong Analytics is a consultancy agency that provides data-driven infrastructure and processes solutions, like app development, analytics and designing machine learning tools, to companies. Co-founder Jacob Zweig said that because the skills that his team must employ are vast and varied, they have to learn together in order to succeed. 

 

How do you foster a culture of continued learning?

Whether it’s a new tool, technique, or technology, every project that we do is unique and presents an opportunity to grow and stay at the forefront of data science. Additionally, our weekly lab meetings allow us to share knowledge and learn from one another on a wide variety of topics, ranging from optimization to statistics, algorithms and engineering.

Professional growth for leadership doesn’t differ from that of any other roles — we all grow as a team.”

 

As a leader, how do you continue your professional growth?

Professional growth for leadership doesn’t differ from that of any other roles — we all grow as a team. As full-stack data science consultants, it’s not enough for us to know how to analyze data in R or Python. We need to be fluent in various SQL dialects, machine learning models, optimization techniques, distributed computation frameworks, cloud services, probabilistic programming languages, APIs and web applications, UX design, data visualization, and scalable software application deployment — all while knowing how to manage a project and interact with clients. Given this vast array of knowledge required for us to execute effectively on our projects, it’s absolutely critical that we learn and grow together.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog12 open jobs
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Label Insight
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Strong Analytics
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Label Insight
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