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My company (employer, not my own company) has paid for a "group" training subscription, similar to Pluralsight as that's probably the best known - that they add employees to and we can use all kinds of industry relevant training courses. No mention of a "payback" clause etc. It's a product whereby we can study any courses that are available within it, for no additional cost further to the subscription they paid.

Could I use the knowledge from this (edited to add: studied in my own personal time) 1. in applying for new jobs at other companies and/or 2. in my own capacity for personal freelance or self employed work, without any issues from my employer? Given that there's no company policy about things like this.

For example... This provider has a course on "How to create a website selling your own Crafty Product" as part of the subscription (but creating a website, or marketing a Crafty Thing isn't relevant to my role with my employer as I'm a First line Help Desk Person). Then I use this knowledge to create my website selling Personalised Crafty Keyrings outside my regular employment.

Edit2 (and maybe more philosophical): how far is knowledge from training from that provider/employer considered "proprietary"? Particularly - if considering outside employment, should I shy away from this and seek an outside source for the information from that training?

  • Seems like a key factor would be whether your employer pays per course or whether you can take as many as you want as part of a general subscription service. Do you happen to know how your learning platform is billed? – Lilienthal May 7 '16 at 19:04
  • We can can as many as we want as part of general subscription service. – user47059 May 7 '16 at 19:09
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    Just as a practical reality. If you apply for a job or task which requires experience in X and you say that your entire experience with X is having watched a Pluralsight video lecture series (or the equivalent), ... I'm not sure how well that will go. In reality, to actually gain usable experience with X you will have to do significant work of your own. Not that the video courses won't help, but to think that that's all there is to it unlikely to be true. – Brandin May 8 '16 at 0:18
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Could I use the knowledge from this (edited to add: studied in my own personal time) 1. in applying for new jobs at other companies and/or 2. in my own capacity for personal freelance or self employed work, without any issues from my employer?

Yes, you can. The training is given for improving your skills at the particular craft/domain. However, asking you to use the knowledge only for the company is both impractical and unethical.

So, you can definitely go ahead and leverage that knowledge for any side-projects or freelance or for a better career move.

However, do read up on the company's policies regarding freelance work during employment. Some companies also forbid working for their competitors atleast for a year after departure.

how far is knowledge from training from that provider/employer considered "proprietary"?

None

if considering outside employment, should I shy away from this and seek an outside source for the information from that training?

Yes, from an employer's perspective. You aren't doing anything illegal, however, you are wasting the company's money for your personal benefit. But from your perspective, you are gaining knowledge which you might use for this or some other employer, so gain as much as you can when you have the resource.

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    "...you are wasting the company's money for your personal benefit." Depending on how the subscription works, OP might not be wasting the company any money if it's just a blanket subscription based on number of employees. – Tyanna May 8 '16 at 0:11
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    Also, I have found diverse training to come in very handy at different times. Even just simple exposure to certain fields has helped shift a thought process to help solve problems. Simply put, smart employees driven to train themselves are productive employees even if that training doesn't seem exactly relevant. – corsiKa May 8 '16 at 1:51
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Yes, you'll be fine. You should use those resources if they are available too you. You are a knowledge worker, the company doesn't have a right to what you learn from your job as long as it isn't under NDA, or proprietary secrets. So you should take advantage of that resource. Besides, I'm sure that the company has some jobs where PluralSight would be useful, so taking the time to improve yourself shows initiative. They will be happy you are learning that material if the company would be interested in promoting you to a position that used it. That said, I would not work on non-job relevant training during work hours. I think that would be unethical, especially if you were doing the training to leave the company.

Edit: You mentioned using the knowledge to do freelancing work in addition to your day job. I'd look at your employment contract and see what it says about IP ownership, moonlighting, and working on non-company projects. Some interpretations of your contract may be more aggressive and restrictive than others, but I would personally want to avoid situations where the company might accuse me of breaking the employment agreement.

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As I see it, the key factor to consider is whether the courses you're taking would be for personal development or to satisfy a requirement for a job opening. Even if you're studying a foreign language that you'll never use at work, employers don't mind their employees using the resources they provide as part of a general package. Encouraging this kind of self-study is good for morale and likely has measurable benefits even on the job. Using provided resources also encourages the company to keep offering them.

Keep in mind that even if you're job searching, it could be months or years before you find a position that's worth moving on for. Your job search shouldn't impact your current work or plans until you're sure that you're the finalist. For most jobs that's not until you have an actual offer (director/architect level job searches are different).

If you were following a course to satisfy a requirement in a job ad then that is unethical and unacceptable in most offices, because then you'd be using company resources to facilitate your job search, which is a big problem.

  • You would be "using" company resources but not consuming them. PluralSight is a flat subscription price regardless of how many or few courses you view. And the OP specified studying outside of work time. Arguably this is less unethical than, say, answering a personal email (regarding a job search) on your phone during business hours. – Carson63000 May 7 '16 at 21:52
  • @Carson63000 It's on the same level as applying for jobs with your company email address or printing out your resume at work. Even if it doesn't cost the company anything it's something that's simply unprofessional and it can damage your reputation if you're found out. – Lilienthal May 7 '16 at 22:02
  • Good point about indirect benefits. If you are taking a course in, say, classical Sumerian grammar, that can help you build general cognitive ability (logical thinking, general knowledge, short and long-term memory) that would be helpful in almost any job, even the one you have now, even if it doesn't actually involve ancient languages in any way. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Dec 11 '18 at 15:39
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That is a good one.

My interpretation is you can use what you learn at work. And when not at work. Is this even "at work"?

It would only be proprietary if it about a proprietary process or product. Clearly if this is general training then it is not about something proprietary to the business.

Most companies have policy cannot use company time or resources. This is not company time. I would not call it direct use of the resource. You trained then built.

If this was not a group license and the company was billed incrementally for the class then I would say you used company resources.

I get some people may consider this direct use of a company resource and I can agree with that.

  • Come on down vote what is the problem? – paparazzo May 12 '16 at 12:36

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