Career Pathway

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.

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.

5 Steps to Begin Your Professional Development

Professional Development and You in 5 Steps
so...You’re Frustrated With Your Career?

 

So here you are. You’ve been working for a year or two (or ten), and you’re frustrated. You’re probably sitting at your desk right now, combing through job postings on your lunch break all with the goal of finding your dream job. You’re savvy, self-motivated, and not afraid to try new things, but your current job isn’t taking advantage of your skills, and you know it isn’t going to provide you with the career growth and stimulation you need to truly thrive.

The challenge, though, lies in sussing out the steps for the right career path—and in finding the right tools and skills that will get you where you want. Maybe you just need to fill in your knowledge gaps, or maybe you need the right connections to get your dream job. Regardless, grinding away at your current role isn’t an option, but now you’re faced with the grand question: “Now what?”

Here are our five tips on what to think about as you prepare yourself for this next step in life.
 

1. Remember: You Create Your Future

Education and connections have a huge role in your professional success, but just because you don’t have family money and an Ivy League degree doesn’t mean you can’t be just as successful as Herbert Bifford III, your college bf’s second cousin who now runs his own wealth management fund (which of course he started with his own trust fund).

While getting ahead used to require a huge investment of time and resources if you weren't lucky enough to have these at your disposal, there are now a couple of ways you can hack the system. First things first. You’ll have to think long and hard about your ultimate career goals.
 

2. Map Out Your Career Path

While it’s true that your career might change several times over the course of your lifetime, starting out with a concrete plan is key. With a defined goal, you can start creating the professional development plan that lets you figure out what skills you’ll need to acquire to get your dream job.

Let’s say you want to break into Product Management, or that your goal is to work in Digital Marketing for Google. There are a variety of soft skills and technical skills you’ll need to possess to be a viable candidate
 

3. Professional Development Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

If professional development is the combination of technical skills training
(“learning”), soft skills development (“connecting”), and professional network-building (“creating”) that enables you take the next steps down your desired career pathway, remember this:  your professional development needs to be tailored both to your industry and you.

If this is the first time you’ve started down the path to professional development, you’ll want to look out for learning opportunities that offer the learning, connecting, and creating development you seek.
 

4. Identify Your Best Options for Gaining Lifelong Learning Skills

Weigh whether finding a career coach, getting an online certification, or getting a nanodegree at one of the online MOOCs could be your best course of action.     

Interestingly enough, these options typically address only one aspect of the professional development equation:  career coaches are great for developing your career pathway and soft skills approach, while online certifications typically address just technical/hard skills.

Here’s where digital learning solutions like Quora, Brightmind, even Duolingo enter:  each of them offer the ability to work on your technical skills as part of a learning community.
 

5. But I Want an All-in-One Professional Skills Development App!

Fine, fine, you got us:  learning apps like Duolingo and sites like Quora don’t foster the intimacy and collaboration that a learning community like Brightmind does.

But what is Brightmind? We’re an app in the career skills space - a vibrant community of peers and experts in any professional field who provide targeted training and connections for careers like Product Management, Digital Marketing, and Web development. Brightmind provides the resources, connections, and community in a single, convenient, free format.

Taking control of your future has never been easier, so participate in our beta, and join the revolution today.

Being Scrappy Is Overrated

It’s generally viewed as a good thing to be scrappy: fighting against the odds, finding new angles, and mobilizing people and other resources to produce a desired outcome. But, is being scrappy always advisable?

In my experience, when scrappiness is relied upon more than real talent, when it is prioritized above human relationships, or when it causes people to be overly optimistic and unrealistic, it can run the risk of undermining the inherent value it brings.

I’ve built my career pursuing interests in education technology, gaming, and development technology. A couple of times I’ve held roles in early phase startups. In every new role, I had to get scrappy to be effective. This was often a painful and tedious process and I learned first-hand about the benefits and pitfalls of being scrappy.

Gotta Get the Skills First, i.e. the First of Many Learning Experiences

It was 1998. I was a recent college grad with a ton of ambition, so the most logical decision I could have made would be to pursue an opportunity in a venture capital firm. My background didn’t exactly set me up for success:  I had majored in International Relations and German in college, and lacked the foundation in economic math or business administration that many of my colleagues brought. How I finessed my way into a job that was far beyond my skill set I chalk up to the hubris of youth.  

Acquiring the knowledge and skills I needed took a lot more time and effort than I had anticipated—ONE YEAR of diligent attention to trial and error before I reached any meaningful skill development, before I confidently assessed my own deals. I learned the hard way that scrappiness is no substitute for professional skills (or at the bare minimum, the traditional education that would have set me up for success)..

Relationships Matter:  Don’t Forget About People

Flash forward to 2005:  as a founding member of the e-learning startup, The Academy, I decided to build a games production subsidiary. As CEO, I was responsible for budget, hiring, partnerships, securing initial customers…. basically, the viability of the company.

Even though I had held executive roles in the past, I had never been a CEO. It was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. One of the key tasks was securing production and marketing partners that had a real interest in helping our business grow. 

In my first few partnership deals, I moved too quickly to get the deal done. In my haste to ink a deal, the unintended sense of urgency created an underlying distrust and distance between me and the partner executives. Realizing that I’d have to bridge the communication chasm to regain our initial momentum, I made a concerted effort to get to know the individuals at these companies on a personal level--not just as business managers. The result? Our new-found common ground made all the difference in building a strong foundation of trust upon which we could pursue our common interests.

The Power of a Heartfelt “No”

Scrappy people are often “can do” people; they aren’t easily dissuaded by an opportunity or challenge. But this can get them into trouble. As the co-founder of the ed- tech firm, Brightmind, I’ve been in several pitch meetings where an investor or potential partner suggests an idea for a business model or feature. It is tempting, as an entrepreneur, to say “of course we can do that!”

I’ve had to learn to wait a couple beats and, grounded in my firm’s business model and vision, speak a firm but well-reasoned “no.” Without this discipline, I may impress a stakeholder in the moment, but simultaneously compromise my firm’s long-term potential and, ultimately, my own enjoyment of my project.

Better Find Your Balance

There is certainly value in being scrappy, but it can’t be the only thing you bring to the table. I learned the hard way the importance of gaining a solid professional skills base to anchor my ambition. I also learned that relationships matter just as much as product or strategy. Finally, my experiences taught me the danger of too readily accepting challenges that run the risk of compromising my own vision.

The motivation behind the career skills platform Brightmind stems from my interest in helping scrappy people like me progress faster and avoid sabotaging themselves. At its core, Brightmind is a vibrant and supportive community of learners and experts who provide answers to urgent questions and contribute real world best practices. Supporting your study of every subject are targeted learning paths. The result is a platform that provides learners with access to customized career skills training and professional relationships.

If you’re the type of person that has more ambition than opportunity, Brightmind can help. As I look back on my career trajectory, if Brightmind had been available to me, I’m confident I could have avoided some embarrassing moments and hard lessons when my ambition outpaced by ability, when my scrappiness nearly derailed my vision.