Tech Labs at CRA


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Tech Labs at CRA

As a child, one of my favorite things to do was play school in my basement. I spent the majority of time setting up my classroom: gathering supplies to stock the teacher’s desk, picking my character’s name (usually Julianna), and lining up my stuffed animals as students. Most importantly, I loved writing my “lessons” on the chalkboard. At this point, I would lose interest in this game. For me, the joy came in the details, in creating the stage.     

At Charles River Associates, I have the opportunity to continue this passion by running our Tech Lab program. Tech Lab is our homegrown technical education series fueled with ideas from our employees, taught by our employees, for our employees. Each quarter, a different analytical tool or concept is tackled in a series of lab sessions. Topics range from data-oriented programming skills (SAS, Python, etc.) to textbook education (Finance, Valuation & Accounting, etc.) and include a workshop component. Our tagline is “start as a novice, end as a Ninja!”

CRA’s academic heritage shines in this program. Employees teach and drive content creation, eager to share what they know. Participants benefit when their colleagues facilitate because examples and stories are applicable to them and company specific. Sometimes, an experienced consultant is imparting techniques they honed over the years to junior staff to help ease the initial learning hurdles. Other times, junior staff step up to share a new tool they brought with them from university–in my opinion, these sessions are the most impactful. Why? The teachers are closer to the content and remember what it was like to learn the material.

Additional appeal lies in the flexible format of Tech Lab. Employees can attend the session live or view recordings at a later time. Many labs are supplemented with outside work: pre-reading, homework, code to test, surveys to complete. A classroom style approach serves to reinforce content and hold the attention of our audience.  Tech Lab also offers employees opportunities for leadership outside of teaching. Experts contribute during sessions as support for one-off questions in the classroom and volunteer to solve technical quandaries outside of the classroom. For example, when a colleague in New York reaches out for a Power BI app expert; this is my opportunity to connect two people who otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to collaborate to solve a technical problem.

Tech Lab brings me back to my childhood classroom. My job is to prepare for the scene—recruit employees with interesting lessons and create an environment conducive to sharing. What a treat it is to be a part of learning at CRA.