Here’s the thing: at Degreed we’ve created an awesome learning platform that gives people the power to track, validate and find learning from any source. We wouldn’t be able to do a really good job at building that without being obsessed with learning ourselves. We were thinking, what if we gave you a clear picture of how real people actually learn at Degreed? Last month we started doing just that- by diving into our own habits and learning goals with a profile of a Degreed team member each month.

Before we start with our next profile- you should know that at Degreed each employee receives $100 a month to learn whatever they want, and unlimited additional dollars if the learning is job related. This benefit is called FlexED, you’ll hear more about that below. Without further ado,  let’s meet Grace.

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Grace Harrington has been a sales development rep at Degreed for almost 6 months. She lives in Salt Lake, but her heart will forever reside on the east coast. Grace is typically either getting involved in discussions concerning global politics (especially involving the Middle East and human rights issues), planning her next chance to break out her passport, or binge-watching documentaries on Netflix. This is how Grace learns:

What topics or skills are you interested in learning about?

International politics, sales, holistic health, human rights issues, feminism, religions of the world, and startups.

What’s your favorite way to learn? 

Conferences and live events

As a Degreed employee, you receive $100 a month for learning as FlexED, how do you like to use your FlexED? 

Books, classes (I just signed up for a ballroom class using FlexED!), community events- especially Impact Hub and AAISP.

Favorite Expert:

My favorite expert is Richard Falk. He is an international law professor at Princeton and former UN Special Reporter on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories”. He’s put out dozens of books on human rights, terrorism, globalization, etc. and published hundreds of articles on his research.

What are the biggest takeaways from what you’ve learned in the last 6 months? 

At a holistic luncheon back in August, I learned that cutting processed sugars and upping water intake is better for weight loss than cutting fats. I’ve lost 20lbs since then just from cutting soda, minimizing processed sugar intake, and drinking at least a gallon of water a day.

I attended a lecture at the Saudi Arabia Cultural Center in Farifax, VA in December on women’s health issues in Saudi and it was really eye-opening to some pressing issues on women’s health in the kingdom. I realized that while the country has definitely progressed in women’s rights issues the last few years, there is still a very long way for them to go!

I am reading “Do Cool Sh*t”, and it is a fun book with similar principles to “The Lean Startup”.  I have an idea that I know can revolutionize the healthcare world in the USA, and this book is giving me great ideas on how to go from a conceptualized to a mobilized idea.

How have your learning habits changed since joining Degreed? 

I find myself looking for more learning opportunities now that I am with Degreed. I like seeing how my knowledge in certain areas have grown, and being able to track and go back to learning I’ve done is really nice! It’s cool having all of my learning searchable in the system by topics that I’ve tagged.

What’s the most useful skill you’ve ever learned?

One of the most useful skills I’ve ever learned was Arabic. Aside from the obvious uses for travel and business, it also helped me meet my soon-to-be fiancée when I heard him tell his friend in Arabic that he thought I was pretty. He was shocked when I told him I understood the language!

What are your learning goals for 2016?

My goals for 2016 are to read 2 books a month: one to expand my knowledge of a targeted topic, and one that is more for fun. I want to really expand my knowledge about the presidential candidates, because none of them are really exciting me at this point. I also plan to write an original article bi-weekly and share it on LinkedIn for others to learn as well!

Grace’s Degreed Stats:

40 courses

163 books

164 articles

39 videos

Most active skills: marketing, leadership, teamwork, sales.

Check out Grace on Degreed here. You can also get credit for reading this article by clicking the button below. Throughout this “How We Learn” blog series we’ll be giving you a closer look at how we learn at Degreed, but we also want to know how you learn- so tweet us at @degreed and tell us what works best for you!

Taylor-navy
At Degreed, each team member is encouraged to spend time learning anything they want, in any way they like to learn. We use Degreed to capture, curate, share and save all of that learning. Here are the Degreed features our team obsesses over. These are a few of our favorite things:

 

Create a Pathway 
AAEAAQAAAAAAAAOUAAAAJDBiOTg5ODEyLWIzZmEtNDI5NS1iYzgwLTNmMWJhM2RiMjkzMw“My favorite feature is how easy it is to create a pathway. It’s so simple to be able to create  a structured learning plan for myself, or to package a set of resources into a bite-sized  lesson plan for anyone to see. Coupled with the chrome extension, it makes it blazing fast  to take a bunch of different learning material into a comprehensive path for learning.” – Jeff Okita, Marketing

 

The Degreed Button
20160312_183954The Degreed button has basically taken over my previous bookmark habit. I can tag articles I like and search for them later in the app if I need to reference them again.  Being able to recommend/share bits of content on the fly is super useful as well.” -Becky Hamm, Engineering

 

See what others learn 
AndyEarl_degreed1_2613“I love seeing other people’s learning activity in the daily email. It’s fun seeing that the executives of the company are always learning new things. It makes me feel more confident in questioning how we do things or bringing up new ideas, because I know the people I work with are open to new ways of thinking. Occasionally others on the team will mention that they read something that I had initially learned, and share how that helped; it’s cool to think that they benefited from something I read.” -Taylor Blake, Product

 

Recommendations
Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 9.03.03 PM“I love the recommendations feature.  When content comes to me from my peers it helps me sift through the myriad of articles and Ted talks and spend my time on items that apply directly to my job, which saves me so much time.  It doesn’t take long to learn which colleagues enjoy similar learning and then I prioritize.  When recommendations come from my exec team I learn what their priorities are for me and am able to develop those skills and stay aligned.” -Bambi Buckles, Sales

 

Tracking
“My favorite feature is the orange + button. For me this represents my small learning achievements and goals. Each time I click that button I feel like I am conquering some of the things which have been life road blocks.” -Michelle Stevens, Support

 

See what I’ve learned
sonja“I like the ability to track everything I learn, and find it later in my profile with the ability to filter by category or format. What books did I read last year? What was that article about content marketing that I liked so much called again? Today’s Learning is another gold mine. I love seeing popular articles on subjects I’m interested in, helping me find the content that I wouldn’t normally find on my own.”
 -Sonja Schurig, Marketing

 

 

 

How do you use Degreed? Click below to share this article and tweet us your favorite features.

 

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I have two great weaknesses: gas stations and bookstores.

You know that feeling you get when you turn in your final assignment for the semester and you walk outside and suddenly all the plans you made for summer vacation are unobstructed from the roadblocks of stress and you feel like you have the whole world at your disposal? That’s how I feel when I walk into a gas station or a bookstore. While I won’t discuss it in this post, just know that I have a special place in my heart for taquitos and sugary beverages, both of which are plentiful in the American gas station. That place in my heart my be an actual hole caused by the crap I’ve consumed from said gas stations, but it’s still there, and it’s still special.

But bookstores? Those places are magical. Literally anything you want to know is within arm’s reach. There are thousands of things you have no idea you want to know about within arm’s reach, and I think that’s what gets me. There’s so much potential knowledge, so many stories I’ve never heard.

I remember when the book fair would come to my school as a kid. They would give you that colorful paper brochure so you could order your books. I’ll tell you what, I could have negotiated my way out of North Korea with a pair of Kim Jong Il’s sneakers the way I convinced my mom to add JUST ONE MORE book to my order. Even today I have to give myself a pep talk when I walk into a Barnes & Noble, otherwise I leave with a stack of books and an empty bank account. Books are great, but not sans food and shelter.

I’m not sure I could quantify the knowledge I have gained from reading. It’s like trying to quantify infinity: there is no way to know where it begins or where it ends. So instead of doing that, I’d just like to talk a little bit about how much there is to gain from reading. I submit the following as evidence that we all can and should read more.

 

The Cool Kids Are Doing It

A few years back I read Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced shay) book, Delivering Happiness. Hsieh is the brilliant mind behind the culture-driven Internet store, Zappos. In the book, he goes into detail about why Zappos is so unique and successful. Hint, it’s all about the culture. If you don’t know what that means, just Google “Zappos offices” and scroll through the images. Zappos people are pretty cool. And Hsieh’s book was interesting from beginning to end.

Like many companies, Zappos has developed core values that guide how the company runs. One of the coolest (in my opinion) is Core Value #5: Pursue Growth and Learning. Hsieh is a major proponent of reading as a means of growing as a human. His belief is that if a person is not learning and growing on her own, she won’t be as productive as she can be as an employee. So to foster this idea and help his employees along, Hseih has a dedicated Zappos library.

Zappos Lobby Library

Zappos Lobby Library

Team members can rent books for free and are encouraged to read often. You can see the books in their library here.

 

Readers Are Winners

Abraham Lincoln successfully led the country through its darkest days during the Civil War. So it’s safe to say that he needed to be pretty knowledgable to accomplish that. In his early years, Lincoln was entirely self educated. He had only been to school for what only amounted to less than a year total by the time he was 21. However, because of his desire to learn, he was able to stay highly educated. Lincoln learned a lot from reading on his own. He loved books. In fact, his best friend once said, “I never saw Abe after he was 12, that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket.”

Image via Britannica

Image via Britannica

That love of reading followed him all through his life. In an article published in the New York Times in 1887, a man told a story about his friend who experienced Lincoln’s love of reading firsthand. The friend had the opportunity to meet Lincoln in the lobby of his hotel one morning. As he approached Lincoln, the man noticed that he was reading Homer’s Illiad. After the two got to talking, Lincoln said, “You know a man might as well be out of the world as not read Homer’s Illiad.”

For context, this was during the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The man was quite impressed that Lincoln, in the middle of a very crucial time of his life, still found the time to read for personal enjoyment and growth. Lincoln won the presidency two years later.

 

Reading With Your Ears

I’ve shared a few examples about “why” you should read, but now I’d like to address the “how.” Finding spare time is a major issue for most of us. It’s hard to find the time to eat breakfast before work, let alone the time to read a few chapters of a book. A few years back I thought I was doomed to live my life without books because I could never find the time to sit down and read. But that’s when my father taught me the ancient art of reading with your ears.

All of a sudden, the time that I usually wasted listening to sub-par morning radio stations could be used to expand my knowledge base. My very first audiobook was Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell got my brain making all kinds of connections, going a million miles a minute. I was reading a book a week just by listening every time I got in the car.

What I learned from that experience is that we can make time for things we value. After I got a few audiobooks under my belt, my desire to read only grew. I began making time to read physical books in between the time I spent reading audiobooks. My priorities had shifted, and I grew immensely as a result.

Podcasts 4

And the thing is, reading doesn’t even have to be done with an audiobook. You can listen to TED talks or podcasts and still get the same brain-powering results. It all just depends on how dedicated you are to learning. With summer just around the corner, I’m beyond excited to get back outside with my hammock and a cold beverage and dive into some good books. Plus, you know what that means: more visits to gas stations and bookstores.

What books are on your summer reading list? What books should I put on mine? You can leave a comment or hit me with a tweet. And don’t forget, you can track all your reading on Degreed! Podcasts and all!

“Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” – John Wooden

Here’s the thing: at Degreed we’ve created an awesome learning platform that gives people the power to track, validate and find learning from any source. We wouldn’t be able to do a really good job at building that without being obsessed with learning ourselves. We were thinking, what if we gave you a clear picture of how real people actually learn at Degreed? So we’re doing just that- by diving into our own habits and learning goals.

Before we start, you should know that at Degreed, each employee receives $100 a month to learn whatever they want, and unlimited additional dollars if the learning is job related. This benefit is called FlexED, you’ll hear more about that below. Without further ado,  let’s meet Taylor.

 

How we learn at degreed

Taylor Blake is a product manager who’s been with Degreed for 3 years. Taylor lives in Salt Lake City, and is interested in innovation, politics, history and solving complex problems. This is how Taylor learns:

What topics or skills are you interested in learning about?

Effective learning and product management

How do you like to learn? 

I learn with books, podcasts, audio books, traditional classes, MOOCs, articles, online reading, hands on experience, and conferences.

As a Degreed employee, you receive $100 a month for learning as FlexED, how do you like to use your FlexED? 

I buy the occasional book, but mostly save it up for MOOC certificates.

Favorite Expert:

I quite like Clayton Christensen. He has a way of uncovering insights through developing strong theories and frameworks.

What’s the biggest takeaway from what you’ve learned in the last 6 months? 

I’ve been trying to learn a lot about learning.  I’ve learned a lot about how to learn more effectively which mostly comes down to using recall and schemas to solidify learning. For example, I’ve noticed the time I spend reading things online is less effective when I don’t take the time to reflect on or incorporate the things I’ve read. Using the ‘skills’ on Degreed helps me summarize and retain to make it more effective.

I also really enjoyed a book I read recently called “How to Measure Anything” which was really thorough in outlining how to measure things you previously thought weren’t measurable and how to calculate the value of information so you know where to spend time measuring. I also just finished a prototype course module from HBX on effective decision making. In the past, when faced with a team decision, it seems we often just wing it and use our intuition to come to a decision. I learned that there are clear, well researched methods for improving decision making.

How have your learning habits changed since joining Degreed? 

I consume more information and am always looking to learn more things. I’m working on retaining more of my learning by summarizing and saving the most important things I learn. I use skills on Degreed to summarize things I learn, and I use pathways to organize the most important articles and videos related to the skills I’m trying to develop.

Favorite problems to solve: 

I like solving big system problems. I like the macro view. I also like solving problems that will really help other people.

How does making the effort to learn something help you personally and at work? 

When you’re trying to learn something you are forced to be deliberate, be self-aware, and get outside your comfort zone. While those things can be exhausting they also create rewarding, memorable experiences. I’ve seen that be true at work and personally.

What’s the most useful skill you’ve ever learned?

A skill I’ve been working on recently, which I think will pay big dividends, is to learn how to create and break habits to make the most of each day. Certain things I try to accomplish during the day suck a large portion of my willpower such as cleaning the apartment or exercising. Making those a habit so they don’t drain my willpower or mental energy would be great.

Similarly, the are certain things that I don’t want to be routine, such as the activities I do with my family when I get home from work. By breaking those routines it helps slow time down, helps you make more and deeper memories, and helps you appreciate each moment. It’s still a work in progress.

Learning goal for 2016:

Retain more of what I learn. Complete a Coursera specialization or Edx X-series.

Taylor’s Degreed Stats:

49 courses

56 books

3,161 articles

343 videos

Most active skills; business, product management, education.

 

You can follow Taylor on Degreed here. You can also get credit for reading this article by clicking the button below. Throughout this “How We Learn” blog series we’ll be giving you a closer look at how we learn at Degreed, but we also want to know how you learn- so tweet us at @degreed and tell us what works best for you!

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