Experience the future: the credo of the ada Fellowship program. Since 2019, Telekom employees have had the opportunity to participate in the one-year, in-service training program. What makes the ada program unique, how to combine online learning, project phases and live events with daily work, is what I talked about with Krishneel Naidu, who is one of Deutsche Telekom's ada Fellows from the 2020 cohort.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us how you came to be enrolled in the ada Fellowship?
Krishneel: Please call me Krish. I started at Telekom in November 2019, as a Customer Experience Designer. My introduction to ada was actually a pleasant surprise: I first found out when I received the acceptance email! I had been nominated by the lead of our design department. A few of us had been nominated by our units and the remaining seats allocated in an open application process on our social intranet.
Could you explain the ada Fellowship for those who may not know about it?
Krish: The ada Fellowship is a 12-month future-skills program for employees of leading companies and the federal ministries in Germany. We worked through modules focused on specific key technological trends, new working methods and leadership skills, including Diversity & Inclusion, Organizational Change, Machine Learning, and Big Data. In addition, we participated in two high-level tech conferences and had access to other events, such as The House of Beautiful Business. In my round, we were 30 Fellows from Deutsche Telekom.
What was your benefit from the program?
Krish: I see two main benefits: firstly, I highly value the chance I had to get to know some of my fellow Telekom colleagues, that would not have happened otherwise. Due to the pandemic, we still have not met in real life, but that is something to look forward to!
What would have been different had there not been the COVID crisis?
Krish: Possibly the most important aspect of the Fellowship, which is networking and forming meaningful connections with other professionals, could have been maximized to their full potential with physical events. The conferences, which featured guests such as Angela Merkel, would have been visitable offline.
What is the second benefit you mentioned previously?
Krish: My second benefit (something that many of us tend to overlook or not appreciate in our own environment), was actually not in how many new things I personally learned, but in recognizing that my own Customer Experience Team was already so innovative and open to ideas. Indeed, many of the topics which were part of the Fellowship were already being implemented and discussed in my team. Programs such as ada additionally offer us a perspective on what skills are valuable and desirable and how we also stack up against them in our teams and as a company.
Could you give us some examples of these topics that you encountered both in the Fellowship as well as in your team?
Krish: Sure. One of the modules (Cultural Change) presented The Loop Process, and the design team was already working on trying it out. At the same time as we were studying New Work in the Fellowship amidst the sudden changes with home office, we were trying out Virtual Reality meetings in my team to capture the feelings of connectedness that we were missing. While looking at the module on Diversity & Inclusion, I was simultaneously having conversations with others in my team who were passionate about this topic.
What have you carried over from the Fellowship into the organization?
Krish: I feel I have carried over a stronger appreciation for my team. There is such a great value in knowing what state of design/team/technological maturity your team is in, so that you know which areas you need to focus on to improve even more. There were other members of my Fellowship team whose teams were at different stages, and who would bring greater changes into their working lives, proving that an opportunity like the ada Fellowship can be a radically different but still positive experience for each individual.
How has learning changed in your eyes over the past few years?
Krish: I think there is a lot more democratization and easy access to learning. It is less about formal education and taking part in courses. There is instead, more of a focus on learning what you want to learn through relaxed learning programs or even microlearning through videos, something which was not taken seriously in the past. In fact, several colleagues in the Design Team contributed to our internal CX & Design Learning Channel. Opportunities like this were not around when I started my career.
Do you have any tips for creating the space to learn on the job?
Krish: Three simple tips:
- Just start
- Do not overdo it
- Have fun with it
I think that we too often find excuses for a lack of time or feel that learning is complicated, but apart from the methods I listed above, there are so many opportunities for multitasking, such as watching shows in other languages, or listening to podcasts and audiobooks in your breaks. One of the great things about Telekom is how much support we get from our team leads when we want to take part in conferences and trainings, or even if we want to put some time aside for learning. If there is a specific area that you want to grow in, find a mentor to learn from or help guide you: we are such a big company that there will always be someone who is happy to help. Simply express your desire to learn more about a topic and others will share their knowledge with you.
I think the ada Fellowship is also an excellent example of learning on the job: by spreading the process out over 12 months with different modules and content, I learned a lot without feeling I was studying!