Learning Beyond College

By Danielle Taylor

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As a recent grad, I look back on my college years and the classes I took with fond memories.  I absolutely loved school because I love to learn.  When it came to that moment in my senior year when I had to select a direction for the first step in my career, I was honestly extremely nervous.  I did not want to lose the level of intellectual engagement and personal development that college provides.

Thankfully, ever since I joined IBM’s Chief Analytics Office over a year and half ago I have not stopped learning.  The Chief Analytics Office role within IBM is to develop data driven insights that guide critical business decisions.  Our main goal is the consumption and application of data analytics across the company.  In order to continuously improve our ability to serve IBM’s business needs, our department needs to keep track of IBM’s new developments, changing tech industry trends, and emerging data analytics techniques and tools. The Chief Analytics Office learning culture allows us to respond quickly to business changes, spark new ideas, and improve our ability to serve IBM’s business needs.  As our competitors in the market place continue to innovate and as the tech industry landscape continues to shift, it is imperative that we are able to respond in a dynamic, agile manner to produce the insight our leaders need to make real time decisions.  There are three main ways in which the department encourages learning and development:

  • Monthly Development Sessions
  • Brown Bag Lunch Sessions
  • IBM sponsored Classes

Monthly Development Sessions

We have a group of employees who have volunteered to continuously improve our skills by hosting a variety of development sessions.  Two to three employees will volunteer to tackle a new analytic technique, or understand a new IBM offering on their own and then develop a two hour learning session to guide the rest of the team in mastering the subject.  Not only does this allow employees to engage in something they are passionate about, it also provides them with the opportunity to give back to the team.  A few example topics from recent development sessions include: Introduction to Python, a Watson Analytics Overview and Use Case, Advanced Techniques in SPSS Modeler, and Agile Development.

Brown Bag Lunch Sessions

One of my favorite ways to stay engaged with my team members is through Brown Bag Lunch Sessions.   These sessions act as an opportunity for smaller groups within the team to sit together and discuss topics such as significant competitor announcements, IBM strategy changes, or important industry developments.  It provides a great forum for sharing knowledge around news articles and recent announcements to keep everyone up to date, as well as an arena to discuss how these changes impact IBM, and our project goals and outcomes.

IBM Sponsored Classes

The Chief Analytics Office is located right next to IBM’s Learning Center, an entire building dedicated to continuously developing employees (along with great food!). My managers have always encouraged involvement in IBM sponsored classes at the Learning Center.  Last fall, I attended a MicroMBA session for a week with professors from local, New York based Business Schools.  My colleagues and I attended learning sessions around business fundamentals, accounting, and finance, as well as participated in a complex business simulation in order to apply what we had learned.

As a member within the Chief Analytics Office, I need to be able to understand how IBM’s new products or tech trends impact our business.   The Chief Analytics Office not only cultivates a culture of learning and development, but also encourages employees to apply their learning in their day to day jobs.  It keeps us inspired, on top of our game, and beyond ready to respond to the next challenge.  With a culture so incredibly dedicated to learning, it comes at no surprise that IBM has managed to remain essential.


Danielle Taylor is a Senior Strategy Consultant with the Chief Analytics Office at IBM. You can find her on Linkedin

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