By R.V. Baugus
While much of 2020 has come to a standstill of sorts, Ungerboeck Software International remains as busy as ever. As we approach the halfway point of the year (finally!), Ungerboeck has plenty to be excited about the remaining six months as the company is making free for customers on-demand and instructor-led training that will propel students toward various levels of certification. We had a nice visit with company President and CEO Manish Chandak to shed more light on the training program and other important business items as venues and the industry continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s start by finding out more about the training options you have available.
We have three main areas. We have on-demand learning, instructor learning, and certification. It starts with learning. Ungerboeck customers can receive the on-demand training for free through the end of 2020. This has been up for only about two months and we already have 5,000 learners on it. These courses are more designed for end users and for functional users. Say my job in the venue is to sell the space. How do I do that? You can take courses in the learning center based on selling the venue. Or my job is to do billing or event planning.
Those things are really, really important and so what happens in the learning center is you have a menu of what courses you can take and how you take them. You can then start a learning path that remembers where you are and the course you are taking. Most of these courses are short and about 20 minutes. You take a little quiz after it and proceed to the next course and so on.
Why is this important at this point in time?
What you are seeing right now is practically everybody is nervous about their jobs. Everybody is sort of stuck at home. People want to do something that elevates their skills. This has matched up really perfectly in the time of COVID. We’ve seen so many people now coming in and taking courses.
Technology is crucial. We can’t say I don’t know how to use that. It’s no longer an acceptable answer. You might have a job in a venue where most of the time you’re on your feet and walking around. Even then, you still can’t say I don’t get technology. That’s just not acceptable anymore. This answers that issue as people can come in here and learn on their own time at their own pace.
Some people believe they really never got a chance to learn properly or never really got an opportunity to learn on my own. I never really had time because I was running from one event to another. Now, I have a chance to do all that. After learning, it’s like, oh, it wasn’t really complicated but now I feel good about it.
In a time of job uncertainty, how important is it to know as many skills as possible?
If I have my next career in mind, I want to go learn something. Sometimes, also, you may be pigeon-holed in one job. Nope, you are events, you can never go do sales or operations or whatever. Here, you might take a few courses on operations and think, I totally get this. I never really had a chance to explore what the operations people do or how to cut invoices. I never really had a chance to learn that. I always thought it was something I couldn’t do.
What are the various pieces of the on-demand training?
It is literally learning on your own time. One thing we also did during the COVID period when nobody has a budget is to make the online learning free for everybody through the end of the year. If you are furloughed, if you are not working for a venue or whatever, you can come and learn. We don’t want to put any barriers to learning right now. The other thing we did is internally, we put a lot of our resources to learning. We think this is a priority for the company right now. We need to produce amazing content.
We have instructional designers on our staff that are not software experts, but experts in helping to teach and learn. How to break things in smaller chunks. How to do quizzes. They are the ones who design these courses. They are very, very high quality. That’s really important.
We break these levels into associate and professional and into sales and operations. We have sales associate and sales professional, and operations associate and operations professional. We have the administrator test which is the third level but we haven’t put it out there because those you have to take it in person. We will release it when people can be in person.
Examples might be, I am an associate, I enter data on a day to day basis. Then you have the professional level, where you are actually quite good at it and can help others. This is a higher level of tests. Then a level above it is the administrator level.
How about instructor-led learning?
This is a little bit different. Here, what happens is you have an instructor with you. You actually do things in the environment and the instructor can walk through it with you or can help you with your exercises. You actually have to do things with real software as if you are running a real venue.
So, you have the on-demand learning and you have the instructor learning. Then you have the certification so this is the important part. The certification differentiates and validates that you actually learned something and you’re really good at it with good proficiency.
You go through your training with flying colors. What is the reward in the end?
We have 20 people associate level certified, about eight that are professional level, and maybe two or three at the administrator level. If you really want to make software your career you want to get to the administrator level. Today, if you are going to be Ungerboeck administrator certified in the events industry, you can command a pretty darn good salary.
If someone is hiring and wants to know how well you know technology, you can say that you are an Ungerboeck certified professional. Even if they’re not using our software, it will still tell the hiring manager, OK, if he got certified at the professional level, he can probably learn any other software very quickly. The basic concepts of venue management and how we do that in software doesn’t fundamentally change.
How new is the certification program?
It is brand new. We’re launching it literally right now. We wanted to make sure there are ample learning avenues for people before we put a certification value on it. We probably have close to 75 to 100 courses there now. Courses with quizzes and things like that. Depending on your path, if you’re on the finance side or the exhibition side, there’s a customized way for you to learn.
Does this fill a gap in technology training?
It’s one thing to have concepts down, but it’s another thing to implement it in the software where you can make the life of your managers easier. The execution part of all of these concepts rely on putting all these things together properly in the system and making sure you’re tweaking the system to optimize your business results.
You may have a great concept about how to do something but can’t implement it across your entire venue’s processes. Or the understanding of the tools, where you don’t know how to do it. Technology for non-technical people can be complex. Managers who run the venues themselves are not necessarily equipped to help these people.
Leadership is under tremendous pressure. Then you are telling them you need to go through this transformation. Most leadership has been born in a world where digital wasn’t so important. Now they’re under tremendous pressure. Ask your teams to go through these courses. These courses not only teach the technology, they also teach them best practices of how to do it efficiently with the technology. You don’t want somebody spending hours and hours a day figuring out something when honestly the training would make it much, much faster.
One of the biggest issues people have with technology is the frustration. It would be really good if you took training because then you wouldn’t be so frustrated.
Where does all this go from here?
For us, being part of the industry and being a sponsor of the Association and things like that, yes, it may seem self-serving getting people to learn our software, but at the same time I also feel like as an industry IAVM is trying so hard to educate everybody that this component hopefully helps people who come along on the technology side. This was a change because when this crisis first hit, we were like, what is going to happen to our business? Everybody went through that period where it felt like the sky is falling. It probably still does, sometimes. It can be a catalyst for something you want to do but never had a chance to do it.
This month is our 35th anniversary. There were many times like this with the dot.com bust, this crisis and that crisis and all kind of things happening. The Gulf War in the middle of it. For us every time something happens like this, yeah, we had a period where we thought everything was going to go to hell and then everybody found a way out and we’re all still doing things and events are still happening, maybe different, but they’re still happening.
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