Saturday, August 21, 2010

Does your company owe you training?

Recently I read an interesting post by Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter) on SQL Central about Personal Investments, how you invest in your career. It’s also something I’ve been thinking about lately. I agree with Steve that I’m responsible for my own education. But I feel that companies should be, to some extent, as well.

I fall into the “accidental dba” category. When a senior member of our team left I was assigned to work on maintaining and monitoring our databases, something no-one really did before that. It fell to me because I had the most knowledge about SQL Server, as opposed to just writing T-SQL statements. I learned what I could by going to all the free events I could find. I joined my local SQL User Group and attended as many meetings as possible. I bought and read many excellent SQL books and blogs. I took any free or cheap training resource that was available. Eventually I passed a number of Microsoft certification exams. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved on my own, and I will continue to further my technical education.

There’s a cost to my training, even if it’s free. There’s the hours of attending conferences and viewing webcasts. There’s the price of purchasing books, and the time it takes to read them. There’s even travel related costs, such as attending a SQL Saturday event in another state. I pay the cost gladly, and I’ve already seen the benefits.

But at what point should a company start providing training?

Now I don’t believe your company should always pay for your education. As Steve said in his post, you should make your own investment in your career, showing your managers the value of your training. You’re the one responsible for keeping your skills up to date. But it should be a partnership. Your company also needs to make an investment. They have as much to gain as you do.

This isn’t just to motivate an employee, giving you a nice job perk. Frankly, if you’re not self-motivated to get the basic skills needed to do your job maybe you should start looking for another position. But if your job suddenly requires specialized knowledge they should help you attain that knowledge.          

Let’s say, for instance, that your company has decided to use clustering for high availability. And since you’re the SQL ‘expert” they’ve come to you to set it up. You’ve read up on clustering, and you know in theory how it works. But you’ve never worked in a clustering environment, let alone design the architecture involved. Shouldn’t your company help you learn what you need to know to succeed? After all, they have more at stake in this case than you do.

I just feel that companies should also contribute to your technical education. I’m interested in how other’s feel about it.         

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