Learning Leaps Part 1: Tips for creating a culture of learning in the workplace

16 months ago, I made the decision to make a huge leap in my learning career and move into Product Management. With the transition, I’ve discovered that one of my favorite parts of the role is speaking directly with technology and learning leaders, in addition to learners themselves.

I’ve conducted hundreds of research interviews over the past year and one of the major themes I’ve heard from tech and learning leaders is about their desire to create a culture of learning inside of their organization. This should come as no surprise to many practitioners in the field as the phrase culture of learning has become synonymous with increased employee retention and engagement inside of today’s organizations.

That’s why for this weeks Learning Leaps, I’ll be taking a deeper look to identify what exactly a culture of learning is and provide some tips you can take to get started creating one inside of your organization.

A Culture of Learning: Defined

It’s no secret that technology has had a major impact on today’s workforce. It has changed everything from the way we work, how we work, and where we work; inevitability impacting how we learn and perform on the job. Gone are the days that learning takes place in the form of a single training event. The paradigm has shifted to supporting employees during the flow of work. Thats why it’s more important than ever that organizations support a culture of learning for their employees. A culture of learning is one where employees continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve their individual and organizational performance. Ideally, an organization should have values, practices, and processes that supports this for their employees.

A culture of learning can look different depending upon the type of organization. Despite this, I’ve noticed some reoccurring trends that have come up in my conversations with customers during my time at Pluralsight. Below are a few tips to help get you started creating a culture of learning inside of your organization.

Tips for Creating a Culture of Learning

Build a foundation of trust

The foundation to any great culture depends on the basis of trust. If you don’t have trust, all other efforts are fruitless. That’s why if you’re building a culture of learning inside of your organization, the first step is to ensure that it’s safe for all your employees (regardless of rank) to make mistakes.

One of the main company values at The Predictive Index, is errors of action are better than errors of inaction. During my 3.5 years there, hearing this phrase empowered employees like myself to dive steadfast into challenges no matter how large the size. If mistakes we’re made along the way, we celebrated them and shared lessons learned with others. I frequently witnessed executive level employees get in front of the entire company and share stories about how projects went awry and how they might approach things differently moving forward. This cultural value of trust and vulnerability is one key element to building a culture of learning and should be embodied at every level of the organization.

Empower learners to take control of their professional development journey.

I’m a big advocate of the belief that career ladders are becoming somewhat obsolete. Employees are no longer staying in traditional career paths for 20-30 years. Rather, it’s more common to see employees do career pivots. Take me for example, after 8 years as a learning experience designer, I decided to take a leap and move into a Product Management role. I was able to bring skills from my previous role and apply them to my new position. I also had many skills I’ve had to pick up along the way.

During my time at Pluralsight, I’ve spoken to many learners looking to expand their technology skills in hope of transitioning into a new career. Thats why it’s important for organizations to empower their employees to take control of their personal learning paths. The employees themselves are the ones who know what skills they’re looking to expand and grow. As learning practitioners and managers, we can learn these by simply speaking directly with learners, either through 1:1 conversations or surveys.

Arm managers with coaching skills

Managers are often on the front lines helping their employees learn the skills they need in order to perform on the job. In organizations where there is a culture of learning, managers have the opportunity to adopt a coaching approach to managing. A coaching approach means enabling employees to identify problems, brainstorming solutions, and empowering them to success. This means that as learning practitioners, we need to equip managers with techniques on how to provide feedback. This could be in the form of discussion guides or reflective questions to help guide their conversations with employees.

Encourage expertise and mentorship

One of the biggest challenges organizations experience related to learning experiences is creating actual content and materials. One of the biggest untapped resources are subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs are often passionate about a skill or topic area and enjoy sharing their experiences with others. Pull these individuals into your initiatives and empower them to share their knowledge with others. At Pluralsight, we actually rely on our network of Authors to create content for learners looking to expand their technology skills. I’ve also talked to many organizations that have even created mentorship programs where experts are paired with beginners as they begin developing skills in a particular subject area.

Set aside time to learn

One of the biggest struggles I’ve heard from many of Pluralsight’s customers is their inability to find time to learn. With an increase on their demand for time and growing responsibilities on the job, who can really blame them? If you’re a part of an organization, developing a learning culture, you must be an advocate for learning time. Your employees should feel empowered and encouraged to take time out of their day to brush up on their skills. My team at Pluralsight blocks off 4 hours of learning time at the same time each week to do just this. This ensures that everyone knows they have the time they need to continue skilling up in areas that matter to them.

Make learning accessible

Modern workplace learning means recognizing that learning is a continuous process that happens in the flow of work. As learning practitioners, this means that we need to make learning content as accessible as possible to meet learners where they are, rather than making them to come to us. This might mean adopting an on-demand learning platform that allows employees to engage in learning experiences when they want to.

If you have a learning technology platform, it might mean choosing a solution that optimizes the learner experience like mobile access and single sign on. This could also mean supporting informal learning methods like learners sharing articles or chatting about new topics or skills. Overall, the learning experience should be intuitive, not arduous.

Support social learning

By our very nature, humans are social creatures. We naturally love to chat about our ideas, share resources, and hear other perspectives. As learning practitioners, we should nurture these qualities inside of our organizations. One of my favorite examples of social learning is being carried out by my favorite supermarket chain, Wegmans. During Pluralsight Live 2019, Scott Root shared insights about how Wegmans hosts monthly challenges, hackathons, and coffee hours with employees who engage in their Developer Fitness program. These social learning experiences led to increased employee satisfaction and skills acquisition across those involved in the program.

Encourage stretch opportunities for employees

One great practice that organizations with a culture of learning often do is provide stretch opportunities for employees. This means providing employees with a safe environment to fail or test out their new skills. In many of the organizations I’ve worked at, I’ve often been placed on a tiger team where I’m able to attack a large business problem for the organization. These projects have always provided me the opportunity to stretch myself and become more confident in my new found skills. This approach could also be formalized in the form of supporting career transitions and allowing internal mobility for employees inside of your organization.

Do you have any tips for others on how to encourage a culture of learning inside of their organization? Post them in the comments below!

Be sure to check out next week’s Learning Leaps where we’ll be diving into what collaboration looks like when creating learning products.

Introducing Learning Leaps: Lessons learned while creating learning products

A little over a year ago, I decided to take a huge leap in my career. After spending nearly 7 years in the learning industry, I decided to make the transition into a formal Product Management role.

The decision to move into Product Management was strategic on my part. I had spent the past 8 years designing and delivering learning experiences that were offered as a product or service for the audiences I serving. As time went on, I found myself adopting an iterative approach to learning that was rooted in learning experience design and research. I identified the overlap between the instructional design and product development processes and how they were both focused on identifying and solving problems. Over time, I desired more and found myself inching towards the world of user experience and product management.

So during August 2018, I decided to finally take the leap and switch roles. With the transition, I knew I wanted to focus on gaining the skills and expertise that wouldn’t have been afforded to me in a traditional learning role. These included:

  • deeper knowledge and experience with the inner workings of the business
  • setting the vision and strategic direction of a learning product
  • making data-informed decisions including conducting discovery research and creating hypothesis tests for experimentation
  • and inspiring and leading others

I’ve been in Product Management for 16 months now and I can say that it’s been one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve learned a ton personally and professionally and my overall approach to learning has changed.

With the transition, I’ve discovered that one of my favorite parts of the role is speaking directly with technology and learning leaders, in addition to learners themselves. I’ve conducted hundreds of research interviews and have heard stories from organizations about their desire to create a culture of learning, how they’re preparing employees for their roles, and promoting ongoing skill development. I’ve also heard learners talk about their motivations for continuous life long learning including their need to provide for their families and their desires to move up in their careers.

All in all, these conversations have reinvigorated my passion for learning. They have also exposed to me the opportunities we have as practitioners, learning providers, and the industry as a whole.

So I’ve decided to take the leap once again and bundle some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 16 months into a series called Learning Leaps. Each week, I’ll be sharing about a topic I’ve encountered during my transition. My goal is to give back to the community that has given me this opportunity in the first place. Thank you for coming along this journey with me and I hope you find the lessons shared both inspiring and helpful.

With gratitude,

Roberta

Lessons Learned from DevLearn 2019

Last week I attended The eLearning Guild’s DevLearn conference in Las Vegas, NV. It was my second time attending the event (my previous visit was in 2016). For those who haven’t attended a DevLearn conference before, it is a 3 day event where practitioners in the industry gather to discuss industry trends, best practices, and tips and tricks. On top of all of that, the guild also offers 2 days of pre-conference workshops for those looking to expand their skills even more.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the guild events. They’re actually my favorite in the industry to attend. It’s a great opportunity to connect with others, see what their working on, and share stories. I always come back with key nuggets that I cant wait to share with my team. This trip was no exception, below are a few highlights from the trip:

I LOVE my learning network!

First and foremost it must be said. I love my learning network! At this years DevLearn, I was able to meet some amazing people that I’ve been chatting with online for years now (like Tim Slade, Cara North, and Nick Floro).

Spending time with Matthew Pierce & Cara North at Demo Fest

I spent time with some of my former teammates at The Predictive Index. I also met others who are creating learning experiences for industries completely different than mine, such as emergency response and law. It is an amazing experience when you’re connect with others who share the same passion as you. You’re able to learn from their each others experiences, discuss differences, and challenges. It just goes to show how much of a common thread learning and education truly is.

Industry Trends

Overall, I attended about 15+ sessions over a span of 3 days and noticed some trends occurring in the industry:

AI is coming and as learning professionals we need to adapt.

There was a-lot of talk about whether AI is going to take over the future of work or not. This was definitely highlighted by the fact that one of the main keynoters was Sophia, the Robot. The key takeaway from these discussions is that AI will absolutely transform the way we do our work. It has the potential to automate many of the manual processes we do in our work , like capturing screenshots, creating step by step instructions for job-aids, helping write assessment questions, and curating learning content. As practitioners, this will leave us with time to do more of the creative work we love – YAY!

The rise of Learning Data is here!

With the rise of xAPI over the past few years, many in the industry are beginning to think more critically of their learning data. In total, there were over 13 sessions focused solely on data and measurement! I actually attended a pre-conference workshop with Sam Rogers of SnapSynapse about How to Make Better Training Decisions with Your Learning Data.

One of the major takeaways I got from Sam’s session is that in order to truly track the impact of our learning interventions, we need to take time from the outset to identify the outcomes and behaviors were looking to change. If we don’t know this, how will we know if were successful?

Additionally, one major area is the collection of data but what happens next? This is where the beauty of storytelling comes in. As practitioners, we need to think about the what our stakeholders care about, what decisions are we trying to influence with our data, and what is the best way to convey this to them?

There is a difference between learning strategy and product strategy

By far, the biggest takeaway for me came during Frank Nguyen’s guided panel discussion on Transforming from Learning Professional to Learning Leader. Frank and the panel highlighted the importance that as learning leaders we need to force others to think about the instructional strategy rather than immediately jumping to solutioning. This means identifying the true performance problems taking place, advocating for the learners and their needs, and determining an instructional strategy and experiences that support that. Learning is not simply defined by one up learning events but rather an entire ecosystem and all of their parts working together.

Overall, DevLearn was such a great experience. I’m so grateful to meet many of my friends in person. I can also say, i’m really happy to be home in my introvert cave with my cats. I look forward to seeing everyone at Learning Solutions in March 2020!

2018 Year in Review

Believe it or not, December is in full swing. I feel like I just finished writing my 2017 Year in Review post and here we are once again. I say it all the time, but where has the time gone?

Every year, I set personal and professional goals for myself. It’s the perfect exercise for me to pause and reflect on where I’ve been and figure out where I’d like to go moving forward. I do some check in’s throughout the year to see how things are going but now that it’s December it only seems right to take a peek at how the year really went down. I’m still in awe of everything that I accomplished (personally and professionally). I have a ton of wins but here are some highlights for the year:

 

I got my level 2 reiki certification

This past February, I took the next step in my journey with reiki and got Level 2 Certified in the Usui System. Reiki has transformed my life and my love has only grown over the past year. I ended up offering my services during my lunch break to my coworkers at the office in order to get more practice. During the summer, I also ended up doing a mentorship with my reiki instructor.

 

I presented at my first conference

During 2017, I submitted a proposal to present at The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions conference in Orlando, FL. Much to my surprise it was approved! The event took place this past March. It was my first ever conference presentation and I remember being absolutely terrified! During my session, Adopting the Performance Support Mindset, I shared my journey implementing performance support at The Predictive Index. It was such a great opportunity to connect with others looking to implement performance support solutions. The audience was so receptive – it made me wonder why I was even nervous in the first place. I have a feeling it won’t be the last time I present at a conference.

 

I made my side consulting gig more official

During 2017, I took on my first consulting gig by partnering with my friend Steve Seinberg from Arrow in Flight. This year, I wanted to take it to the next level. I ended up reaching out directly to a potential client and getting the gig! I love providing product, learning, and UX services to companies related to health, wellness, and technology. I also got some great feedback along the way. I hope to continue to grow my consulting services over the next few years.

 

I learned how to say goodbye

The most difficult decision of the year was deciding to step away from my post at The Predictive Index after 3.5 years. I felt so strongly about taking the next step in my professional life that I decided to give 2 months notice to my boss without even having a job lined up. Talk about a risk! My family definitely wasn’t happy with the decision but I told them that something good would be on the horizon soon. Little did I know, just what was in store next!

 

I won a 30 under 30 award!

A week after I gave notice to my boss, I found out that I was being recognized in the 30 under 30 group at Elliot Masie’s Learning 2018 event. It was just what I needed to feel more confident about the unknown path ahead. This past November, I attended the event in Orlando, FL. It was such a great opportunity! I got to meet with 29 other learning leaders and we even received an entire day of leadership development with the program.

 

I completed my graduate certificate at Boise State

In January 2016, I embarked on the path to complete my Masters in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) with Boise State. At the same time, I also decided to sign up to complete a Graduate Certificate in Workplace E-Learning and Performance Support as an add-on with the program. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been tirelessly chugging along with my studies, completing one course per semester while working at the same time.

This past summer, I finished the final course in the graduate certificate program! Receiving my certificate in the mail gave me some much needed encouragement to finish out the last 2 semesters of my masters program strong.

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I became a Product Manager at Pluralsight

A month after I gave notice at my job, I accepted a position as Role IQ Product Manager at Pluralsight. Transitioning over to Product Management was a decision that came after countless months of research and self reflection. And once again, I have no idea why it took me so long to make the leap. But things always happen when they’re meant to.

I just finished up my first 2 months at Pluralsight and in that time, I’ve seen myself grow in ways I never imagined. I’m so excited to see where the next few months take me in my role.

 

I learned an important lesson about work-life balance

A week before starting my new role at Pluralsight, I ended up falling down the stairs on the way to meet my new team members in the office. I fractured my ankle and tore 2 ligaments. I had to have surgery and was unable to put any weight on my ankle for 2 entire months. The experience gave me no other choice but to rest (a blessing in disguise). For the past two years, I was juggling working full time and grad classes and essentially making no time for rest.

The time was just what I needed to reflect, reset, and let my body heal. I am nowhere near out of the clear. I will likely need to have an additional surgery to remove screws from my ankle and months of PT until I can engage in my usual activities again. As of 3 weeks ago, I started walking again for the first time and I have a renewed sense for gratitude for things that everyone take for granted such as walking.

 

Looking ahead

To say this year was a journey is quite an understatement. I am so proud of where this year has taken me. I’m already thinking ahead to what 2019 will bring, but before then I’m looking forward to enjoying the holidays with my friends and family. See you on the other side of the new year!

The Introvert’s Guide to Creating Learning Products: The First 60 days

I say it all the time, but I cannot believe how fast time flies! I started my new role as Product Manager of Pluralsight’s newest product, Role IQ, over 60 days ago!

The move to product management was a very meticulous decision on my part. It took over 6 months of research, networking, interviewing, and a lot of introspection before finally deciding to take the leap to an official PM role. Now with 60 days in the bag, I’m so happy that I decided to make the move. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner, but then I remember that things always happen in the time they’re meant to.

 

Off to a rough start

The transition to Product Manager didn’t happen as smoothly as I would’ve liked. A week before my start date, I was scheduled to head into the office to meet some of my new team members. On the way out of the house, I ended up falling down 6 stairs. After falling, I lifted up my leg and noticed my ankle facing the opposite direction. OUCH! A trip to the ER and a dozen X-rays later, I found out my prognosis: a fractured ankle and  3 torn ligaments.

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Left: Immediately after the fall, Right: 2 weeks post-op cast removal

 

The first 60 days in a new role would be a challenge for almost anyone. But throw a broken ankle into the mix and things get taken to a whole other level. To say that I’ve grown personally and professionally while working and recovering over the past 60 days is an understatement. I wanted to take some time to share some lessons I’ve learned while starting my journey creating learning products:

 

Get your hands on the product!

One of the things I did within my first week, was complete a product teardown for Role IQ. A product teardown is when you investigate and reverse engineer the thinking and experience behind a product. This activity gave me a first hand look into the existing functionality of my product before I got too familiar with it’s ins and outs. It also allowed me to open up a more productive dialogue about the product with my team from the very beginning.

 

Start building relationships with all of your stakeholders

I am the absolute epitome of an introvert, so I knew going into my new role that I would have to make an extra effort to meet everyone. Over the first month, I ended up have 30+ virtual 1:1 sessions. I did them based on order of priority starting with my immediate team including developers and UX designer. I then starting meeting with other key stakeholders including other PMs, product marketing, support, and customer success. Once all the initial meet and greets we’re done, I made sure to put reoccurring meetings with stakeholders on my calendar so I’d never have to think twice about who to talk to and when. Due to the size of Pluralsight, I’m still discovering people that would be great connect with about my product. Thats why forming relationships early with folks is so important; whoever you meet with will likely refer you to others.

 

Get aquatinted with your OKRs and performance metrics

My second week on the job was the first week of Q4 and I was lucky enough to have perfectly crafted OKRs (objectives and key results) all ready to go. After reviewing the OKRs with my manager and getting my mind wrapped around them, I set up some time with my team. I held a deep dive session with the Role IQ team to discuss what we planned on accomplishing for the quarter and brainstorm some possible approaches to problems. The time spent discussing the OKRs was invaluable. It made each of us aware of how the product would be measured and what success would look like.

 

Talk to the customer ASAP

Almost all companies these days tout about the importance of “voice of the customer”, but not all practice it. At the end of the day product management is all about solving problems for your customers. How can anyone solve their customer’s problems if they’re not talking to them? Thats why I made it a point to kick off customer calls as soon as possible. Since my product encompasses B2B and B2C markets, that meant hopping on calls with learning and tech leaders inside of enterprise organizations, as well as connecting with the learners themselves.

I followed Pluralsight’s Directed Discovery process which included doing voice of the customer (VOC) exploration calls. I also did some customer confirmation testing (CCT) which included looking at qualitative and quantitative feedback from customers who were already interacting with the product.

In addition to conducting my own research, I listened to customer recordings that took place before I inherited the product. I also sat in on client calls that others we’re conducting. I can honestly say, there really is nothing like hearing feedback directly from the customer. Some of the best insights I’ve heard, have come straight from these sessions and they’ve immediately impacted the future of the product.

 

Have your first win

I knew going into my new role that I wanted to have my first win as soon as possible to prove that I was bringing value to the team. One of my favorite moments was leading my product into an Open Beta where managers and admins could opt into our experience via a banner in the UI. It took a ton of wrangling for it to go live – including our team  finishing up some amazing work on analytics features, working collaboratively with another product team, and leading demos for our product marketing, sales, and presales team. It was the moment that really proved to me that I could be a Product Manager, I was doing it, remotely, and with a broken ankle to-boot!

 

Ask Questions

One of the most powerful things a product manager can do is ask questions. If you hear someone talking about a process or procedure that you’ve never heard of – ask a question. If someone says why they built or do something a certain way – ask a question. You will learn so much about whats going on, how things work, and how someone thinks the way they do about something. Ask anyone and everything – it’s important to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

 

Be patient and take care of yourself

One of the most important things I’ve learned since getting injured is the power of patience. For the past few years, I’ve ran as fast as humanly possible to every goal that I set out for myself. I’ve had mentors and friends tell me to slow down, have more fun, and make time for myself but I never listened. The injury forced me to slow down and be patient with myself and my body. I’ve learned to listen to the signs that I need rest and not feel guilty about sitting on the couch and sleeping on the weekends. At the end of the day, it’s completely impacted my working style and made me a well rounded product manager.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned from Learning 2018

This week, I attended Elliott Masie’s Learning 2018 in Orlando, FL. It was my first time attending the event and to top it off I was apart of the 30 under 30 group. Overall, it was a great experience. For those that haven’t attended Elliott Masie’s Learning conference before, it is 2.5 days long and jammed packed with all things learning. I was definitely nervous to travel over 1,200 miles with my knee scooter (I’m still recovering from my fractured ankle!). Looking back, i’m so happy I decided to get over my fear and make the trek to Florida. It was a great opportunity to connect with others in the industry and hear about some of their experiences. Below are some highlights from the trip:

30 under 30 

The day before the official start to the conference was an entire day dedicated to professional development for the 30 under 30 group. We heard insights from some industry greats including: Elliott Masie, Bob Mosher, Richard Culatta, Bruce Wilkinson, Nigel Eyre, and Jayzen Patria. We even had a CLO panel including Tara Deakin (TD Bank), Rob Lauber (McDonalds), and Martha Soehren (Comcast).

Two things really resonated with me during these sessions, focused on career transitions and continuous learning. At one point Elliott actually said, “Really good people leave Learning and Development for sales or other departments because they’re so good at what they do”. Meanwhile, during the CLO Panel, each learning executive mentioned the importance of continuously challenging yourself when you meet your goals. It is not enough to set a goal and then settle, you much keep stretching yourself outside the box to see how far you can push yourself. Each of them also detailed a major change they made in their career by jumping either industries, roles, or locations.

These are EXACTLY the things that have been ruminating over in my mind when deciding to make the leap to Product Management. Hearing about the importance of challenge and career transitions really made me more confident and happy about all of the changes I’ve been making over the past few months.

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Learning 2018 – 30 under 30 

Industry Trends

I was able to attend over 8 sessions during the conference and noticed some trends occurring in the industry:

Frustration about being order takers

This is definitely nothing new but a common theme I noticed was the frustration among L+D Practitioners had about being order takers from stakeholders within their businesses. Many described hearing things such as “We need a 5 day course in X”, “We need 3 e-learning modules in Y”. I think this really emphasizes the importance of needs assessment by practitioners. It is our duty to partner not only with our stakeholders but learners and really dig down and identify the problems that are taking place so that we can create the best solutions possible to truly impact performance. We need to educate our partners and let them know that training is only one piece of the puzzle and there are many different tools at our disposal. At the end of the day, as learning practitioners we are responsible for helping our learners and ensuring that they’re performing.

 

Analytics aren’t whats coming soon – they’re already here

I attended 2 sessions on learning analytics, metrics, and measurement. I found these sessions particularly interesting because I just released a beta feature for my product which included an analytics dashboard for companies to track metrics on their employees skills assessments. It seemed that many at the conference had no idea where to start with data or were completely overwhelmed with the amount of data they had to shift through.

It really emphasized the importance of being thoughtful about the type of data that we’re collecting to improve performance improvement. Through identifying the KPIs and metrics from the outset of a project, we can make ensure that were continuously tracking progress and determining whether were meeting the goals of our learners and organization. I mean, how else are we going to be able to prove we’re having an impact? I really encourage all practitioners to add metrics as another tool in their toolbox.

 

The Importance of Adopting a Business Mindset

What truly terrified me was the lack of alignment among practitioners whether they consider their learning solutions to be an actual product. I might be biased because of my recent move to product management. However, during the CLO panel I actually posed the question to the executives if they considered the solutions their organizations are creating as being learning products. Each one of them, one by one said no. I couldn’t believe it!  Just sessions earlier, Elliott Masie mentioned the importance of adopting a business mindset within the learning industry.

A product can be considered something that helps a user fulfill a need. As Practitioners, we’re creating learning products whether it’s in the form of elearning, instructor led training, performance support, or something else. We’re trying to help our learners perform better or have some type of performance improvement outcome. I truly cannot stress enough the importance of adopting this mindset. As practitioners, if we consider ourselves as delivering products I think we will think more holistically about the solutions we’re providing. It will also change the way that were creating solutions at a very foundational level.

Overall, Learning 2018 was such a wonderful experience. As always the best part was being able to connect with like minds in the industry. I am so grateful for the connections and conversations that I made over the past few days and I look forward for continuing them for years to come!

Transforming the future of technology learning: 10 years in the making

Ten years ago, I sat in the passengers seat of my fathers Honda Ridgeline as we drove by the Niagara River in Buffalo, NY. My father, a machinist of over 20 years, shared his regrets about how he wished he continued his education. “Education is the only thing that someone can never take away from you” he said, as I listened intently.  He shared his hopes about how I would continue school and chase my dreams despite any obstacles that may get into my way. This conversation has always stayed with me and I frequently think back to it during moments of self reflection.

It should come as no surprise that since then, education and learning have become ingrained into every ounce of my being. My core philosophy in life is that learning is the basis for growth and change. I believe that every experience you have and person you encounter has something to teach you as long as you’re willing to listen. I believe that learning is a fundamental right regardless of gender, race, income level, or where you were born. This belief has guided me through constantly juggling reading at least 3 books at all times (true story – check my goodreads account), undergraduate and graduate degrees, and now the next step in my career.

Thats why, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be joining Pluralsight as a Product Manager.

 

Why Product at Puralsight?

When I began my job search, I knew I wanted a role that would challenge me, align with my learning philosophy, and allow me to make a profound impact on the world.

Product Manager – The epitome of a challenging role

Never in a million years could I have imagined that the next step in my career would be a Product Manager! I’ve worked in tandem with product managers for the past 3.5 years at The Predictive Index and I’ve seen first hand how challenging of a position it can be. So when a good friend of mine actually recommended it to me over 6 months ago, I practically laughed in his face. But as things often do, the idea began to spread through my mind. After countless conversations with those in the SaaS industry, a ton of research (books, conferences, etc), and coaching with my manager; I found myself ready to take on the product manager role. I recognized that a lot of the skills I’ve been utilizing in Learning and UX and all the skills I’m looking to grow we’re encapsulated within a PM role.

 

An aligned mission driven learning philosophy

This past March, I attended UX Fest in Boston and was fortunate enough to see Gilbert Lee, Head of Product @ Pluralsight present. His presentation immediately resonated with me as he talked about the future of workplace technical learning. I remember sitting in the audience thinking “This is why I started in learning!!!”.

The future of workplace education has fascinated me since I began my career in the learning industry nearly 6 years ago. It’s what drove me to pursue my masters in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning with Boise State and is now what led me to my new role at Pluralsight.

The moment I began talking to the team at Pluralsight, I knew that learning was something that the organization was fundamentally committed to. From considering learning theories during the product development process to their iterative testing culture; learning is truly a shared philosophy across the entire organization.

Overall, I believe that providing just in time digital training is something that is necessary for workers to perform their best on the job. I have always been committed to making that happen for my learners and am grateful to be within an organization that is committed and driven to do the same.

 

Ready for takeoff

I’m so humbled and thrilled to be joining the Pluralsight team! I am so excited to see where this next chapter takes me.

Moving from Instructional Design to Learning Experience Design

Last week I was fortunate to participate in the Transitioning from ID to Learning Experience Design session that was part of the Training, Learning, and Development Community Playlist. Matt Sustatia and I spoke about the growing use of the term Learning Experience Design and how Instructional Designers can make the jump to LXD.

The session was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t wait to share some of the insights learned throughout the session!

 

What is Learning Experience Design?

I would define Learning Experience Design as the practice of creating learning experiences that enables learners to achieve a desired performance outcome. Learning Experience Design uses an iterative approach that focuses on understanding the users challenges and experiences to design iterative solutions to help solve their needs.

This doesn’t mean limiting learning experiences to formal learning that take place in a school or classroom. Quite the opposite, learning experiences can take place anywhere; at home, while working, or on the go.

Learning Experience Designers focus on the holistic learning experience and what the learner is going through. This means that rather than simply focusing on designing curriculum or instruction, the learning experience designer will consider the learner and everything they’re experiencing. They’ll then use that information to create solutions such as:

  • content (what does the learner need to do in order to perform a task)
  • the look and feel of the learning experience
  • materials
  • communication about the content
  • how the learner interacts with the content

 

What skills can IDers grow to move into LXD?

With any job, the actual responsibilities that someone carries out can truly vary from company to company. Learning Experience Design is no different!

I made the jump to Learning Experience Design roughly a year ago after moving to the User Experience team within my organization. The move made me responsible for designing in-product learning experiences for users of our software platform. With the transition, I’ve been able to work on some pretty exciting projects like designing in-software user onboarding for our beta software, designing wireframes, and user flows for new features, low fidelity prototypes of product features, and UX Content.

I’ve talked to many other learning experience designers who design all different types of learning experiences including elearning and instructor led training. Regardless of your background, I’ve noticed a few skills that can come in handy with making the transition to learning experience.

 

Practice Design Thinking

Most instructional Designers are very familiar with using the traditional ADDIE model to create learning experiences. Design Thinking is actually an almost identical process – you can see this by simply comparing the ADDIE and Design Thinking graphics below.

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Instructional Design ADDIE Model

 

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Traditional UX Model: Design Thinking (Source)

 

Popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin; design thinking focuses on using a human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s helpful to take the holistic view of a problem to truly understand all the different aspects that a learner is going through and then determine a solution. Since moving I’ve started using design thinking to craft learning experiences, I’ve been able to iterate quicker and have started developing things like user personas, empathy maps, and journey maps.

 

Brush up on those design skills

I definitely see e-learning design as a huge jumping point into learning experience design. Brushing up on graphic design skills like how to incorporate color, typography, layout into designs will make a huge impact on your work. Interaction design will also have a huge impact on your work. I challenge those looking to make the transition to LXD to begin by thinking about the types of elearning interactions you want to provide your learners with. You may want to consider questions such as:

  • Whats the overall goal of this learning interaction?
  • How is the learner going to move through these screens in my lesson?
  • What happens if they click this button?
  • How will they see the results of this interaction?
  • What types of graphics should I include in this interaction?

 

Change is hard

Everyone knows that change is hard! I can tell you first hand that my transition to our UX team did not come easy. My way of thinking and working completely shifted. It taught me how to incorporate design thinking, user centered design, prototyping and iteration to my approach. I was forced to think more strategically about getting to the root of a users problem and identify their pain points. But with the change also came tons of insecurities, battling perfectionism, and cognitive load. I was fortunate enough to reach out to others in the industry, have supportive coworkers, and read tons of books that helped ease the transition. If you’re feeling hesitant about making the move to learning experience design, don’t be! Feel free to reach out for any tips and tricks as you embark on your journey.

 

Sources

Design Thinking 101. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/design-thinking/

Dombrowski, R. (2018, April 15). Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences. Retrieved from https://robertamedia.com/2018/04/14/using-design-thinking-to-craft-learning-experiences/

The Training Learning and Development Community (2018, August). Instructional Design Playlist. Retrieved from https://www.crowdcast.io/e/id-playlist/4

Uncovering the power of the journey map

The farther I get into my masters program, the more I realize how quickly 10 weeks can go by. This past semester was an absolute whirlwind – now that I’m more than two weeks out of it, I feel like I finally have some time to share all the cool tidbits that I learned.

This past semester, I took an Advanced Instructional Design course that specifically focused on how to incorporate design thinking into the instructional design process. As expected, it was an absolute dream come true! It made me so much more confident in the skills that I’ve been learning in my LXD role over the past year. It also allowed me to connect with Learning Practitioners who were new to design thinking (queue flash backs to me 9 months ago).

One of my favorite parts of the class was learning more about journey maps. I was pretty much a novice to journey maps before the course. I had assisted our UX Researcher, Zoya, at times when she was constructing an epic journey map for The Predictive Index. Despite that, I had never built a journey map from scratch. The course changed all that and they’re now my go to at work when thinking about designing new user flows or even thinking about client journeys with our product.

 

What is a journey map?

Nielsen Norman Group describes a journey map as a “visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. It’s used for understanding and addressing customer needs and pain points”. My favorite part about a journey map is that it truly combines storytelling with visualization.

Journey maps can be a really helpful tool to put things back into perspective of what the user, customer, or learner is going through. In other words, journey maps are great to use during the empathy stage of design thinking. Overall, they can be used to review the existing state of an experience or when envisioning a future state. Once a journey map is created you’ll be able to identify pain points or areas of opportunity for building better experiences for customers.

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Example Customer Journey Map for Online Travel Agency (Source)

 

Elements of a journey map

The truth is no journey map is the same however, they will include some similar elements:

  • Persona – this will provide insight about who the journey map is about. It may include elements such as a picture and goals/expectations of the person
  • Scenario – the experience you’re going to map. For example, is it an existing process or experience or are you going to be envisioning the future state of something?
  • Phases  – these are touch points that client/user interacts with your product or service.
  • Actions/Mindsets/Emotions – for each touch point, determine the action the user takes, their thoughts, emotional experience and potential opportunities.

 

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Job Applicant Journey Map (Source)

 

Basing the journey on data

Now before you run off and start creating journey maps for all the experiences your customers are going through, you’ll want to ensure that you’re basing them off of data and research. This means getting as close to your user or customer as possible through things like user interviews and surveys. This will help to ensure that the experience you’re mapping is grounded and based on the actual experience your clients are going through.

During the Advanced Instructional Design Course, my teammates and I worked on designing a learning experience for volunteers at a Cat Shelter. We parsed through nearly 200 pages of existing documentation and conducted our own user interviews. Talk about a lot of data! As part of our design solution, we created a journey map for a potential learning experience. This helped our group to envision all of the emotions, goals, motivations, and actions that the learner would potentially go through with our solution. Once we had more insight into the learner, we used all of the information to help us identify potential learning opportunities that would help them along their journey.

CatVolunteer_JourneyMap
Journey Map for Cat Shelter Volunteers

Overall, I ended up falling in love with journey maps throughout the course of the past semester. They’re another tool, I’m happy to add into my toolbox. I could see them being used by learning designers to gain more insight into learners.

So go on, what’re you waiting for? I hope you give journey maps a try and end up loving them as much as I do!

 

NOTE: If you’re a learning practitioner looking to incorporate design thinking into your process feel free to give me a shout 🙂

 

 

 

 

Carving a new path: career announcements

Time truly has been flying by this year. It’s already July and the summer is heating up. I’m happy to report that the giant 15 foot squash plant in the garden hasn’t taken over my eggplants yet (fingers crossed). Any who, it’s been an entire month since my last post and I have some major updates to share!

 

I’m transitioning out of my job at The Predictive Index

When I began this year, I had a feeling in my stomach that there would be some major changes in store for my career. Even with that in mind, it didn’t make the decision to leave any easier.

Over the past 3.5 years with PI, I’ve seen the company undergo some huge changes. I’ve seen us grow more than double in size, streamline our processes, become more strategic, and truly spread our message of better work, better world. During that time I’ve also blossomed personally and professionally. For example, I entered PI as the Instructional Design Production Assistant. Fast forward 3.5 years and I am now a seasoned Learning Experience Designer whose 2 semesters away from completing her masters degree.

So it is extremely bittersweet to announce my departure. My last day is tentatively scheduled for September 30th. I’m still figuring out the next step for my career but I am beyond thrilled to see where i’m headed!

 

Elliott Masie’s 30 under 30 in Learning!

A few days after I made the decision to leave my position at PI, I received word that I am one of the recipients of Elliott Masie’s 30 under 30 award in Learning. To say that it was a surprise is a complete understatement!

It feels like all of the hard work from the past 6 years is finally starting to pay off! It also felt like the universe was supporting my decision to transition in my career in some small way. I feel beyond blessed and honored to be surrounded by such a talented group of peers in the industry. In November, I’ll be flying out to Orlando, FL to represent The Predictive Index at Learning 2018! If you’re headed out there be sure to connect – I’d love to meet in person!

 

Certificate in Workplace eLearning and Performance Support complete!

I just finished up my Advanced Instructional Design class for summer semester. The course focused on incorporating design thinking into the instructional design process. I am beyond grateful that I was able to take it – it helped to reinforce many of the concepts that I’ve been learning in my role over the past year. It also helped increase my confidence in my craft and share my expertise with my classmates.

I’ll be sharing some of the techniques I’ve been learning over the coming weeks in a series of posts. Until then I’m looking forward to a full 2 weeks off before starting Fall classes. With the conclusion of my course, I realized that I completed my Certificate in Workplace eLearning and Performance Support with Boise State. The certificate was no small feat and definitely gives me the energy to power through my remaining 2 semesters in my masters program!

 

Well thats all for now. Theres definitely some big changes in the works. I hope everyone has a fabulous end to July! I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us all.