Debunking Professional Development Myths with NimblyWise Chief of Staff Sara Ortins

As NimblyWise’s Chief of Staff, Sara Ortins has played an integral role in the company’s Real-time Learning for Professionals program. The offering works with new employees to cultivate the foundational skills necessary to perform at a high level in today’s knowledge economy. “We found these recent grads to be highly motivated learners,” Ortins says, “but from Day 1 we noticed a disconnect between people’s expectations around training and professional development and reality.”

In this interview she debunks three of the most pervasive myths around workplace training and success in the 21st century.

Myth #1: Professional development takes place in a classroom setting

“When people think about workplace training, they’re often picturing a conference room and an instructor,” says Ortins. “The reality has shifted though, and new technologies allow for more blended, online, and on-demand instruction to address specific gaps in each employee’s skill set.” A 2018 survey of U.S. corporations and educational institutions found that blended learning techniques (a mix of online and in-person instruction) have doubled in the past year and now constitute over two-thirds of training time. “Our real-time learning program enables us to build employees’ foundational skill competencies through our online instruction platform, then coach them in one-on-one settings. The format gives employees more time for reflective learning, as opposed to simply trying to digest everything all at once in a more traditional setting. It’s a more meaningful experience, and so it sticks.”

Myth #2: Your company will identify and assign whichever trainings you require

“One of the biggest keys to a successful career is the recognition that you have to control your own destiny,” Ortins says. “The people I see thriving are the ones with the awareness to recognize their weaknesses, and the motivation to seek out new skills. This might mean approaching a manager and advocating for a certain training or conference, or even just taking advantage of the numerous open-access resources available online.” Ortins points to one of the desired habits of real-time learners, something NimblyWise helps users develop: situational awareness. “This type of observation and pattern recognition allows an employee to be more proactive, whether it’s in identifying an opportunity for the business or realizing an area of need for their own professional development. In both cases, managers like to see their employees demonstrating that level of initiative.”

Myth #3: Professional development is linear

“There used to be a sense that if you participated in your company’s trainings, you could gradually climb the ladder into new positions with more responsibility—but businesses don’t really work like that anymore,” says Ortins. “The new trend is that people are expected to become real-time learners who put themselves in the driver’s seat of their own careers. This is why it’s so important to find a career you’re passionate about, because if you go into the workforce today thinking that just showing up will be enough to get you to the next level, you’re going to get left behind.”