In our jobs, we do so much more than merely implement the LIMS. Non-LIMS training is just one option to help us keep up with what’s going on in the world.
Comment on LIMS Training
Actually, the top training question I get is where people can get LIMS training. Usually, people who ask me about training are interested in getting training on specific LIMS, ELN, LES or LIS products. Unfortunately, even the largest of software brands in our industry aren’t large-enough to attract lots of outside training.
Here’s the same answer that I always give. You’ll have to talk to the software vendor to see what your options are. Usually, it’s to get their training or training from one of their partners. Alternately, if you can get on a project, you can get OTJ (On-the-Job) or “school of hard knocks” training. I know it’s not easy to make this come about.
One great thing about OTJ training is that you don’t have to spend lots of time in a classroom getting trained on things you might never use. And, by having to really think about what you’re doing, you’ll better learn the quirks of these systems. You’ll come to know the undocumented details that will truly turn you into an expert.
Knowing More Than Just LIMS, ELN, LIS or LES
Most of us have to do other things besides merely knowing the product we’re working with. One example would be my expertise with the LabWare LIMS / ELN. Most of us also have to have strong database knowledge. Some of us are required to learn external reporting software, for another example.
For all the people like me who work with interfacing, we have to understand the processes of the other systems. Some of us specialize only in interfacing to something such as SAP QM (Quality Manager). Yet others of usof us have other experiences. I’ve worked with manufacturing systems, business systems, MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and others, either directly or merely on the sidelines of the interface.
My point is that we usually have to know at least something besides just the system we’re focused on.
Non-LIMS Training – The Obvious
In any case, the obvious training might be to take something like a database course. However, if you’ve got deep expertise in something like this, learning what’s new in the database world is usually as easy as looking for a list of updates and trying it all out, on your own, rather than taking an entire course on it. There are then those those who are still learning databases. For them, it’s easy to find courses on Oracle, SQL Server, and pretty much anything else you want. You can get free downloads of databases such as Mongo DB and others, as well, so that you can get hands-on with them.
In fact, you can even find third-party courses on the reporting, statistics, BI (Business Intelligence) and other software you might need or want to use. While most people are looking for Crystal Reports courses, which I know are available as on-line courses, there are many others available, as well.
Non-LIMS Training – the Not-So-Obvious
For those of us who work with customers on software strategy, IT strategy for the LIMS, or anything that starts to go outside merely knowing the software’s programming and configuration, we now need to know more about what’s going on in the world.
I’m a huge proponent of joining professional groups, attending the meetings, and networking to learn more about the world around us. Some of what you’ll learn is merely interesting but some of it will end up helping you do your job. It could bring you in-contact with new ideas and new tools. It might help explain why certain technologies or methodologies work better in some situations over others. There are all types of benefits. Overall, it helps prevent tunnel visions which is too easy when all you do is the same thing, day-in and day-out.
Non-LIMS Training – My Own Recent Path
Since I’m currently not close-enough to any networking group that would provide this type of stimulation, I’ve worked to get involved with more on-line groups plus attend more webinars and on-line courses.
Friends and colleagues have spoken to me about their professions in things such as DevOps, AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) and Cybersecurity, to name a few. Some of our discussions make it clear to me that there are common issues between these topics and the work that I do. Even when it’s not obvious, I think that learning something new and interesting can help you think in new ways about your own work.
Non-LIMS Training – Where I Spent My Time
In that, I went beyond my initial forays into learning Python, a language commonly used in data science and AI/ML. This time, I took an entire learning path (a series of courses) on the general topic of AI/ML. The learning path courses delved into where it’s used, how it’s used, the history and future of it, and a variety of other high-level information.
I took courses in Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking,. This was in order to help me understand better what types of threats we might face in our own systems.
Plus, I took a few other course just out of curiosity. I took some of them because they were short and sounded interesting, such as Project Management for Healthcare. By the way, if you’re a PM (Project Manager) and want to get into this, there are fairly short overview courses available that highlight what’s different about this space over other types of projects.
Did I Learn Anything?
Yes. Absolutely. Some of it was actually more exciting than any of the TV I watched over Christmas break. Well, maybe not better than watching “The Mandalorian.” Otherwise, the AI/ML courses were sure a lot more interesting than most of what’s available to watch.
Even beyond merely learning more about all these topics, the general areas of AI/ML, Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking clearly had areas that were applicable to our own LIMS, ELN, LES or LIS systems.
Back to Non-LIMS Training Comments
In any case, if you’re looking for courses to become more well-rounded, you’ve got a lot of options. There are free university courses. You obviously won’t get college credits for them but they’re complete courses. Some of them have options where you can get a certificate that states that you participated and performed the exercises. However, they won’t necessarily grade you. This is why they can be quite inexpensive. I think some are only 50 USD or so, compared to 1,000 USD or more for the actual course.
If you look around for specific items, you can find all sorts of free courses and workshops on narrow topics.
If you want something in-depth, you do often have to pay for it. In that, there are many choices. I’m a member of ACM (Association of Computing Machinery), which has courses and books for just about any technical topic plus many other “soft” topics in the technology space. The cost is modest and there’s a wide variety of courses. I find their courses terrific for the technical person who wants a course or a complete book about a technical tool or topic. They give unlimited access to their courses and books.
My latest courses were in LinkedIn. I took a Premium membership that offered free courses as part of the membership. If you can make the time, paying for a month of membership was a good deal. There are some positive aspects to using LinkedIn Learning. For one, the courses I took were informative and of high quality. I had unlimited access to them. When you’re done with a course or an entire learning path, you can easily add it to your profile, as well as adding the skills to your profile. Now, I’m not sure that taking these courses or learning paths really qualifies a person to add them as a “skill” or “certification.” However, those are ways of showing that you took the interest in them. You can also download certificates.
Non-LIMS Training – More Places to Try
Here are two more places I took some training. I did not use them to the extent that I do with ACM or just have with LinkedIn. I had positive but limited experiences.
Pluralsight is another I’d tried that has a great selection for technical courses. In fact, I was able to put together a list of coursework for one of my customers who wanted to train one of their technical employees to be both a system administrator and LIMS administrator. Obviously, the LIMS part wasn’t covered by this but I found all the courses the person would need. I tried the courses out, too, and they seemed complete. They also seemed to be at the appropriate level for training someone up to take on a more complex technical position.
Udemy has a wide variety of all sorts of courses. It has technical courses and business courses, but also courses in music or fitness. With visualization tools such as Tableau currently being so popular, it’s worth noting that it has quite a variety of courses merely in this particular tool. It also many ETL (extract, transform, load) tools, too, such as Informatica PowerCenter. A few years ago, I was looking for a course on Informatica PowerCenter. This was one of the few places I could find such a course. So, there are sometimes courses, here, that aren’t easy to find, elsewhere.
Final Thoughts on my Non-LIMS Training Efforts
I’m not now claiming to be an AI/ML expert, a Python expert, a Cybersecurity expert, a Healthcare PM expert or an Ethical Hacking expert. At the least, though, I can now at least speak intelligently about these topics. If I need more information on any of these topics, I now believe I’m in a good position to know what direction to take to learn more.
And, as I said, before, while these topics don’t sound as if they directly relate to LIMS, ELN, LES or LIS, they all have areas where they do share issues. The AI/ML and cybersecurity topics specifically gave me new thoughts about our own projects. In that, they were directly useful.