Getting Paid to Learn



Picking up experience on the job can be great (for example learning about SEO, application monitoring or observability) but all things being equal, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the many other ways we learn. Without the support to continuously learn new things we get stuck in jobs and become less valuable to the market and our employers over time. That’s why I’m a big fan of the concept of Getting Paid to Learn.

Getting Paid to Learn

Just like it sounds, I’m talking about companies that help and support their employees learn and develop new skills over time by giving them time and budget to learn new things.

Getting the Time

I joined BloomNation over a year ago and began learning how to write code in a brand new language: JavaScript. My boss knew this meant giving me time to learn and time to produce something at a far slower rate than I might normally be able to. (Note: this is time during the regular work day) The upside of this meant alignment with my front-end developers and now I have some skill that I can use again and again in other areas like in helping to do front-end Code Reviews.

Getting the Budget

Years ago when I first started learning how to write UI automation I requested my then company buy me an online book. As I used my new skill to tackle newer and larger problems I outgrew the advice a book could give me and asked for the budget to hire a known consultant to help guide me in more advanced practices. We set a budget and hired that consultant part time.

While you don’t necessarily have to hire a consultant, having a defined (or loosely defined) annual budget per person for gaining education through online courses, books (FYI anyone can gift you a Kindle eBook fairly easily), conferences, is a huge signal that the company values you, is invested in your growth and its also a pretty nice recruitment tool.

Peace of Mind

My own experience tells me companies are starting to get the hint about having an active policy toward continuous learning. Some have enterprise training accounts with Udemy, Udacity, Safari Online or other programs. Others have a defined budget per year. This has become one of my goto questions when I evaluate a company to join: do they offer both budget and time to learn new things?

While I may not always have the time to take advantage, when I do want to learn something new, upskill or generally increase my depth of knowledge I want the safety and confidence of knowing the company is willing to pay me to learn.