Training and Education Opportunities You Shouldn’t Pass-up
Innovation and technological advancements are occurring rapidly in the pro-security industry with today’s video, access control and related solutions providing greater functionality and more security than ever before. The variety of advanced IP-based systems and higher levels of integration between systems further enhances the value of these systems, which are now capable of collecting and sharing data to create actionable intelligence and streamline investigations. And with advancements in mobile capabilities, this information is available from anywhere at any time.
The sheer number and variety of technology in the marketplace can make keeping current with solutions, industry trends and best practices a real challenge. In addition, it can also be difficult to fully comprehend, communicate and leverage the full value and benefits today’s solutions can offer – making it challenging to describe to management for budget approvals.
Fortunately, manufacturers have developed training programs and learning opportunities that can help better explain the effectiveness and value of investments in new security technologies. An added benefit is that many new security solutions qualify for continuing education credits or BICSI certification.
Below are some of the more common and effective training and education resources available to help you stay current with new technologies, the solutions they deliver and evolving trends.
For general knowledge and comparison of the various technology and product solutions available, trade shows provide an ideal educational platform. Often the best way for security professionals to evaluate products is to review various manufacturers’ solutions in-house for comparison, which can be both time consuming and limited in scope. With all the major security manufacturers gathered in a single location, trade shows provide the best opportunity for side-by-side comparison of products. Trade shows also provide an opportunity to see and try out new technologies and products before they hit the market, with manufacturers’ representatives available to answer questions relative to your specific needs. In some cases, hands-on demonstrations at trade shows can help security professionals learn whether the features and functions being promoted by a provider live up to promotional hype, and help narrow down the list of solutions worth further testing and evaluation.
Conference Learning Seminars
In addition to hands-on product experience and comparison, trade shows also offer a host of training sessions and workshops that include basic introduction to technologies, high-level looks at trends affecting the industry, in-depth courses on technology-oriented themes like installation and troubleshooting, and more. This wide array of offerings ensures that there’s something for everyone.
For example, while a manager attends a seminar on the cloud and how certain technology is designed to take advantage of this emerging trend, a technician from his or her organization may be learning how to properly install, configure and troubleshoot cloud technologies in a hands-on workshop in the next room. This allows each to gain valuable information based on their specific job function, which ultimately contributes to their core competencies. Beyond that, conference learning seminars also allow attendees to talk and network with their peers who may have related issues and experience implementing a new solution, adding greater value to the training itself.
Lunch and Learn
Systems integrators often team with manufacturers to host lunch and learn sessions, which provide valuable information and insight in an informal setting. These events encourage conversation, communication and collaboration to make learning interactive, with each person bringing his or her unique experience and viewpoint to the table. I’ve often found that creative and effective ideas arise in lunch and learn events that are designed to encourage active participation. Quite often, the seed of a solution comes from someone asking a question or raising a topic or concept that others may not have considered. Lunch and learn sessions might be the best type of training for encouraging forum discussions that lead to deeper understanding, and creative applications and solutions.
Because organizations often cannot afford the time or expense of sending multiple staff members to a centralized training session, manufacturers are increasingly putting their training programs on the road. In essence, these are often staged as “mini trade shows” that usually run one to two days with training specialists delivering detailed information, practical knowledge and hands-on demonstrations to a controlled group of security professionals. In addition to highly focused training, these events are also an excellent opportunity to open a dialog with a manufacturer that often continues long after the road show has moved to the next city.
Whether viewed in real time or recorded format, webinars are a convenient and effective way to learn about new products, features, integrated technologies, software upgrades and much more. Some of the most effective and informative webinars I’ve seen are those that engage viewers with a case study or application story. Hearing about an end user’s challenges and how solutions and/or best practices solved them is a compelling way to learn how those same technologies could be applied in other applications. Live webinars can be held independently or in conjunction with other training sessions such as a lunch and learn with group discussion covering a wide variety of viewpoints and insights. Recorded webinars also deliver the flexibility to obtain valuable information when and where you want.
The cost and time savings from not having to travel make e-learning a valuable training option, but the benefits of e-learning go much deeper. Some people learn best by reading, while others may be visual or auditory learners. So training that’s tailored to one of those learning styles isn’t the best choice for everyone. However, traditional workplace learning tends to be heavy on notes and other printed materials. E-learning, on the other hand, encompasses a variety of learning styles and materials, and people can take courses at their own pace on a variety of devices. As a result, while different individuals may have very different learning experiences, they often come out of a properly structured e-learning program with levels of knowledge that will help them perform more productively. For management, the analytics that e-learning provides when courses are completed can be a valuable tool in assessing the skill level of a company’s security team.
Reversing the concept of road shows, some manufacturers have invested in dedicated in-house training facilities and staff to bring security professionals to their headquarters for certification or re-certification on their products. In many cases, the facility is set up to emulate real-world scenarios that provide hands-on experience with technologies in realistic settings and applications. The added benefits of being able to speak directly with the provider to ask questions, voice concerns, make suggestions, and learn how the provider’s solutions fulfills your specific needs can warrant the time away from your location.
Training should always be considered an opportunity and not an obligation – which is true for both the teacher and the student. The manufacturer and/or solution provider benefits from a more educated sales channel and a more satisfied customer – integrators and resellers become more skilled providers – and users gain new insights on technologies and solutions. Overall, the depth of knowledge gained from good training opportunities helps all participants learn how to apply and benefit from new technologies and solutions, and obtain greater value and return on investment from their investment.