Career Development and the future of Education

Khaulat Abdulhakeem
She is the Founder & CEO of DiverseK and host of the DiverseK podcast. DiverseK helps guide and connect diverse tech talents to companies globally.
Steve Weiss
He is a content manager at LinkedIn Learning.

[00:00:00] Khaulat: We are talking about career development and the future of education. So I'm just going to allow Steve to introduce himself right now and tell us a bit about his career background. 

[00:00:11] Steve: Marvelous. Well, thank you Khaulat for inviting me onto the webcast and hello to everybody. Happy to be here.

[00:00:20] Steve: So I'm Steve Weiss. I am a content manager at LinkedIn learning for the topic areas of data science and analytics. So what that means is I oversee the management and development of all of our online courses that deal with those topics. And of course so does Khaulat, she works in the space too, and I presume many, if not, most of you who are watching this are into the same kinds of things, data science, data, analytics, data work, data strategy.

[00:00:49] Steve: And that's how Khaulat and I were so fortunate to get to meet each other. But that's what I do. I work with a number of other content managers who also oversee their topic areas [00:01:00] and we work with an amazing production team to as Khaulat can attest , we were just talking about that before the webcast started with her experience with her first course, which releases in one week.

[00:01:09] Steve: Congratulations, Khaulat 

[00:01:11] Khaulat: yay.

[00:01:13] Steve: Reinforcement learning foundations and can't wait to get it out there. And yeah, it's this kind of thing that I basically spend all my time doing when I'm at work. 

[00:01:21] Khaulat: Okay. Can you tell us a bit about your career background, you know, your journey towards where you are today?

[00:01:29] Steve: Yeah. It's been interesting. Well, a long time ago, before I went to college, because I did not go to university until I was in my mid twenties. Before that I had no desire to go to college. I was the kind of kid who just had no interest in doing mature things like that.

[00:01:48] Steve: So I worked for several years in restaurants, as a cook. And then as a chef, I worked my way up and then I got tired of that and decided either it was time to go to culinary academy or look for something else. So I went to [00:02:00] university and I did a double major in technical writing and in film.

[00:02:05] Steve: And I was going to go to film school and my financing went away and I couldn't do that. So I started looking in the newspaper for ads in nearby city, Indianapolis, Indiana. This is back in the early nineties, it was at the time, the center of computer publishing. So if you were to walk into a bookstore back in the nineties and go to the, they really had a computer book section probably 60 to 70% of the books would have been produced by various imprints based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

[00:02:39] Steve: And I wound up getting the job at one of those publishers and basically, I did about 20 years in tech publishing doing all kinds of computer books on networking programming topics, as well as visual stuff like digital photography interacting media, flash coding, that kinds of things.[00:03:00] 

[00:03:00] Steve: And then at the same time, I had some nice relationships with the people at because the founder of, which is an online training service with Linda and her husband and partner Bruce, they had done their very first computer book with us at the computer book publishing imprint that I was at called new writers.

[00:03:20] Steve: So I had known them since the late nineties and we just stayed in touch and whatnot, and they were starting to do less and less book publishing on their own creating books and more online training. They were getting into that business. This would've been in the early two thousands.

[00:03:36] Steve: And all of which is to say that somebody at reached out to me about five years ago. And said, Hey, we need to have more courses on data science actually at the time, they were seeing big data. Who remembers that term big data? And I wound up having good conversations with them.

[00:03:56] Steve: And this is how I wound up at LinkedIn learning because right after I [00:04:00] joined the company LinkedIn bought and then, I think about a year and a half after that Microsoft bought linkedIn. It's all good. And that is how I actually wound up now that I think about it in the perfect intersection between tech writing and film.

[00:04:19] Steve: That's right in that space anyway, a long withed way of giving everybody a background of my boring life here we are.

[00:04:26] Khaulat: It's actually very interesting, very, very interesting. Given that you were not interested in it all before, you know, you didn't go to school and then you found yourself in the middle of tech and theme and writing all of that.

[00:04:39] Khaulat: It sounds very interesting. 

[00:04:41] Steve: It's the kind of thing that I find myself when I'm presenting at conferences or I'm talking with others, colleagues and whatnot, but it's like life can take us in interesting journeys in an interesting directions.

[00:04:53] Steve: So I got where I'm at because of some stuff that we'll probably talk about here in a minute.

[00:04:58] Khaulat: Yeah. Okay. So [00:05:00] next thing we want to talk about basically is career development, and how online courses play a role in the development of one's career

[00:05:08] Steve: oh yeah. Well, online learning is in a really good place right now.

[00:05:13] Steve: You know, for a lot of reasons. Two primarily now, one is that the entire world in which we work and that runs on technology is changing so quickly. The classic education model of go to a classroom based learning institution for six months or two years or four years, get a degree and get certifications and all that, that can be somewhat counterproductive.

[00:05:39] Steve: And I don't mean to say that it doesn't have its own value, but it's been clear. And this is why the entire industry of online learning has arisen around this, which is people need to skill up. People need to pivot quickly and pick up new skills. So those can be hard skills and soft skills.

[00:05:58] Steve: In other words, hard skills like [00:06:00] learning Python or soft skills such as intra team communication. And things like that, but online learning is uniquely structured for people to skill up, to pick up new skills very quickly and efficiently and to update those skills as we go.

[00:06:18] Steve: And the other component I was talking about besides just skilling up the online learning experience. It's a lot more convenient obviously. 

[00:06:27] Khaulat: Yeah, I find it very easy, you know, to like learn what I need at a particular time very quickly. It's easier than, you know, going through your course where from college.

[00:06:37] Khaulat: Okay. I need something that I have learned some years ago. You can easily just quickly. Okay. You need to work on something and I need to learn it quick. So you just check up a course, learn it and use it at the moment. 

[00:06:50] Steve: Very much so lifelong learning is a philosophy that I think everybody can be safe to adopt, to get out of the model of just thinking, [00:07:00] well, I finished college or I finished whatever program in a school that I'm at and now I'm set to go. Probably is not the best way to think about going through the rest of your life because everything's going to continue to change. And if you want to enhance your prospects to navigate through this crazy world you know, knowledge is power and online learning, I think to a reasonable degree democratizes the ability for all of us to get access to learning. 

[00:07:30] Khaulat: Yeah. What do you see as the future of education generally?

[00:07:35] Steve: You know kind of extending what we've been talking about just now. I think the future of education is what we're specifically seeing at LinkedIn and LinkedIn learning is corporate and enterprise training.

[00:07:48] Steve: In other words, you get a job it's definitely within the enterprises, your employer's best interests to help you continue to learn. So [00:08:00] a huge part of LinkedIn learnings business is through what we call enterprise customers, where, you know, companies, institutions, even universities and government institutions use. And, in our case, LinkedIn learning to skill up their own employees, to train them, to retain them and to attract new employees given to otherwise equal options. If you were thinking about taking a job and even if this is, or especially if this is a job where you're young in your career, maybe you're just out of school or just out of, you know, a training program somewhere.

[00:08:36] Steve: And you're getting started. What would you rather take if you had two equal job offers one with a company that has online learning that says, yes, we will skill you up. We will invest in you and in your future. Or one that hasn't even thought about that yet. So we offer that kind of value to enterprise customers who can then pass that on to their customers.

[00:08:57] Steve: And to their employees [00:09:00] .But I don't mean this as a commercial for LinkedIn learning. This is why we do this is because this is where education is going continual and from as many directions as possible. Yeah. 

[00:09:12] Khaulat: Yeah. Okay. So what are some advice you would give to a college student or someone who just recently graduated?

[00:09:19] Khaulat: You know, some lessons, some things they need to learn that are not taught in school. . 

[00:09:25] Steve: Okay and forgive me, I'm just looking at a few notes that I had written down about this because you were kind enough to give me a heads up on what we might be talking about for the audience here today.

[00:09:35] Steve: But one of the first things I think about is, self-examination because I think it helps for all of us to know how we learn best especially given that if you're in a classroom situation right now in school, somewhere or whatnot or if you're an ongoing education program, maybe it's not clicking for you, before you give up, ask yourself if maybe this just isn't the best teacher for [00:10:00] me. Or the best way for me to pick up these skills. So there's so many available learning modalities that I encourage people to continue to try different approaches. If one way doesn't make sense to you, it might be wise to try you know, another learning channel or another methodology. I think it's just important to continue to learn what might be missing, make the puzzle pieces work for you. Another thing that I'd like people to to maybe keep on in their mind is you know, what you want out of a career may shift and change over time.

[00:10:32] Khaulat: Yeah.

[00:10:32] Steve: So always be ready to continue to learn and recognize that you don't want to be locked into just the same career decision that you've made at one point. I mean, I realize we all have to do what we have to do to pay our bills and to survive. You can't go up the ladder in life without doing what you need to, to survive.

[00:10:51] Steve: But, at the same time, who wants to be in a position 20 years from now where you're looking back and saying, why didn't I try something more? And again, that dovetails with the [00:11:00] fact that online learning gives us so many more options. So self examination is one thing. 

[00:11:05] Steve: And the second thing is networking and even if you don't consider yourself to be like an intensely social person or whatnot , you can be a very effective networker. And, you know, I'm a great example of that because I'm an intensely introverted person.

[00:11:21] Steve: But at some point in my career, I finally kind of got through that wall of thinking, I can't bring this up, I don't wanna bother other people or whatnot and honestly, being online these days gives us so many more opportunities to build a network. But, get to know people make those connections.

[00:11:40] Steve: And it doesn't mean that you have to have a conversation every week with all these people. The more people you know, the more you can help other people the more you can capitalize on opportunities to help them. The more you can be there just to have a conversation with people and you might be amazed at what opportunities can arise just from [00:12:00] building a strong network.

[00:12:02] Steve: And to that, I would also say be honest, be kind and be diligent with your network. So in other words, be a genuine human being with those you interact with. And you can go along the way with that. I would also advise, keep up to get outside of your bubble especially in terms of two aspects, one is empathy all right.

[00:12:23] Steve: So, talk to others, ask others interact with others, build those empathy muscles. So that you can see the world more clearly by seeing other people's perspectives and you don't have to agree with other folks. That's not what empathy is about. It's about appreciating where they come from.

[00:12:40] Steve: The more knowledge you have about other people, the more knowledge you have about the world around you and the better armed you will be able to deal with the world. And the other thing is to make yourself known, let your ambition get sunlight. 

[00:12:54] Steve: Again, just a personal story is that I worked my first job at computer publishing [00:13:00] industry , I worked at the same place, pretty much the same job for over two years.

[00:13:05] Steve: Seeing other people promoted around me and whatnot. And it never occurred to me just to go to my manager and just ask, why am I not being considered for these promotions? Because the crazy thing was, he said, Steve, I didn't know you were interested. And that was a very, very meaningful point in my life where I realized that I have to get beyond my own personal restrictions in order. And then get outta my bubble, stop just thinking that the rest of the world is like me. Once I did that, I found my own way to be, gently ambitious in the world. But that was a huge learning moment. The final thing I would offer in terms of advice is self nourishment take care of yourself.

[00:13:46] Steve: Now I don't need to talk about the point that we live in crazy times these incredibly stressful times, but I guess part of knowing yourself, learn to spot the signs of stress, [00:14:00] of mental stress, of physical stress and learn what it takes to get yourself back on a decent level.

[00:14:08] Steve: Because the thing is, I mean, think of it in terms of for those of us who have flown, right? They have this little warning before the plane takes off, they say, all right, should anything happen? The oxygen mask will drop down and make sure that you put on your oxygen mask before you help anybody else.

[00:14:23] Steve: And it's very much true with this. You're not being selfish by taking care of yourself. You're actually equipping yourself to continue the journey to help others. And I realize these are obviously things they don't necessarily teach you at school, but I think these are all certainly aspects of learning that have helped me in my life journey. And I know they can help others. 

[00:14:43] Khaulat: These are actually very, very wonderful points, I learned from them myself. And the last one is a good way to close this conversation. Take care of yourself, health wise, mentally, and everything take care of yourself. Yeah [00:15:00] thank you so much, Steve, for this conversation, it was very, very eye opening and wonderful.