NU: Tell us about your work, as well as what your company does:
AD: Pluralsight is a global leader in online learning for technology professionals. We provide instant access to more than 4,500 courses authored by top industry experts and serve as a career catalyst, delivering hands-on, practical training for the most in-demand and understaffed jobs of today.
I am a Software Craftsman with the additional role of Tech Lead at Pluralsight. My responsibilities as a Software Craftsman include writing new and maintaining existing code for the learning experience on pluralsight.com. Software Craftsmen at Pluralsight also participate in the process of discovering what our customers want. We speak to real customers, and we help decide how to best build what our customers need.
My responsibilities as a Tech Lead include working as a partner with the Product Manager on our team to make sure we’re building experiences our customers will love that are also technologically sound, which is a critical component in reliably providing a great user experience.
NU: What industry trend or practice are you currently interested/passionate about?
AD: Lately, I find myself gravitating toward lean and the focus on flow efficiency. I like the focus on delivering small amounts of work frequently; I believe it enables meeting customer needs more quickly and more precisely. I also enjoy the emphasis on paying attention to the system at large, rather than exclusively concentrating on my immediate area. And lastly, focusing on continuous improvement allows us to do just that – improve. I believe striving toward lean principles results in better quality, faster delivery and a more enjoyable work environment.
NU: In your opinion, what are most tech employers looking for?
AD: I think there are three things tech employers look for in an employee: culture fit, love of learning, and skills.
I believe culture is often a big consideration when hiring, if not the most important. Most employers realize that some skills may need to be taught on the job, but other things—like attitudes and beliefs that make up a culture—are more difficult to teach. Hiring someone who doesn’t fit the company’s culture can cause a lot of disruption.
After culture, tech employers like to see someone who loves learning. Learning is so important in an industry that changes so rapidly. Having the right skill set and experience for the job is important, but being able and eager to learn new skills is more valuable in the long term.
NU: What are your thoughts on project-based learning vs. a more traditional theoretical approach to education?
AD: Academic standards are changing, particularly in technology. I earned a bachelor’s in computer science, and after entering the industry, I quickly learned that many people without degrees know a lot more than I do and contribute at the same level as those with degrees. With regard to the technology industry, I think something that is more valuable than a degree or certification is the ability and desire to learn. With that, I think project-based learning works better for some people. Getting hands-on experience early on is a great way to understand if technology is your career field of choice. Doing mini-projects has been a great tool for me when learning a new technology, but it’s not my only approach to learning.
NU: How do we solve the issue of getting more women in tech?
AD: There are a number of things that can be done to get more women to enter the tech industry. One thing is to provide them with early exposure to the different fields of technology. I’ve seen more and more of this happening over the last few years, but I think that the efforts can be furthered. What I mean by exposure are things like hands-on coding at a young age, whether in the classroom or out. Exposure could also include hearing from women in the industry and having more women prominent as role models. Additionally, it would be great if this group of role models consisted of women with varying levels of expertise and experience. Individually and collectively, these role models could connect and encourage women who are at different stages of their tech career paths.
I think this also relates to the previous question. I believe that as we move away from the traditional classroom model of learning that more women will find it easier to engage in the industry. I could be wrong, but I think the stigma around technology being a male-dominant field makes it intimidating for women to get involved – particularly in the classroom.
NU: What is your five-year prediction for the industry?
AD: I hope to see more women in tech five years from now. While there are on-going efforts to get more women involved, I think there will be even more of an emphasis on this in the future. All the efforts may not come to full fruition within the next five years, but I think we’ll see a slow upward trend in women’s participation in tech.
I also hope to see the tech education space evolve a lot over the next five years. At the beginning of 2015, Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Pluralsight, wrote an article in Inc. Magazine about the 5 Top Trends in Education Technology. They are all closely related: online corporate learning, skills measurement, alternative learning styles, online competency-based training, and flipped-learning tech. To me, these trends all seem to serve one goal: to make online technology education a sufficient—as well a more widely accepted and recognized—means of learning technical skills. I think Aaron’s words are informed and accurate, as I’ve seen more focus on these things.
Students are invited to learn more about Pluralsight and their tools for online learning at a training on campus on Wednesday, May 18 at 12 p.m. Please contact Tom Beatty with any questions.
Career Week continues all this week with Tech Talks from Industry and Enterprise Partners at 12 p.m. in Room 323. Companies will also be on campus all week interviewing students for open positions. For the complete Tech Talk schedule, follow our Facebook page.