I had the opportunity to join the Nashville Technology Council (NTC) Emerging Leaders in Technology Program (ELITE) 2022 cohort. Not only was this a great opportunity for my personal development, but it was an excellent networking opportunity to develop strong interpersonal relations with my peers and community leaders.
In the first session of ELITE, one member of the leadership committee, John Anderson, told us that there were three major benefits of the program: the curriculum, the peer group, and the mentors. I think this is a great framework for getting the most out of any networking group or educational/development program you participate in!
In any educational program you participate in, the curriculum is the core takeaway. Whether it’s the memorized finance vocabulary learned from your master’s degree in accounting, or the database management skills taught in your SQL certificate program, this is the knowledge content that you’re undergoing a personal development program for, and it should be valuable to you in your current or future job.
At NTC ELITE, our curriculum was centered around the Process Communication Model (PCM), a framework for improving your communication with others (whether they’re your boss, on your team, or a peer). Within this framework, we learned vocabulary and strategies for communicating that helped us better understand how communication problems occurred and how to improve them.
An additional part of our curriculum were practicum sessions. Here, we applied the communication framework to real world problems that members of our cohort experienced within their work. This is the where the value of the course’s curriculum comes in as you learn to apply it outside the classroom.
When you attend a networking event, the connections you make with fellow attendees is one of the primary benefits gained from the event. Connections are also a huge part of any class-based educational program you’re in. You can learn just as much from your peers as the classwork itself, and in some cases, the connections you make with your peers in a class setting can end up being more important than the class material..
Through NTC ELITE, I met many fellow young leaders who have a broad diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and with whom I’ve created lasting relationships. The ability to vicariously learn from the difficulties and triumphs of your peers is quite similar to a series of real-life case studies where you learn to give and receive feedback on how to approach actual problems at work.
Another rewarding aspect of the NTC ELITE program was a particular practicum session where we completed an escape room challenge in groups. Afterwards, we discussed how our group performed: What worked well? What did we do that wasn’t great? The escape room experience was a fun and easy way to connect the experience to actual organization problems we encounter at work.
The most common area mentors come from is within one’s own organization. You shouldn’t let that limit where you find opportunities for mentorship, as many other settings provide opportunities for mentor/mentee matching. In a classroom setting, teachers can be mentors to students, even beyond the class setting. Being an engaged participant who seeks to extend learning beyond the current topic can help create more lasting connections between you and a possible mentor.
In the NTC ELITE program, we were matched with mentors who had complementary backgrounds or professional experiences. In meetings with my mentor, we discussed topics that went beyond workplace issues as we discussed work-life balance, handling transitions, and making difficult career choices. I learned a lot from my mentor and I’s practicum sessions, where I was with other mentors who gave insight as they discussed new concepts, such as a roundtable discussion on small businesses and startups.
There is great value in the knowledge learned from content, peers, and mentors in a personal development program. I discovered that you can learn a lot by focusing on an area that you do not anticipate to be of primary benefit to you. If you participate in a training class, you must be conscious of other students in the class and how you can learn directly from their experiences. In any community group you participate in, do not strictly gravitate towards the people who are most similar in background and experience level to you, look for those more senior or junior to you for mentorship and mentee opportunities. Approaching personal development with a focus on all three of these components in mind will help you grow the most!
I would love to thank the leadership committee at NTC ELITE, who made the program what it is and helped it run so smoothly: John Anderson, Meg Chamblee, Suzi Earhart, and Joanne Eckton.