The power of learning

The power of learning

The power of learning: Should I get a degree?

Many successful people never even try to get a degree, just look at Sir Alan Sugar….others hold proudly their qualifications, for example the American President Barack Obama…and some of the most successful people in technology are Harvard drop outs, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg…So what is the right thing to do?

In my experience, I always felt that people were divided in elites in the organisations where I worked: the academically qualified and the experience qualified managers. The first group being the Degrees/Masters/PhD holders that enter organisations late but have an accelerated career, the second group being the managers without the qualification, that started at the bottom of the chain and worked their way up by having extensive and longer real-life work experience. This separation almost feels like being part of a political party, as both groups try to gain power in the organisation and seem to think one is better than the other.

Although I am not a political person, all my life I have found myself belonging to the second group of people. I have a successful project management career that has been achieved through years of learnings, engaging with people (rather than books) and applying common sense and hard work. I have been proudly praising the importance and the wisdom gained from having such experience over preaching out of theory. However, I gained many professional qualifications and I remained curious in the skills of the ‘other party’- as there seem to be a certain prestige associated to having a degree.

I took my first leap into action as I enrolled for the BA (Hons) in Leadership and Professional Development. This degree course was part-time, work based and I had a genuine interest in leadership; so I only had to give up some of my personal time (to study!) to explore the real academic world. This was an opportunity I could not miss and I entered this journey with an open mind.

Throughout my study, my colleagues at work saw a reborn passion in me and often mentioned that maybe I was a natural academic. As I finished my degree, I found myself wanting to continue onto a Masters, so I can make ‘more of a difference’ in the workplace. I wondered…did I shift from being an ‘experienced professional’ to being an ‘academic professional’?

The answer was an immediate ‘No’. My work/life experiences are still very much who I am and I value this tremendously. However, I realised that the spark that my colleagues noticed was caused by the great learnings I was gaining from this different environment and how much I enjoyed applying these insights into the real working world – and that this passion didn’t belong to one ‘party’ or another.

I feel that the ongoing organisational/political power battle between these two types of professionals in corporate companies is blurring the bigger picture. There will always be different personalities, cultures, social groups and leadership styles and competition will always exist in the business world. However, ‘trading’ which is the original form of business, was born through the exchange of goods between people. In the 21st century this can be elevated by exchanging learnings between the academic and business worlds – this evolution would be the real transformation.

I thought I had an open mind when entering this journey, but in hindsight, the experience of getting a degree whilst working has opened it even more. As I hope to continue onto a MSc in Organisational Change, I remain focused in wanting to be successful in my career. In the meantime I will continue to contribute, in my little way, by sharing my learnings with others through mentoring. After all, we became homo sapiens through human interactions before corporations and universities existed – that is for me, the power of learning.

Rachele Mauro Knipe

BA LEAP student

February 2016

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