Leveling Up


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Leveling Up

In my post “Thoughts on Staying Busy at CRA,” I wrote about informal, self-guided skill acquisition. Here I’ll expand on that post by explaining how CRA supports self-guided skill acquisition, and then describe the more formal training programs that CRA offers to help you succeed.

To encourage us to acquire skills on our own, CRA provides tutorials created by CRA employees, textbooks, people to contact for help with various applications, and a way to document time spent skill-building outside of structured training programs. CRA also offers optional, bite-sized training programs called “Flash Labs” and “Tech Labs.” These are one-session to three-session lunchtime programs created by CRA employees, for CRA employees. This year, we’ve learned about import.io, SAS/GRAPH, regular expressions, and apps for Apple products. If you missed the training, not to worry. CRA makes materials used in these programs available to all employees after the session.​

CRA offers short training sessions on interpersonal skills, too. In March, Brad Karsh spoke to junior staff about “Managing Up.” He taught us how to handle different types of managers and the importance of doing what you say you will do, even when it comes to the little things. Other non-technical training sessions offered this year for various levels of staff include “Workplace Conduct” and “Building Client Relationships.”

Longer, more intensive training generally offers a blend of technical and interpersonal skills. These training programs begin with Research and Analysis Core I (RAC I), a four-day training for new analysts. RAC I interpersonal training focuses on skills such as giving and receiving feedback, working with different types of project managers, and delivering an elevator pitch (yes, even after you’ve been hired!). Technical training includes seminars on programming, graphics, litigation, and quality control. Quality control is particularly important, and it’s where you learn about the critical “sanity check.” Here’s an example: “If you’re listing states, make sure there are 50 of them.”

One year later, the same analyst class convenes for Research and Analysis Core II (RAC II). This is the training next up for my class, and this time around we’ve been asked what we’d like to learn. We’re encouraged to create seminars and to vote for seminars related to this year’s theme, “Walking in Your Project Manager’s Shoes.” Topics on the ballot range from “Corporate Mergers & Acquisitions” and “Expert Witness Prep” to “Personal Branding” and “Leadership Development.” It will be useful to spend three days looking at the world from a manager’s perspective, listening to my peers teach what they’re good at, and a blast to have the class together again—can’t wait!