Learning Never Stops
A reminder to keep striving
By Bill de Decker
When my college days were done, so were my days of sitting in classrooms and reading textbooks - or so it seemed. Talk about being wrong! Within a month, I was back in the local college library reading up on how to analyze satellite orbits, and within a few more weeks, I was learning about computers and programming. It's been that way ever since. In fact, learning never stops - certainly not if you want to get ahead and have some level of job security in a very uncertain world.
There are many reasons to keep on learning, particularly in a rapidly changing field like aviation. The obvious ones are just to keep up with new aircraft, new engines, and new avionics. Others include understanding how the new technologies of the computer, the Internet, wireless communication, composite materials, etc., can and will change your job, or expanding your own knowledge in areas such as business management, marketing and programming, or learning how to make good presentations and well-written reports. Now, you may well say, "Who cares if I keep on learning?" Actually, in many companies, management cares a great deal - but they may never tell you that. Instead, they keep their eye on the employees that not only do good work but who also are improving their knowledge and skills. And those are the people that get first crack at the opportunities. In fact, I owe my career in business aviation to the fact that I had become good at making presentations. My boss at the time didn't like to make presentations, and once he found out I did a better job, he turned all speaking assignments over to me. This opportunity opened all sorts of doors with my then-employer, and when layoffs threatened, this skill led directly to a new and better job.
Timing is all wrong
Similarly, you might say: "I don't have the time!" And, if you have a family and a house, that can be a real challenge. But that doesn't mean it can't be done. Just one hour a day will make a big difference. For example, consider that each hour of college class time requires one hour of homework time. This means that a typical college course, which requires three hours of class time per week, would require an additional three hours of homework time for a total of six hours per week - less than one hour per day. And, not all learning involves going back to a classroom. A person can get just as much from reading books and magazine articles. A typical book will take five to 10 hours to read and will provide you with a great deal of information. At an hour a day, you'll finish that book in a week or two. In short, just an hour a day adds up quickly if you discipline yourself to use it for learning.
Most people in our business have a good technical education. Unfortunately, for most people, that's also where the education stops. That is a shame, because, while it is obviously important to know how to troubleshoot an electrical system or overhaul a propeller, it is just as important to the long-term health of the organization to know how to prepare a budget, sell the organization's services, and set up a customer database. The good news is that these are all subjects you can learn on your own, using a combination of courses offered by local and distance learning colleges, professional development courses, seminars and workshops sponsored by the various trade associations, and reading of books and magazines.
Three steps to big dividends
Based on the observations of Conklin and de Decker Associates and dealings with numerous aviation organizations, I would recommend three areas - business and marketing; computers; and presentation and writing skills - where continuing education, formal or informal, will pay big dividends.
Business and marketing