Unlearn to Learn

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#LearnEveryDay they say… but what does that mean? What if learning is not only about being taught, and continuous learning is not a series of trainings?

My name is Benjamin Roswall, and I’m working as a manager in our Technical Competency Center in Digital Energy, Denmark.

Having spent the predominant part of my career at Schneider Electric in a variety of technical positions, I always thought of learning as obtaining new skills regarding a given product or system, and then directly applying that knowledge in my work, being able to see tangible results. The gratification of being able to “tick the box”, see my to-do list become shorter and accomplish tasks at a faster pace, is something I think most can relate to.

Learning is adapting

It wasn’t until I was offered the trust and opportunity to start my journey in people management, that I grasped that I had to redefine how I perceived what “learning” is. In other words, I had to learn to learn. Not that I couldn’t have discovered that following the path of technical expert, but I personally needed the push or change of environment to think differently. The takeaway here is, that to really change your way of thinking, you also need to change the context you operate in, whether it be business, domain or even geography.

I did it at least once before… changed my way of thinking. I was lucky enough to work two years in Schneider in Spain, and here I quickly realized, that if you apply what you think you know about culture, conventions and collaboration from one environment to another, it’s more than likely bound to go wrong. You need to redefine yourself and adapt, while staying true to yourself. Again, the common denominator is change of environment.

At my arrival to the office in Barcelona, I came with the hidden bias that I knew how to carry out the job in any context and culture. That skills and knowledge are universal. My horizon was limited to “what I knew” in my domain, while not embracing the fact that applying domain knowledge, can only be carried out successfully if you adapt to the recipients being different. I was fortunate enough to build great friendships during my time, and I was mentored by people more experienced than me regarding adaptability.

Leadership is also about knowing yourself

There are endless learning possibilities in a company like Schneider. I’ve attended numerous trainings, both in deeply technical domains, and also in more theoretical areas. In my current position, I’ve been fortunate to attend both internal and external courses, and I have to say that in Schneider, learning is not a “tick in the box” exercise. The quality of the trainings is next to none, and my last journey with TSL (Transforming Schneider Leadership) was nothing short of excellent.

The mix in course between soft skills like managing yourself, mindfulness, exploring your hidden bias and impact on others, and at the same time studying and practicing business model and strategy tools and theories was not something I had been exposed to on any previous leadership training. It changed me as a manager and as a person, and I could directly apply simple-to-understand techniques which my team instantly noticed the positive impact of.

Sometimes your need to unlearn to learn

Looking back at my Schneider journey, I can see how each position and task I’ve had, has provided the most valuable of all lessons. Growing as a person and as a professional. “It takes two to tango” as the saying goes. What good is it that you have all the skills and competencies in the world, if it’s impossible to work with you?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single experience that shaped me the most. If I should take the essence, it would be that you need to be honest, transparent, true to yourself and invest not just your time but also your person. Change is not dangerous. Change is not only getting a new title. It can be hard, and change can be challenging and even at times make you doubt yourself… but when you accept that knowledge is related to context, and that you need to continuously relearn what you think you know, the world starts to open, and present and ton of possibilities.

The phrase “you live and you learn” is not a given. It takes hard work and continuous acceptance that you don’t have all the answers. For a technical person like myself, that’s not the easiest to do, but the gratification is tangible when you give in, and accept that what was true yesterday may not be true today, and that learning is also to unlearn. To unlearn what you think you know, you need to take the opportunity. Take a chance to rethink what you know, and start “learning how to learn”!

Are you interested in an international career at Schneider Electric? Check out www.se.com/careers for more information and for available positions to take your career journey to the next level.

About the author:

Benjamin Roswall is heading the Technical Competency Center for Digital Buildings in Denmark. Interested in technology, he loves complex problem solving, and the phrase “that can’t be done” is nothing but a motivation. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time his with intercultural family (Colombian / Danish). His main interest is music, especially gospel choir!

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