My new gig at LinkedIn: Lynda.com and the Economic Graph

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This post is meant to explain my excitement about being the first Lynda.com employee based in Canada and why I am even more excited about the future of Lynda.com and LinkedIn together. Days after the acquisition I wrote this post summarizing the press and my views on why LinkedIn spent 1.5 billion on an educational video library. Since then, I’ve been working with LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team on a Metro Insights project to help disadvantaged youth in Toronto connect with the skills they need and employers looking to hire them. This work coupled with a growing understanding of the potential contained in Lynda.com’s library confirms that the Lynda acquisition is perhaps the single greatest step towards achieving LinkedIn’s goal to create an Economic Graph.

In our CEO’s words, the LinkedIn Economic Graph hopes to “digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, jobs, skills, companies, and professional knowledge — and spot in real-time the trends pointing to economic opportunities.” This is aligned with LinkedIn’s Vision to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce” and is a broader and in my opinion more equitable and therefor moral goal than our Mission to “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”

Our Toronto Metro Insights project demonstrated the potential of LinkedIn’s data to trace pathways of learning and the skills required to attain jobs. We were able to identify which tech skills individuals in Toronto seeking a job early in their career need and then connect them with the organizations that can train them. For instance, our data showed that Toronto employers are seeking mobile web development skills. We also know that bootcamps like the one I founded, Lighthouse Labs, coupled with online learning, such as Lynda.com’s courses, can provide low cost, fast ways to attain these skills. Bring this all together and we can now enable students to achieve their career goals on LinkedIn.

Established brick and mortar universities and colleges and online schools can also benefit from using Lynda. Lynda enables teachers to implement many advances in pedagogy such as flipping their classroom. In this model, course content is studied at home allowing students to interact and engage more with the material in class. With courses that can be many hours broken down into digestible, several minute long segments, Lynda’s content can be inserted into lectures or other online content as well. This format makes it easy to distribute across LinkedIn’s network. Lynda’s content is also ideal for professional development, allowing those who already have jobs to change career tracks or level up. And by working with our partners such as Adobe to revise our courses as soon as their software is updated, we can ensure students’ skills are cutting edge.

A recent post by one of my colleagues on the Economic Graph team with whom I worked closely on the Toronto Metro Insights project highlights the power of connecting LinkedIn’s data with Lynda’s courses. Sohan Murthy outlines the top skills to get a job in 2016 and then links to the Lynda courses that provide these capabilities. As we continue to map Canada’s economy, LinkedIn will more and more clearly be able to chart pathways to learning and promotion like this and with Lynda we can now deliver on the promise of enabling individuals with the skills they need to follow these paths.

My new gig at LinkedIn: Lynda.com and the Economic Graph

The Many Reasons Why LinkedIn Bought Lynda.com

linkedin-lyndax2I wrote this post in April of 2015

While my favorite daily newsletter summed up LinkedIn’s acquisition of online learning company Lynda.com in one sentence:

“Pending shareholder approval, the $1.5 billion deal will allow LinkedIn to make Lynda.com’s 6,300 online skill-building courses and 267,000 video tutorials a part of its social network for professionals”,

I thought I’d pull together a bit more of the recent coverage of my employer’s biggest single move yet.

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn’s head of content products welcomed the company and its employees and explained the synergies between our companies on the LinkedIn blog. He and Jeff Weiner, our CEO, explain how this a “meaningful step on [LinkedIn’s] way to building the Economic Graph” and Jeff goes on to explain how it will ensure LinkedIn plays a role in helping its users live up to the third of his three pillars of career advice that one should “always be learning.” Lynda herself explained how this acquisition would help “more people learn the skills that are needed in today’s rapidly changing economic landscape.”

While some questioned the valuation, which at 1.5B was “almost 3x more than all its previous acquisitions combined“, LinkedIn was widely lauded for the acquisition, and particularly for the “impact on its bottom line” and the quality of Lynda.com’s content.

Kurt Wagner at recode explains the three reasons he thinks LinkedIn bought Lynda.com: First, the companies’ missions align as evidenced by the above statements by their CEOs and Lynda. Next, Lynda.com will allow LinkedIn to further its connections to students. As he notes, “Lynda already works with 40 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities, including all of the Ivy League schools.” Last he notes perhaps the most obvious reason: this is a content play and video is king these days.

The official press release is helpful in summarizing Lynda.com as a platform:

“Through a subscription to lynda.com’s service, individual members and organizations have access to a comprehensive collection of top quality courses taught by industry experts, offered in [5 languages]…lynda.com serves corporate, government and educational organizations” and its video library contains “more than 6,300, engaging, top-quality courses and more than 267,000 video tutorials taught by recognized industry experts.”

The release also covers the respective companies’ CEOs’ high level explanations of the value in the partnership: It quotes Weiner saying

“The mission of LinkedIn and the mission of lynda.com are highly aligned. Both companies seek to help professionals be better at what they do […] lynda.com’s extensive library of premium video content helps empower people to develop the skills needed to accelerate their careers. When integrated with the hundreds of millions of members and millions of jobs on LinkedIn, lynda.com can change the way in which people connect to opportunity.”

And Eric Robison, CEO of lynda.com states:

“In LinkedIn, we have found an incredible partner who shares our vision and passion for empowering people around the world to make real change in their lives through access to information, learning and professional development.”

Note: These views are my own and, in writing this summary and quoting the articles above, I do not represent LinkedIn.

The Many Reasons Why LinkedIn Bought Lynda.com

I just lost the best boss I’ve ever had

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In this series, professionals thank those who helped them reach where they are today. Read the posts here, then write your own. Use #ThankYourMentor and @mention your mentor when sharing. I drafted this post in August of 2015.

 

From law to global health and entrepreneurship to education, I’ve had many bosses, but the past 7 months at LinkedIn were made by one man. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy most of my jobs but never before have I wanted to come to work in the same way. I attribute this inclination in large part to my boss, Jeff Roy.

Jeff, or JRoy, as he was almost universally called, was a) humble, b) ambitious, c) compassionate, d) reassuring, e) rigorous.

JRoy would always joke that he did not deserve his leadership position. He described his path from a B student at B schools to management within LinkedIn Sales Solutions – a group that many aspire to within a hyper-growth company – as the result of luck. Yet his endearing modesty concealed natural skills in sales, and more importantly management expertise, that were carefully honed over years. While I looked up to JRoy from the moment I met him, he never spoke down to me or any of my teammates. We were all equals and in his post-departure absence, our team’s cohesion is a testament to the solidarity created by this equality and mutual support.

The strength of our team also came from a strong desire to be the best. Sales is inherently competitive and LinkedIn does a fantastic job of motivating its reps through sales processes, business structures, benefits and compensation. Taking this to the next level, Jeff created a team that surpassed expectations and excelled even among other LinkedIn teams.  This success was based on a communal ambition that resembled that of an elite military unit as much any sales group.

This unit is also made up of the best. Carefully selected from other LinkedIn teams and from outside of the organization, my colleagues are diverse in their backgrounds and approaches but share many of the attributes that made JRoy an amazing boss. Yet JRoy and I often discussed the importance of hiring individuals that are different from each other and challenge each other as much as those who are similar and naturally cohere. JRoy hired carefully, often taking longer than other managers, but our team is evidence of his successfully balancing these competing goals.

Never have I felt as individually supported as I did under JRoy’s leadership. One of the management lessons he explicitly taught me was to focus on your colleagues, and particularly your juniors, as individuals first. Listen to and support their career ambitions and their success will result in your own success as a leader. Help them achieve their goals and they will help you win any battle. Like much of his advice, this lesson came from a combination of his own experience and the insights from the many books on management, spirituality and self-improvement that covered JRoy’s desk.

Instead of meeting in a board room or a breakout room, JRoy and I would go for walks outside. Coffee in hand, he would ask about my travels and my parties, and I about his wife and child. At other times, We would joke about his neighbours and even train for athletics together. We are now friends first, rather than former colleagues. The trust and sense of reassurance that JRoy created are a testament to his mastery of the professional relationship.

Together, JRoy’s modesty and his drive, his empathy and his support, made him an incredible boss.

Thank you JRoy.

 

I just lost the best boss I’ve ever had

What I Learned from my First Job: From PEBKAC to Empathy

The following post was part of a LinkedIn Canada initiative to inspire creativity and discussion amongst our network and followers. It was drafted in June of 2015.2015-06-02_1433212611

 

My first job was doing tech support at the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. I had always admired my dad, a diplomat, and I was excited by the opportunity to work near him in our gleaming Arthur Erickson-designed embassy right across The Mall from Congress.

My day-to-day work was far more mundane than the descriptions on my resume might suggest. For instance, “Supporting and reconfiguring the Embassy’s telecommunications protocols and systems” basically entailed fixing phones and voicemail. But as an ambitious high school student, the opportunity to work with our diplomats and even, on a volunteer basis, take notes at Congressional hearings, was exhilarating.

The job came with its ups and downs: I spent countless (frustrating) hours on the phone with Verizon when we rolled out the first Blackberries in D.C. Another time I had to get Secret clearance in order to manage the fibre optic lines that we leased connecting all of our posts in the Americas.

And it was not without risk and responsibility either: I connected dozens of computers to new dual input monitors (one secure, one not) but didn’t realize the voltage was different. I walked away and as each user flicked the switch to change the input device, they would blow their monitor, one after the other, until we figured out what was going wrong.

The most important lesson from this job, however, was about people: There is an aloofness inherent in knowing more than someone else even when you are their junior in age and function. This is particularly true of knowledge about technology which can be both specialized and practical. And this distance can get in the way of understanding. More than any other skill, doing tech support requires empathy. The ability to understand your client’s perspective and problems, to see a computer or phone from their level of skill and take into consideration their frustration, was paramount.

At the embassy I learned the acronym PEBKAC for Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair. This reference to by far the most common reason for a tech support call, user error or ignorance, gets it wrong. Rather than the problem, we had to understand that the solution existed between the keyboard and the chair. By understanding that my clients, my colleagues and eventually, my friends, were raised in different generations and perhaps didn’t understand the analogy of a folder in an operating system, or how to access a “context menu” (usually, right clicking), I was able to help them better.

I could help them understand their devices and software in a more productive and lasting manner by explaining the solutions in their terms. And once I did, I would unlock perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my job, their gratitude. Spending that extra half hour to work through how to create an out of office message or deal with a “full” mailbox resulted in lasting relationships that continue to benefit my career to this day. And learning the value of empathy, in and of itself, made my first job worthwhile.

 

What I Learned from my First Job: From PEBKAC to Empathy

The Many Reasons Why LinkedIn Bought Lynda.com

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAOCAAAAJDQ5MzE0YmFkLThmZmUtNGMwYi05OTZkLWIwMzg5MWQ1OTUyOAWhile my favorite daily newsletter summed up LinkedIn’s acquisition of online learning company Lynda.com in one sentence:

“Pending shareholder approval, the $1.5 billion deal will allow LinkedIn to make Lynda.com’s 6,300 online skill-building courses and 267,000 video tutorials a part of its social network for professionals”,

I thought I’d pull together a bit more of the recent coverage of my employer’s biggest single move yet:

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn’s head of content products welcomed the company and its employees and explained the synergies between our companies on the LinkedIn blog. He and Jeff Weiner, our CEO, explain how this a “meaningful step on [LinkedIn’s] way to building the Economic Graph” and Jeff goes on to explain how it will ensure LinkedIn plays a role in helping its users live up to the third of his three pillars of career advice that one should “always be learning.” Lynda herself explained how this acquisition would help “more people learn the skills that are needed in today’s rapidly changing economic landscape.”

While some questioned the valuation – which at 1.5B was “almost 3x more than all its previous acquisitions combined” – LinkedIn was widely lauded for the acquisition, particularly for the “impact on its bottom line” and the quality of Lynda.com’s content.

Kurt Wagner at recode explains the three reasons he thinks LinkedIn bought Lynda.com: First, the companies’ missions align as evidenced by the above statements by their CEOs and Lynda. Next, Lynda.com will allow LinkedIn to further its connections to students. As he notes, “Lynda already works with 40 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities, including all of the Ivy League schools.” Last he notes perhaps the most obvious reason: this is a content play and video is king these days.

The official press release is helpful in summarizing Lynda.com as a platform:

“Through a subscription to lynda.com’s service, individual members and organizations have access to a comprehensive collection of top quality courses taught by industry experts, offered in [5 languages]…lynda.com serves corporate, government and educational organizations” and its video library contains “more than 6,300, engaging, top-quality courses and more than 267,000 video tutorials taught by recognized industry experts.”

The release also covers the respective companies’ CEOs’ high level explanations of the value in the partnership: It quotes Weiner saying

“The mission of LinkedIn and the mission of lynda.com are highly aligned. Both companies seek to help professionals be better at what they do […] lynda.com’s extensive library of premium video content helps empower people to develop the skills needed to accelerate their careers. When integrated with the hundreds of millions of members and millions of jobs on LinkedIn, lynda.com can change the way in which people connect to opportunity.”

And Eric Robison, CEO of lynda.com states:

“In LinkedIn, we have found an incredible partner who shares our vision and passion for empowering people around the world to make real change in their lives through access to information, learning and professional development.”

Note: These views are my own and, in writing this summary and quoting the articles above, I do not represent LinkedIn.

The Many Reasons Why LinkedIn Bought Lynda.com

Vernissage of my mother, Clara Hirsch, and my series: “Double Vision”

Dear friends,

In case you happen to find yourself in Madrid you’re invited to an exhibition of my mother, Clara Hirsch’s latest work entitled “Double Vision” at the “Galeria Materna y Herencia” from April 9-26 at Ruiz de Alarcon, 27 Madrid, 28014. The gallery is located behind the Prado and beside the Botanical Gardens.

​These works combine my mother’s paintings of the natural environment on clear acrylic sheets overlayed on my photographs of urban scenes.​ In my mother’s words:

“The paired images illustrate my own conflicted feelings. The photographs depict my delight in architecture, culture and the vitality of city living, while the paintings express my love of nature, organic forms, and the wilderness.”

The Vernissage is on April 9 starting at 20 hrs and if you are unable to attend the opening, the exhibition continues until April 26th.

The Gallery hours are:
Tuesday-Friday: 18-21 hrs
Saturday-Sunday: 12-14 hrs
Other viewings by appointment: 658 453 610

The invitation for the show is below followed by the Artist Statement in Spanish for this series. Several pieces will also be on display from my mother’s last series and that statement and invitation are at bottom.

CLARA HIRSCH Invitación imprenta

Doble Visión

Las obras de esta serie combinan mis imágenes pintadas con las fotografías de Jake Hirsch Allen. Doble Visión retrata la tensión entre el espacio urbano y el entorno natural.

Las imágenes superpuestas ilustran mi propia confusión interior. Las fotografías representan mi atracción por la arquitectura, la cultura y la vitalidad de la vida urbana, mientras que las pinturas expresan mi amor por la naturaleza, las formas orgánicas y lo salvaje.

——

Los árboles como testigos silenciosos

En estas imágenes, he intentado transmitir la discrepancia entre mi cómoda y estimulante experiencia intelectual en Israel con el ambiente conflictivo de Oriente Medio. Mi implicación con la comunidad etíope, mi contacto con los árabes israelíes, así como mis viajes por la zona, me proporcionaron la oportunidad de atestiguar el contraste entre mi vida y la de muchos otros a mi alrededor. 

Algunas de las fotografías representan unos lugares seguros y felices: los encantos de la playa, el sentarse al borde de una piscina, o charlar con amigos. Otros retratan el conflicto, el confinamiento, y la destrucción. Por encima de estas fotografías están superpuestos unos árboles pintados sobre una película de acrílico transparente. Desde arriba, los árboles vigilan silenciosamente los acontecimientos y son testigos de todo lo que ocurre abajo. 

Trees as Silent Wi­­tnesses

In these images I tried to convey the disparity between my comfortable and intellectually stimulating existence in Israel and the conflict ridden environment of the Middle East.  My involvement with the Ethiopian community, exposure to Arab Israelis, as well as travels in the region afforded me the opportunity to witness the contrast between my life and the lives of so many around me.

Some of the photographs depict secure and pleasant environments: the pleasures of the beach, sitting around a pool, or conversing with friends. Others portray conflict, confinement, and destruction.  Layered over these works on paper are images of trees on clear acrylic sheets. The trees hover silently above the narratives and bear witness to everything below.

TreesAsWitnessesInvitation

Vernissage of my mother, Clara Hirsch, and my series: “Double Vision”

Breaking my Google Glass changed my identity for the second time in 6 months

{Note: A version of this post edited by Vice Canada was published here on July 4, 2014. This is my unedited version. My Glass were recently replaced free of charge by Google.}

The initial transformation was gradual: I embarrassedly wore Glass for the first time at La Gaurdia airport for 20 minutes before taking them off, disturbed by people staring not at my eyes but just above them. Eventually I adjusted to walking down the street and having every third group of strangers murmur, “hey, those are Google Glass!”, likely aware that I could hear them.

The celebrity of being one of the first in Canada overtook me. A pickup truck full of guys swore “Glasshole!” as they drove by. I picked up a girl at a vernissage after she asked “Are you really wearing those?” (I took the question rhetorically and later took her home). Throughout Jake with Google Glass was different than Jake without.

I had to reinvent etiquette at meetings: I would usually take them off just after shaking hands but they were consistently the first subject of conversation. And in gyms and night clubs – where I would eventually destroy them – the ways and times I wore them and that people interacted with me were ever evolving.

When people asked why I owned Glass, I would explain that I run a software development company and that they were good for marketing (“we’re talking about them now…”), that one of our partners in the US ran a consumer electronics website and had bought them for us. As I wore them more and more often, however, I realized that it was often just for the attention.

I wore them to Art Battle several times. I would record the hundreds of dancing, gawking bodies; watching live painting to loud DJs: the artists, the revelers, my friends, my lovers. I would record bike ride after bike ride, capturing my illegal zig zags across Toronto’s treacherous streetcar tracks and on one occasion another bicyclist falling off his bike at King and Yonge.

Glass even made me question my relationship with others or The Other. One night, in the dark, cramped, loud basement of Parts and Labour, I placed the Glass in my back pocket and almost instantly they disappeared. Scrambling on the floor with a nice, timid couple that had been sitting next to me, desperately trying to find them amidst drunk dancing legs, I approached a black man standing immediately next to me and asked him if he’d seen them in an accusatory tone. At that moment, the couple found them on the floor and my apologies began. The man could see my guilt in my face but would have none of it, “Get out of my face!” he said, and I wandered away in shock, relief and mostly shame. Later I wandered back to apologize again and he told me to get away before he punched me and I almost wanted him to to make me feel better.

Google Glass never worked particularly well for anything other than getting attention and filming the response. Text messages and emails and voice recognition barely functioned to begin with and as I clumsily dropped Glass and stepped on it, the little prism of a screen became less and less clear. Nevertheless, as a tool to capture others attention and record them, Glass was unparalleled.

Others came to identify me with Glass to: they were my signature, the reason someone would remember me.

The link between Glass and others’ perception of me and my perception of myself became strong enough that the morning I awoke to find the Glass broken in half, I was notably depressed at their loss. Breaking a $1500 device in half is never a great way to start a day but my unhappiness was deeper, tied to the reality that I would no longer be a minor celebrity based on this appendage.

And so, about six months after becoming one of the first Canadians with Google Glass, I returned to normality.

Breaking my Google Glass changed my identity for the second time in 6 months