One Marketer Spent an Hour a Week Learning for 7 Years. Here Are the Results.

March 30, 2017

Savanah Barry spends an hour a week, at the minimum, learning new skills.

Each January since she graduated college seven years ago, Savanah Barry makes a “vision board” of the skills she wants to learn that year.

Generally, there are six skills total: three professional, three personal. For the professional skills, she’ll block off an hour each Friday on her calendar – at the very least – to spend time mastering that skill.

Over the course of her career, she learned professional skills like HTML, InDesign and now SQL using this method (along with sewing and baking, among others, on the personal side). And it’s continually helped her advance her career, capped off with yet another promotion this month at her LinkedIn marketing gig.

“First off, it makes her more productive, and productivity equals value,” Blake Buisson – Savanah’s manager – said. “Because she has so many different ‘tools in the tool belt’, she can own projects end-to-end, and is therefore less reliant on cross-functional partners or external agencies. This is particularly helpful in her current role as a demand gen marketer because she is often designing and executing campaigns with tight launch timelines; so being a ‘one-woman show’ is a huge competitive advantage.”

How Savanah fits learning into her day

Since graduating college in 2010, Savanah has created one of these vision boards each January. To help her achieve her learning goals, she purchased a subscription to Lynda.com in 2011 – a company she would ironically begin working for in 2014.

The initial challenge in creating these vision boards is deciding the skills she wants to learn. For the professional aspect, often it’ll be something tangentially related to her job, or something her boss suggests would be good to learn.

A perfect example is when she started at Lynda.com in 2014, working to build email campaigns. The emails themselves were all created in HTML, so Savanah would have to send the copy over to the engineering team for them to code the email, an inefficient process.

So, she decided to learn HTML herself.

“I’m someone who is driven by a goal, and I had a clear goal to learn HTML well enough to code my own emails,” Savanah said. “That’s what kept me motivated throughout the process.”

To learn HTML, she’d block off time on her calendar each week to watch Lynda.com courses. Additionally, her boyfriend (now fiancé) is a coder, so the two of them would work through HTML, coding together. This added social dimension made the learning more enjoyable, Savanah said.

“It’s fun to seek someone out in your life who knows a lot about what you are trying to learn,” she said. “And what I’ve found is that people are eager to help people learn a skill they know well.”

In just two months, Savanah taught herself how to code in HTML. Not only did this mean she could code her own emails, but could also code emails for other people on her marketing team as well, instead of having to rely on limited engineering support.

“It felt awesome,” Savanah said. “I felt empowered. And it made our team more productive. We could handle problems and build campaigns quicker.”

Savanah has experienced this same sense of pride for every new skill she’s learned. And, it’s helped her tremendously in her career, going from an email specialist to associate marketing manager to now a marketing manager at LinkedIn, all within two years.

But it hasn’t just helped her individually. Buisson said Savanah’s commitment to learning is contagious and has raised the game of everyone she interacts with as well.

“On the cultural front, she sets a great ‘can do’ example for the whole team, myself included,” Buisson said. “We have fun internal competitions to increase engagement with our product, and those are impactful, but it's inspiring to see Sav (and others) going beyond that and really incorporating learning into their weekly routines.”

Savanah’s longtime colleague, fellow LinkedIn marketer Lindsay Thomson, agreed.

“It's easy to set a goal of ‘I'm going to learn something new every day, or week, or month’, but actually carving out the time to continually learn new skills is a trained habit — a hard one at that,” Thomson said. “Savanah's a great colleague to work along side because she's constantly evolving her skillset and pushing others to deliver excellence as a result.”

The takeaway

Significant research shows few employees take advantage of optional learning and development opportunities offered by their employers, with most saying they don’t have the time to do so. The thinking by many is they learn on the job, and that’s enough.

Savanah is a perfect example of the benefits of taking the time to learn. She would have never learned HTML or InDesign or SQL just from doing her job, for example.

By taking the time to learn those skills on her own, she was able to become more efficient at her job, and ultimately more valuable to her company. That additional value has been rewarded with a string of promotions.

So, yes, setting aside an hour or two a week to learn new skills is a commitment. But, as Savanah proved, there’s clearly a reward in doing so.

Are there skills you’d like to learn? LinkedIn Learning has thousands of courses, covering everything from soft skills to creative to the latest tech tools.

 

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