"I Am Still Learning"
On my desk sits a gift from a former co-worker: a coffee mug inscribed with a quote from Michelangelo—“I am still learning.” It’s a statement that carries meaning on many levels.
The first reaction is about the man himself. Michelangelo’s works are marvels of complexity, delicacy, nuance, and grandeur, and even though he produced enduring masterpieces in sculpture, painting, and architecture that represent the pinnacle of accomplishment, he felt he still had much to learn.
Have you ever known people whose credentials, accomplishments, and experience put them at the top of the profession, and yet if you were to talk with them on a personal level they would freely admit that they don’t know it all? It’s that spirit of curiosity, the innate desire to improve and to uncover new knowledge that drives many successful people. You’ll often hear those people say that the more they know, the more they realize they don’t know.
Part of the excitement of working in the world of associations is that when you change jobs you often move to an organization that represents a field of endeavor with which you’re unfamiliar. When I joined the staff of AIHA in January, it was with the knowledge that I would have a steep learning curve, not only in terms of the job itself but also in developing an understanding and appreciation of industrial hygiene. Fortunately, growing up in a family of chemical engineers has given me a tiny head start, and some aspects of the IH body of knowledge are familiar from my experience in working for a manufacturing-related organization. However, I fully acknowledge that I’ll never be a subject matter expert in IH. Instead, I have the opportunity and privilege of working with many people who are, and by combining our efforts we can hopefully accomplish some great things.
I also continue to learn about learning. The pace of modern society and the rapid introduction of new technologies not only affect the way we live and work, but also how, when, where, and what we learn. The challenge in leading AIHA’s education efforts is first defining what today’s industrial hygienists need to know in order to stay current on the latest developments and practices, and then understanding how those individuals go through their day, finding out when they have time to learn, and identifying ways to provide education in formats that work best for their situations. That requires staying current on the latest developments in content delivery. There isn’t a simple solution to formulating an education strategy. To borrow from instructional design methodology, it’s a process of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. In other words, listen first, then design and build, deliver, gather feedback, and use what you’ve learned to inform your next effort.
As I journey down this path, I will be sharing with you some of my observations as a newcomer to the field of industrial hygiene as well as some of my thoughts as we create new education opportunities for AIHA members. If you have ideas or insights that you’d like to discuss, I look forward to talking with you about them. After all, I’m still learning.