Flexibility and Supportive Instructor Make SLA’s Competitive Intelligence Program Stand Out

Had you been prescient and known that a pandemic was going to bring the world to a near-standstill for the next 15 months, what skill(s) would you have learned in 2019 and early 2020 that would have helped you thrive during the lockdown and positioned you for growth and new opportunities afterward?

Neither Thea Warner nor Vicky Bellon saw the pandemic coming, but both came out of it better prepared than when they entered it thanks to SLA’s certificate program in competitive and decision intelligence (CDI).

“I’m always looking to add to my learning and my skill set,” says Thea, a law librarian at Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP, in Baltimore. “I went to a mini-conference and heard a woman from a larger law firm speak, and she said that primarily what she did was competitive intelligence. It just sounded really interesting, so I started looking into it.”

What appealed to her about SLA’s CDI certificate program were its flexibility and its opportunities to interact with other special librarians who don’t work in legal environments.

“I could listen to the lectures at my convenience,” Thea says. “I would frequently go back and listen to lectures a second or third time, that was that was really helpful. And I got to interact with a lot of people that I never would have—a lot of people in the corporate world. And that really added to the experience, getting those different perspectives, not just from other law information professionals.”

The CDI certificate program offers two certificate options:

  • the Competitive & Decision Intelligence for LIS Professionals “Core” Certificate, which requires 14 courses; and
  • the Competitive & Decision Intelligence Information Function Certificate, which requires 9 courses.

Like Thea, Vicky Bellon appreciated the flexibility of the CDI program—it allowed her to apply her newfound skills as she was learning them, as opposed to learning them in a concentrated dose at a three-day conference or workshop. Vicky also felt that learning about competitive intelligence from a librarian would provide her with insights she couldn’t obtain from a corporate trainer.

“I knew that Cynthia had been a librarian at one point before she moved into competitive intelligence, so I felt this would be a good entry for me into the area,” says Vicky, a senior technical & business insights researcher at Land O’Lakes in Michigan. “She’s probably the most supportive teacher I’ve ever known, even in my college career. She’s always there to answer questions that you might have, but she does it in such a positive way. You never feel like what you’re asking is a stupid question, even if it might be.

“And rather than spending many thousands of dollars going away for a four-day course somewhere, I thought, let’s take this step by step—let’s take the two years to gradually work through this course. I really feel like that was the best decision, taking the two years to gradually develop the skills and then use them along the way. It gave me the confidence to move into the area fully.”

The courses in the CDI certificate program can be taken in any order. The introductory course, INTEL-01, “Competitive & Decision Intelligence: Essentials, Ethics, & Current Practices,” will be offered in July, as will INTEL-13, “Establishing & Managing an Intelligence Program.” In August, two more courses—INTEL-07, “Human Source Intelligence,” and INTEL-04, “Intelligence Published Source Collection: Research 1,” are being taught. INTEL-01 costs just $295 for SLA members; other individual courses are $495 for SLA members. The courses are also available to non-members.

With its online format, à la carte approach, and supportive, librarian-led instruction, the CDI certificate program offers more for less than other competitive intelligence trainings. And then there are the intangible benefits, including the confidence that comes not just from learning new skills but also from applying those skills in ways you never expected.

“There’s something very satisfying about being involved with scientists and engineers and pushing ideas up through your organization and giving presentations at the executive leadership level, which I never thought I would be doing before,” Vicky says. “And this program gave me the confidence to do that.”

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