Brightmind and Your Career

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

For Fritz Morris, founder of Brightmind, it’s not a cup of coffee, it’s a pang of hunger. Craving the breakfast of champions—the challenge of building an adult learning app that forges new territory in the career skills space—Fritz leads the effort behind Brightmind with the same hunger he’s approached his entire professional life:  with the aspiration to achieve meaningful things, to do them well regardless of resources, and to surmount whatever obstacles he might encounter.

Brightmind is a digital learning app that creates a community around career skills acquisition. Still in beta, they are already drumming up interest in the Silicon Valley startup scene, as well as on a larger (global!) scale. They’re especially proud that their early adopters span the gamut: from Ivy League-educated professionals with 15+ years’ experience to recent college graduates.

Through the app, the users build a tight-knit learning community. They foster their own professional development with the relationships and tools they need to achieve their career goals.

Our mission is to break down the barriers to career exploration and training. We give professionals at any level the tools and network they need to reach the next level. - Fritz Morris, Brightmind CEO

The idea behind the app is a business pain that the startup team often felt throughout their careers: getting up to speed and staying current on the knowledge essential to a role. Below, Fritz gives us a glimpse into Brightmind’s inception.

You Need to Be Cheeky...

It was 1998. I was a recent college grad with a lot of ambition. I decided to pursue an opportunity to work as an associate at a venture capital firm. Unfortunately, my educational background didn’t exactly set me up for success:  I had majored in International Relations and German. Although I had some basic financial modeling skills, it wasn’t enough to comfortably do my job. I had a steep learning curve. How I finessed my way into a job that was beyond my skill set I chalk up to the hubris of youth.

...But Not TOO Cheeky

Acquiring the skills I needed took a lot more time and effort than I had anticipated. I looked online (this was the early days of Google), plus sought out advice from senior staff and former college professors. Over the course of about a year, I built my professional skills to the point where I was fairly comfortable assessing deals on my own.

This first job wasn’t the only time that I punched above my weight class:  over the next dozen years, my roles in education technology, gaming, and development technology meant I had to get scrappy to rebuild my core knowledge base and network. This was often a tedious process.

My motivation to build Brightmind stems from my interest in helping scrappy people from any background get ahead. Learning doesn’t stop when you get your degree. I want to help people find their career footing faster and stay on top of their game.

Brightmind vs. Online Learning vs. Learning Apps

We developed Brightmind with the learner (or rather, the lifelong learner) in mind:  to give you the information you need when you need it and to include you in a community to inspire and motivate you.

We’re fundamentally different from other learning environments in two ways:

We Share Personalized Know-how

The traditional education model is based on the idea of a course, where students are required to complete a series of lectures. Typically taught by just one instructor, these courses shift the control of your educational experience to your professor.

In contrast, Brightmind users have the option of consuming as much or as little information as they want.  If they’ve mastered the basics, perhaps they only want incremental information. Or, if they are still building their professional skills, students can engage with foundational skills instruction. Our community of scholars and students are always learning from our content, regardless of their career maturity. The student is in control of crafting exactly the right approach.

We Empower a Community of Peers, Experts, and Lifelong Learners

You can leverage the power of the Internet (and the digital learning solutions that leverage it) 24/7/365, right?

Wrong. Online courses, online certification programs, and instructor-led trainings often rely on instructor availability. What’s more, self-education through search and Q-and-A tools requires copious amounts of time. What this means for you is that even though information exists, it still might not be readily accessible.

Enter Brightmind. At its core, Brightmind is a vibrant and supportive community of experts and professional learners. We work hard to make Brightmind a welcoming, friendly place where people diverse backgrounds support each and champion one another's success.

There is a Better Way…

Brightmind introduces a new way to self-educate. Our vision is an open community where career climbers build and share foundational knowledge for any professional pursuit. It is a destination for lifelong learning where users pursue their own career dream along with like-minded learners, helping each other succeed.

Fritz and the rest of the Brightmind team are excited to welcome you to the family of learners. Join our beta, and let’s make history.

Tech Titans and Learning Communities

Tech Titans and Learning Communities

Jack Ma, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. Three of the most successful businesspeople of the 21st century, each a billionaire many times over. Is there anything about their education or early careers they have in common? Not surprisingly, each was strong-willed, scrappy, and driven. But take a closer look, particularly the way they gained foundational knowledge early in their careers, and you’ll notice a common thread:  each benefitted from a simple, but powerful form of education, a learning community.

What’s a learning community? Here is my definition:  a group of people with varying levels of expertise who share a common interest, committed to supporting each other. Members of learning communities discuss topics freely, ask questions based on their interests, and help each other get ahead. Following are examples of how learning communities helped to foster the careers of these three tech titans.

Jack Ma’s Hotel University

Internet giant Alibaba is arguably the most influential Chinese firm today, and Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, arguably the most influential Chinese business leader. Born to poor parents, Ma nevertheless started dreaming big even as a young man. He instinctively knew learning English would be key to his success. So, when Ma was a teenager, he spent nine years working as a tour guide at his uncle’s hotel in Hangzhou. As Ma engaged hotel guests in conversation, particularly those from the U.S. and the West, he listened attentively and internalized what he heard.

According to Ma, his experience at the hotel shaped his future in fundamental ways. He learned fluent English and built confidence interacting with others. Most importantly, Ma’s time at the hotel opened his mind to learning from any source at any time and inspired him to tackle ambitious goals in business. He internalized lessons that would guide him throughout his career. Ma credits the conversations he had with guests as a critical factor in his later success and informal professional development.

Steve Jobs’ Designer Community at Reed

In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve Jobs recalled his decision to drop out of Reed College after just one semester. He explained how guilty he felt taking his parent’s money for tuition (his foster parents were not wealthy) when he was unsure what he wanted to do professionally.

He dropped out, but didn’t leave campus. He audited classes, attending only those courses in which he had a personal interest. One of these courses, a calligraphy course taught by renowned font designer Lloyd Reynolds, would prove particularly impactful. In Job’s words:

“Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

- Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005

His passion for design and fonts, sparked in this course, would later guide his software design for the MacIntosh computer, a product that put Apple on the map. But it wasn’t just the content of the course that influenced Jobs. At Reed, he found a group of kindred spirits who shared his interests in topics like design, philosophy, and world religion. It was the community at Reed that helped Jobs formulate his vision and foster his interests.

Bill Gates' Nerd Crew

Most people have heard the story of how Bill Gates started Microsoft from his dorm room at Harvard. What many people don’t realize is how Gate’s engagement with an informal learning community at Harvard shaped his future.

As a teenager, Gates befriended Paul Allen, a classmate at Lakeview high school. Paul was one of four Lakeview students, including Gates, who was barred from CDC (Control Data Corporation) for a year for hacking code. During college, Gates remained in contact with Allen, and even worked with him at Honeywell during his summer break at Harvard in 1974. The following year, with the release of the MITS Altair 8800, Gates and Allen saw the opportunity to start their own computer software company.  

During the time he was starting Microsoft, Gates admits his focus was not on his required courses, but on starting his company. He dropped out, and began building Microsoft full-time. On the other hand, like Jobs, he did gain a lot from a community of learners. As he describes it, a group of “math nerds” would meet at his dorm room every week, talk about various topics, including how principles they were learning could be applied in the real world. He claims this community played an important role in his development as a technology entrepreneur.

Where’s Your Learning Community?

Learning Communities can significantly improve learning and skill mastery. This is especially true for people with minimal access to quality education and networks. People learn faster and retain information longer when they focus on what truly interests them and when they have an opportunity to prove their know-how by sharing it with others. Learning communities also provide networking hubs where people can build relationships and discover opportunities.

There are many ways to find your learning community.  You can enroll in a formal training program - an online or offline course, degree program, or corporate training program. Or, you can join or start an informal learning community. Offline communities include meetups and clubs like Meetup.com or Startupgrind. Informal, online learning communities can be found at sites like Redditt, Tumblr, or Stackexchange, media platforms like Youtube and Medium, or Q&A platforms like Quora and Ask.

Another option is now Brightmind, a new type of knowledge sharing platform that delivers both learning and community in unique ways. While a person can access learning pathways on their own and learn passively, they can also plug into communities related to their interests to get answers and share their knowledge.

No matter your interests, with all the options available to a hungry learner, there is more opportunity than ever to find the skills, answers, and relationships you need to build and share your expertise. Ready to join the professional skills revolution?

Join Brightmind today--and let us know what you think!

Learning Experiences and Your Career Pathway: How to Connect the Dots

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Congratulations, You Just Graduated College: Now What?

Finding Your Way in the World

Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Whether you’ve graduated from college or you’re still working on your degree, the pressure feels the same. You’ve got to balance expectations your friends, family, and society place upon you with your own aspirations....and if you’re like most of us, you’ve got the added desire to find something you love to do as well!

The good news? You’re not alone. Anyone who says they know what they’re doing for the rest of their life is either lying to you or to themselves. In the course of your early professional development, shifting career gears is more than common, and for most, it happens numerous times. There are two key things to remember, though:  that you control the career pathway you take, and that you prepare yourself by selecting the appropriate learning path to support your career decision.

Selecting Your Career Pathway

Many of us have trouble with that first step. There are so many fears that run through our heads: “Does this pay enough?” — “What if it’s boring?” — “What will my parents say?” — and sometimes even: “What if I DO like this and everything works out?” Although it seems counter-intuitive, sometimes even the idea of our own success holds us back.

Why Finding the Learning Experiences that Support Your Career Choices Is Key

The challenge with the second step is that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. While college is an excellent opportunity to refine the lifelong learning skills you’ll use throughout your life, it does not provide you with the practical professional development you need for the modern workplace—and may even neglect to develop the employability skills that make you a highly desirable candidate.

One additional challenge that you might face is the impact that one large factor outside your control—the inclination of your new employer to teach you critical job skills—has on your ability to be successful in your new role.

From the early job hunting phases to your first weeks on the job, let’s face it:  figuring it out is tough! What role is the right one for you; are you qualified for that role; if not, what kind of skills are needed to succeed in a given career. Cobbling together the right pieces to unlock the doors to your dream job isn’t easy.

The Digital Solution

How, exactly, do we help you? One, explore careers with pathways that show you what different careers actually entail. Two, learn how to be successful in these different careers by interacting with targeted training. Three, take advantage of the community of peers and experts who support you along the way. This three-pronged approach will also build your confidence, so you will be ready when you’re applying for your dream job.

Sign up for our Beta, and start making your own path today.   

3 Ways to Develop Your Career with Effective Leadership

And yet, the question still stands:  what does leadership mean to you, and better yet, how does it play into your professional development? From what we’ve seen work for most high performers, leadership boils down to three key components:  fostering skills in the next generation, engaging with your industry community, and building your personal brand.

Here, we’ve compiled how these three aspects of leadership contribute to making you a more well-rounded employee, as well as some tips to put these recommendations into action.

1. Lead from the Front

From Warren Buffett to Marcus Aurelius, Nelson Mandela to Jeff Bezos, our world’s greatest leaders possess qualities (focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, inspiration) that have been integral to their success.  Even more, they all manifest themselves in a style that’s engaged, empowering, and brings out the best in their people.

Providing direction and guidance to your junior employees (while providing the tools and support needed) is, in effect, one of the most successful leadership traits we’ve seen. Sharing knowledge, then, takes place through both formal and informal channels. If you have direct reports, you should build development into their performance plans, and actively look to coach employees on the career skills that will make them (and you) more successful. You’ve garnered a stash of tips and tricks along the way that can help your junior colleagues, so share them! If you’re aware of conferences and workshops that would benefit employees under your wing, then encourage them to participate.

When you approach your own role with a pay it forward attitude, you’ll find that not only will your employees appreciate the growth in their skills, but they’ll also value the investment that you’re making in them, and will in turn, be happier employees.

Bringing out the best in the next generation of leaders isn’t just about cultivating skill development, through; fostering lifelong learning and “soft skills” that make employees and managers alike more successful often takes shape in professional mentoring programs.

2. Engage with Your Community

Professional mentoring programs may focus on career development, leadership development, or skills development.  The formats can vary between personal one-on-one relationships to group formats. You can participate in a mentorship program by reaching out to your organization’s HR department, or look externally to organizations like MicroMentor (if you have an entrepreneurial bent). Perhaps one of the most effective ways to build your your leadership skills is to actually become a mentor—which you can easily do through organizations like Serve.org, Imentor.org, and Mentoring.org.

Community engagement doesn’t necessarily have to follow such formal paths, however. If you’re short on time, are looking for a more informal environment in which to hone your soft skills, or want to find opportunities that are strictly expertise-driven, you might want to look for alternative options. These options could include volunteering for an industry organization (for example, opportunities that leverage your marketing skills or web development skills) or contributing to a career skills platform like Brightmind.  Ultimately, framing your skillset within the context of your community goes a long way towards building your brand—and, ultimately—your future.

3. Build Your Brand, Build Your Future

Think about what’s gotten you this far:  likely, a mix of dedication, a lifelong learning approach, the emotional intelligence to sense what’s working and what’s not for your team and your employees, formal education, and the informal learning opportunities have all informed the career pathway you’ve taken. All these factors—whether you realize it or not—form the foundation of what’s called your personal brand.

Compassionate Leadership and Career Success

Compassion is on the rise both as a component of individual and corporate leadership (i.e. the “conscious capitalism” movement), and while integrating a “pay it forward” attitude aligns with the ethos behind becoming a mentor and sharing your knowledge, it can become a foundational element to creating your personal brand.

Link:  HBR.Org

Link: HBR.Org

What Defines You?

Think about what makes you “you” on the individual contributor level, as how your personal brand translates to the context of your organization. Your personal brand can be broken down into several components:  your technical skill set, your soft skills and how you use emotional intelligence, and your leadership style. From an organizational standpoint, your personal brand and expertise manifest as your career pathway. Below, a few questions you should ask yourself as you think about how to build a personal brand:

  • What technical skills do you have now, and which ones will you need to grow to progress your career?

  • What soft skills have you developed, and how has your emotional intelligence contributed to your personal growth?

  • What’s your leadership style, and how does it play into the relationships you have both with managers and employees?

Ultimately, connecting the dots of who you are as an individual with who you are as an employee is an exercise in establishing your expertise, and the time that you invest in yourself to create this brand foundation is really an investment in your future.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. - Abraham Lincoln

Exercise Your Leadership Skills

Now that the gears are turning on how you’ll lead, when you’ll lead, and what defines your leadership style, start thinking about where you’ll lead. We’ve mentioned a few formal and informal places to put your leadership skills into practice, but let’s dig deeper into the career skills platform, Brightmind.

With a select number of high-growth career pathways, this digital learning solution provides the community and instruction fundamental to skill acquisition. Without the red tape and formality of most formal digital skills platforms, Brightmind allows users to share their knowledge even while learning from more senior industry colleagues.

The best part about the Brightmind movement to democratize professional education? It’s free, because the team behind Brightmind believes that for the next generation of leaders to emerge, you shouldn’t have to pay. Experience Brightmind for yourself by signing up for our beta.