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Learning with Humentum: Srividya’s reflections

November 10, 2021

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Author

Srividya Harish

Knowledge Curation and Systems Advisor
ActionAid International

Author

Sarah Squires

Communications & Content Manager

A knowledge management expert at ActionAid—an organization working to end poverty and injustice worldwide—Srividya Harish recently completed her fifth workshop with us. Our Communications and Content Manager Sarah Squires learns about Srividya’s experience, the benefits of online learning, and why Humentum is her go-to learning provider. Find out more below!

Q. How did you first hear about Humentum?

Until I joined Ennie Chipembere’s team, Head of Program Quality and Learning Unit at ActionAid, I wasn’t planning my career or thinking about growth. Ennie is also a certified career and life coach, and during my performance feedback with her, we discussed that it’s not enough to keep working; you need to plan your growth. On her recommendation, I accessed an eCornell course on change leadership via Humentum Learning Services (HLS), which was an eye-opener.

The idea became ingrained that you enter into a growth mindset if you identify skill gaps. I discovered e-learning, self-paced learning, and the adult learning experience. When I first started on this path six years ago, learning was more academic, and the idea of short certificates was relatively new to me. I think the learning and development (L&D) field has evolved rapidly in recent years. Why Humentum? Well, the support that HLS provides is excellent. If you’re stuck, confused, or can’t manage something in the given time, there is a human-centered approach. They are empathetic towards the learner.

Q. You have completed five workshops with Humentum so far! Could you share your experience and how these have supported your professional development?

  • Leadership Behavior: Building Blocks for Effective Leadership

The earlier course that I undertook with eCornell was more geared towards advancing an organization’s change agenda. But as a personal growth journey, I needed leadership guidance, a framework, and a structure. During the Leadership Behavior workshop, we explored the “four frames” leadership model: structural, human resource, political and symbolic. The political frame was a new way of thinking for me, and I identified this as an area I needed to strengthen during the self-assessment. We also talked about storytelling—the stories organizations tell—which reveals what your organization values and rewards. That was a key takeaway.

The symbolic frame emphasized the importance of rituals, an aha-moment that resonated well with me. I come from India and a polytheistic religion—I know how important rituals are in the spiritual journey. Seeing this translated into a work environment was enlightening; the psychology behind it is the same. Another takeaway was around balance. Peer discussion also focused on this—one frame is not more significant than the other. It’s about knowing and responding to context⁠—the agility of leadership.

The individual learning journal we kept also made a lot of sense. This is where I assessed my strengths and challenges and how I plotted my journey. It meant I could return to the journal six months or one year later, review the mapped-out framework, and reflect.

  • Program Management for Development Professionals (Program DPro)

At first, I questioned how the Program DPro workshop would be different from project management, a course I previously undertook. Initially, I thought it would be similar but perhaps scaled up. I assumed I’d know everything and that it was more about gaining the certification.

But I started realizing that the sum is greater than its parts. It’s not just about scaling up projects and calling it program management; it is more about identifying the new challenges, opportunities, systems, processes, governance mechanisms. What would it look like if you combined multiple projects and managed them as one program? It made me think about my organization and the challenges we were having. I knew we could do things much more efficiently if we followed some of the outlined recommendations.

  • Financial Management for Development Professional (FMD Pro)

I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with finance for a long time. But I’ve constantly been forced into situations where I had to do it. In 2021, I realized I could no longer sit with this unease or fear. I handle the budget of a collaborative project at ActionAid. Over the last few years, I’ve managed and submitted reports, and there has never been a complaint. But every time, I would question if I missed something. I knew I needed formal training.

And when you consider the market trends analysis—what kind of jobs are coming up, etc.—there’s a financial management competency mentioned in programming work. We’re working towards a future where program management means you do everything; the program design, budgets, and financial monitoring and evaluation. What used to be unique and insular functional competencies can no longer be the case.

Through the FMD Pro workshop, I learned about financial management principles, and I laughed at the mnemonic CAT VISA (an easy way to remember the seven principles of financial management). In my role as Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) support, we say MEL is everybody’s business. It was easy to view financial management through the same lens. I also learned about account codes and cost centers, and suddenly, all the transaction codes that I needed to fill in when submitting an expense claim made sense. Now when I look at budgets or submit a claim, I can do so with the full picture in mind.

Q. What are the benefits of online learning?

I have trained many people in multiple contexts. Generally speaking, when you are in face-to-face training, you have fixed objectives and a very short timeframe to complete them. You want to cover everything, mainly because people have spent so much to attend, and they have to justify this to their line managers. As a learning facilitator, that pressure is indirectly upon you too.

With online learning, the pressure is suddenly off because you have more time to guide people. Also, the cost is significantly less, so the pressure to show value for money is greatly reduced. You then have space to think about learning design and a learner-centered approach. You can consider micro-learning and deepening the learning experience instead of cramming too much in at once.

Q. What do you enjoy most about Humentum’s workshops?

I like that Humentum’s workshops are self-paced, and there’s sufficient time to complete them. We’re a very small team with a vast remit, which means time is precious. I also enjoyed the scenario-based learning techniques like analyzing case studies in Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Evaluation (MEAL DPro) and program management, or budgets and financial report templates in financial management.

Furthermore, Humentum has a lot of workshops for the non-profit/NGO sector. You can find courses with other organizations, but most are pitched to corporates, and it requires an extra effort to contextualize it to your reality. And sometimes, you can’t find uniquely NGO-based courses—for example, MEAL DPro (another workshop Srividya has completed). Monitoring in a corporate context is entirely different from how we understand it in this sector.

Last but not least, I also enjoy the discussion groups; learners share such rich experiences from their organizations. After a few modules, I tend to identify a couple of my fellow learners, and I’ll look out for their comments. It’s almost like a parallel learning journey!

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