Curiosity. That's the main driver behind Luca Cardani's continuous search for new skills, knowledge, and insight. He sees learning not only as career development but also as a way to grow as a person and find fulfillment in life.
"I'm a curious person. For me, the great quest of life has always been to explore what is new, look beyond the current situation, and gain different perspectives on what surrounds me," says Cardani, Head of B2C & Food Service Business at Lantmännen Cerealia AB, a Swedish developer, producer, and marketer of grain-based food products.
"I also try to stay on top by reading a lot. I find myself getting back to the basics of leadership and management, but in the past few years I've also developed a huge interest in digital transformation, design thinking, and change management," he says.
Cardani views continuous learning as a combination of three elements: on-the-job learning, formal, structured learning programs, and informal learning at various forums and events.
"I find it's best to strike a balance between the three. In your day-to-day work, you try to put your skills and competencies into practice and, confronted with reality, you see whether the theories you've learned and case studies you've perused are actually applicable to your job and working environment."
Take a step back to look at the big picture
On-the-job learning is not enough, though, Cardani emphasizes. When you're caught up in the daily grind, focusing on routines and regular activities and the business calendar, it's easy to overlook the wider transformational trends and elements that are disrupting those routines and the entire operating environment. That's why it's a good idea to periodically step back, take a pause, and reflect on the big picture.
We learned from each other and were able to gain new perspectives on everything we'd been taught.”
"In your daily work, you encounter many trees, but if you choose to stay on the ground, you don't see what the forest looks like from above. And to really see it from a different perspective, you must put yourself in a different environment, with different people," Cardani says.
This is where formal training shows its value, he points out. You get a structured curriculum, a range of top experts to share their views and knowledge, and an opportunity to interact with other participants from a range of industries and with a range of experiences, offering you a chance to learn new points of view.
Cardani recently participated in the Certificate in Digital Business Strategy and Innovation Agility program, arranged by Aalto EE in collaboration with the Stanford Center for Professional Development, which included both online courses, webinars, and keynote talks by industry specialists, and face-to-face learning at the Stanford campus in Silicon Valley and the Aalto EE campus in Helsinki.
Cardani says he was impressed by the competence and experience of the instructors. He was also able to grow his network with people sharing similar ambitions and goals related to digital transformation.
“We learned from each other and were able to gain new perspectives on everything we'd been taught.”
You should never stop learning
The third element of continuous learning as Cardani sees it is attending various forums and events that are close to his interests. In the past couple of months, he has taken part in Aalto EE's Design Thinking and Beyond webinar and visited Slush, the world's leading startup and tech event held annually in Helsinki.
I think it's important to be conscious of what you're picking up and pay attention to what's around you."
"Generally, it's about being present at happenings and events where there's bigger energy, a higher level of knowledge sharing, and different generations discussing opportunities and challenges. Sometimes the ideas presented at Slush, for example, can be a bit far-fetched for the industry I currently work in, but they always provide inspiration and offer views not only on what is but also on what could be."
When asked whether there ever comes a point when you can stop learning and developing yourself, Cardani answers with a resounding no.
"The way I see it is that you learn something every day. Most of the time you're just absorbing new skills and knowledge without even noticing it, but sometimes it's more focused. I think it's important to be conscious of what you're picking up and pay attention to what's around you."
Show that you're willing to grow
When it comes to career development, continuing education has two sides, Cardani says.
From an employer's perspective, it's always a good sign when a person is interested in exploring new fields, whether on their own or by participating in more structured training programs.
"It shows a willingness to grow and, especially in more senior roles, it's an important sign of taking ownership of one's own learning and competence."
For an employee, competence development – and attending formal training programs in particular – could very well be an adventure.
“It’s a way to gain new insights and explore new ideas by combining concepts from different industries, fields, and disciplines. You may learn something you haven’t even considered before. My experience is that this is always enriching – you just need to be open to it,” Cardani says.
The Certificate in Digital Business Strategy and Innovation Agility program has been co-created by Aalto EE and the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) to provide participants with the leadership skills needed to execute innovation initiatives, lead agile organizations and conquer the digital disruption wave. The program addresses the challenges and opportunities posed by digital innovation and transformation within an organization. Learn more about the program.