Necessary, Advanced and Vanity Learning!

Satya Nadella famously said it’s the time of the “learn-it-all,” not the “know-it-all.” Indeed learning seems to have taken the world by storm. Step into LinkedIn, and someone’s celebrating a certification. Call a friend on the weekend, and she’ll tell you she’s on her way to class. I think this is, overall, a cool trend.

I believe there are three parts to learning.

About half of all learning is “necessary” for doing one’s job. Technology is evolving at a fast clip. We need this knowledge to keep our jobs.

A quarter of the learning is “advanced.” Remember Walter Gretzky’s quote?

“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

For succeeding in tomorrow’s world, we need specialized skills. Advanced learning is the answer.

It’s the other 25% – “vanity” learning – that I’m less optimistic about. People don’t want to do vanity learning. Peer-pressure and performance appraisals make them do it. And yeah, Catchy slogans are great traps too 🙂

“Data is the new oil” has everyone running for an analytics certification.

“Voice is the new UI” has everybody clustering around Alexa and her ilk (yeah, I know there’s a male voice variant too).

“Crowd around cloud” gets us all looking at Cirrus – sorry, Azure. Ok, I made up that one!

It’s not that these aren’t vital trends – they are. But are they helping us stay relevant? Or will the certificates be delegated to a nail on the wall?

“It’s better than doing nothing, though,” is the public refrain.

This comparison is flawed. The alternate to a “vanity course” is NOT nothing. You could do an advanced course or learn Japanese. Put your feet up on a handy footstool and chill to some music. Maybe spend time with a loved one. This “better than doing nothing” argument is wrong because it assumes a fixed number of things you can do with your time.

It’s your time, and the choices are infinite. Choose wisely – keeping your interests in mind! Happy learning.


  1. Nice post Subra. Known is a drop unknown is Ocean, alas we have cluttered the ocean with plastic and filth, so will have to tidy it up (unlearn a lot) and get back towards a proper learning so that the vanity learning vanishes 😊

Leave a Reply