Digital training? But what the hell is digital in the first place?
Digital training in the information age seems pretty straightforward. And yet. The very definition of the digital domain is mind-boggling and fuzzy. Where does it start, where does it end? Also, choosing a digital training programme, like any other kind of training programme for that matter, in any area, implies that executive students spend quite a lot of time thinking about what they want to do in the future.
This is why I have written these few bullet points, in order to help them with their choice. As you may or may not know, I am programme director at Grenoble Ecole de Management (aka GEM, a leading European school) since I am in charge of the Advanced Masters in Digital Business Strategy which welcomes 40 students from various origins every year.
Approximately 30% of these are executive students. A lot of these executive students have questions and issues they are trying to solve through a digital training programme, which remains a means for them to put a stake in the ground and show both management and themselves that a career move is nigh. In this piece, I have put together some advice for them to ensure that they are choosing the right programme and to help them with their choice of career.
- Number one advice is, above everything, to start focusing on your career move: an executive student’s focal point must be her/his career move. You have to avoid throwing everything away just because you are oping through a midlife crisis. In other words, the first thing I do when I interview executive students for my Masters is to check whether their motivation is positive and not negative. I understand that frustration at work can happen, and that execs may have enough of working with the same people. For somebody like me who has worked for more than 30 years, it’s not very difficult to imagine nor understand what’s behind the frustration. I have been there before. Yet, All negative motivation (I hate this!) must be turned into a positive one (here is what I want to do!). To put it in the words of Daniel Porot, think of your move as as runway and imagine you are landing and not just taking off. Landing is more important, it’s the end state that matters. As a recruiter if I do not understand where you will be landing I try to help candidates with their plan and if I still can’t understand what they want to achieve, I will try and evaluate a better solution with them. Obviously, digital training and digital in general must be part of the landing plan if one wants to join the masters.
- Advice number two is “do not take digital for what it’s not”. What do I mean by that? Digital is trendy and if you want to keep up with the Joneses it’s fine, but this is not sufficient. For one, digital is all things to all people, so it’s easy to say that you like it even though you’ve never tried it and hardly know what it’s all about. Besides it’s a hyper specialised, multi specialised domain, which implies a lot of technicality both from a marketing and IT point of view. As a result, dual profiles are necessary if you want a career in digital but they are also very difficult to define. Because they will never be the same depending on you starting point or what you want to achieve in the future. Engineers may want to try and become marketeers and there’s nothing wrong with that. They might run into a number of issues but most will overcome them if they are sufficiently motivated. And vice versa. Nothing is impossible. Once again, the starting point doesn’t matter, what matters is the landing, the final point of your career objective.
- You also have to understand that a digital strategy / marketing training programme will not turn you into a programmer. Otherwise you have to get to programming school and opt for IT training. But most executive students are already in a job and wish to become managers or directors or CDOs etc. and it is rare in that case that moving into programming is a clever career move. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that programming is naff, on the contrary. And I even know quite a few marketeers who have become real technical wizards (and to be honest I have some in my teaching teams and in the past, I have been one of them). Yet, one not does need to be a programmer to be in charge of digital and manage programmers. I have done this quite a few times in my career. I have learned programming all by my own out of curiosity, with a language which doesn’t exist anymore and has nothing to do with modern Web languages. However I know enough to be able to work with IT guys and enjoy working with them and understand the value of their contribution. Programming does not help, it’s best left to experts. And besides, some analysts aren’t even sure it will still be there in the future.
- Next you have to understand that you will have to start from scratch and go back to school. And this won’t be easy to some, mostly those who are 30-50 years old and haven’t been to school for a long time. You may be quite frustrated as there are some difficult tasks such as assignments and live business cases and the infamous final master project (FMP). All this is not very easy to manage when you are a professional and you’re not used to sitting for exams anymore. It’s a bit school like but as it enables you to gauge your knowledge and abilities, hence it’s worth its while.
- My next piece of advice is that a career move is also a full-time job. Do not believe that you are going to do this on top of your day job and that one day, a miracle will occur and your career path will change. Big businesses, barring a few rare exceptions, aren’t waiting for you at the end of the programme with a red carpet and a trophy. You will have to find a new job by yourself within your business or outside your business if there are no opportunities internally. In other words, you are in charge of your future and that kind of training is a good means of setting the record straight and then decide to start from scratch, and take your future into your own hands. It is a diving board, not an end in itself.
- Next, an important thing to understand is that professors and lecturers will teach you a lot of things. Yet, all main learnings will always come from you. Even though you have passed your exams and the final master project, you will still be in charge and it’s you who will make a difference at the end of the day. And it’s you who will ensure that your training is either a success or a failure, not your teachers, not me, even though I might help. And mostly, you will have to find yourself in a position where you are able to put your knowledge in practice in the field. If you have learnt things but you are forced to wait 2 to 3 years before you can actually implement them in the field, there is something wrong and you have to know that you will have to start from scratch. By that time you will have forgotten everything that you have learned during the training programme, by lack of practice. Do not forget that what matters most is what you have implemented by yourself. This is why our teaching is essentially based on practice and flipped teaching etc. But even that doesn’t suffice if you are not in a position to practice all by yourself. If so, get back to the previous bullet point and ask yourself the question whether you have done everything you could to change to your career. I have seen executives come to the decision to quit their job in order to focus entirely on their new career. You may also have to take a sabbatical. In principle one cannot refuse it. You could even work in a new job during a sabbatical which will enable you to test the water and see how it goes and if you like your new life.
- Last but not least when it comes to training, you have to ensure that your mastery of the English language is, at least, good. I don’t think I need to develop that point. All students whose expression is weak or bad are systematically rejected. Mastering languages (and not just English) is a must in today’s world, in my opinion.
Here are my advice for executives searching for a digital training programme as a means of evolving their career. I suppose the next step is to look at the programme and ask for more information, either by contacting me through LinkedIn or contacting the school directly and having a chat with the person in charge.
About the Advanced Masters in Digital Business Strategy at GEM
As companies around the world face the challenges of a digital transformation, the Digital Business Strategy Advanced Master’s provides students with the keys to understand, manage and lead change. At its heart, this advanced master is 100% digital-oriented. It combines topics in management sciences, information technology and other web-related fields of study to create a top-notch international program that meets the needs of learners who are passionate about the digital world.
The degree focuses on digital strategy topics and tools that are essential to be on the cutting-edge of the digital revolution. From web management to digital transformations, participants benefit from courses taught in English by highly-qualified teachers as well as professionals currently working in digital fields. The program’s transversal approach gives students the skills they need to manage challenges in digital technology and digital transformations. Join the Digital Business Strategy program to drive innovation, develop your digital management capacities and be on the forefront of future business transformations.