Navigating Career Growth: Balancing Certified Learning and Real-World Experience

November 29, 2023


Kerri Sutey

As professionals, we're constantly navigating the ever-evolving landscape of education and career development. For many of us, it’s challenging to know whether investing time and money in certified learning is worth it, or if real-world experience is enough.

Contemplating the next steps in your professional journey? Here’s how you can benefit from both certified learning and hands-on experience.

The Foundation: Certified Learning

Certified learning, whether a degree or a professional certification, gives you a solid foundation of knowledge. Think of it as the base for your career growth.

A key benefit of formal learning is that it provides you with essential theoretical knowledge. The concepts, principles, and best practices give you a framework for understanding the complexities of your industry.

If you’re early in your career or learning about a new subject area, you’ll get the biggest benefit from foundational courses. At ICAgile, our two foundational courses–Agile Fundamentals and Business Agility Foundations–provide an entry point for anyone who is new to agile ways of working. Both courses include an overview of agile tools, tips on cultivating an agile mindset, and foundational techniques for agile ways of working.

If you’re ready to deepen your skills in a specific area, consider a specialized course. These courses are designed to provide in-depth knowledge and cover more advanced concepts and techniques.

For example, Scrum Masters would benefit from an Agile Team Facilitation course. This course provides an in-depth exploration of facilitation techniques, tools, and their optimal application in diverse agile meetings. Scrum Masters learn the skills needed to elevate their capacity for facilitating collaborative and effective team interactions.

Now, the burning question: Is investing in certification courses worthwhile? How do they complement your real-world experience?

The Synergy: Certified Learning and Real-World Experience

Combining certified learning with real-world experience will help you bridge the gap between theory and practice. The real world is the place to refine your skills, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making capabilities. It also exposes you to the challenges and nuances of your industry, helping you see how what you’ve learned works in practice.

For example, a product manager who completes ICAgile's Product Management course learns about the product life cycle, strategy and planning, and working with teams. The theoretical understanding gained in the course becomes a practical asset when leading a cross-functional team, adapting to change, and delivering value iteratively in the workplace.

Certified Learning and Career Growth

Having both certified learning and real-world experience can make you more competitive in the job market. Many employers value a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

Earning a certificate also demonstrates your commitment to professional development and your willingness to stay up-to-date on industry trends and new technologies. In today's rapidly evolving and competitive work environment, many employers value this commitment to learning.

Having niche expertise can also open opportunities for career advancement. Employers often seek out individuals with niche expertise, and having a certification that validates your specialized skills can help you stand out in a competitive job market.

Your Next Move

You can advance your career by thoughtfully combining certified learning and real-world experience. Consider enrolling in a course, viewing it not as a separate endeavor but as a complement to your work experience. The blend of learning and experience is the secret recipe for success in today's competitive professional landscape.

If you’re not sure where to start, take this short quiz and get personalized recommendations of courses that can help you grow your skills and your career.

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Agile Fundamentals, Business Agility Foundations, Agile Team Facilitation

About the author

Kerri Sutey | ICAgile, Leading Change Portfolio Manager
Kerri believes that curiosity and courage are the pillars that lead to a fulfilled life. She finds the greatest joy in exploring - whether it is traveling the world, hiking to new heights, or coaching leaders and teams on their agile journey. As a thought leader and enterprise agile coach, Kerri has been fortunate to coach agile teams and leaders in marketing, cyber security, and modeling & simulation, before making her way to IT. She has coached in a diverse set of companies including Google, Southwest Airlines, ExxonMobil, IBM, and the Department of Defense. She takes an integral approach that values mindset, culture, and business outcomes as critical to achieving agility versus checking a framework box. Kerri holds two ICAgile Certified Expert designations - one in Agile Coaching and another in Enterprise Coaching. She is the Leading Change Portfolio Manager at ICAgile, where she shapes learning journeys that help organizations build the leadership and coaching capabilities they need to build business agility.