Fireside Chat with General Assembly’s President - Future of Learning and Work

I had the pleasure of attending the fireside chat session with General Assembly's President and COO, Scott Kirkpatrick, last night. Since 2011, General Assembly has transformed tens of thousands of careers through pioneering, experiential education in today’s most in-demand skills such as web development, data, design, and digital marketing. Kirkpatrick scaled GA’s business globally and played an instrumental part in the acquisition of GA by the Adecco Group for $425 million.

The session had been especially insightful and several themes were brought up:

- Leadership

"Humans need to be inspired and elevated. Managers shift behaviors; leaders elevate behaviors." Intrigued by the point on elevation, I decided to find out more about what it means to elevate and managed to find a good read on Forbes written by Dov Seidman.

The most effective leaders today inspire a sense of purpose and values through their actions, elevating others in all that they do:

Their deliberate approach toward shaping culture emphasizes and sets expectations, not just about what can and cannot be done through rules, but what should be done by emphasizing values and enabling others to bring their full character to every situation. In the past, everyone’s job was to do the next thing right, to do it correctly. Today, when everybody is called upon to contribute their full character and creativity, everybody’s job is no longer to do the next thing right, but to do the next right thing. A machine can be programmed to do the former, but only a human being can do the latter.

This is definitely a win-win situation for the organisation and the individual (and also perhaps the society). I can see how education plays a huge role in elevating people.

- Talent acquisition/ development

Currently, most organizations lack long range planning of skills they need for their companies and hence there is always the issue of talent shortage. And to find the talent to fill the position they need, companies poach from one another. However, this is a zero-sum game. To address this skill gap, there is a need to train and upskill current employees. While the rate of disruption varies from industry to industry, Kirkpatrick mentioned that "60% of the jobs today will see at least 30% of the work they are doing change with the growth of AI". It was exciting to hear how some companies have sent employees from different functional groups such as finance and HR to undergo training programmes at GA to increase the diversity of women in tech as well.

- Democratization of technology

With technology being accessible to more and more people, it is increasingly important for the workforce to be equipped with certain skills to stay relevant and competitive. As stated on GA's website, dynamic fields like data science and web development evolve in real time, and they continuously pilot, launch, and sunset programs to respond to market demand and the evolution of tools and techniques. But of course, while this was not mentioned, most would agree that we shouldn't be chasing technology but chasing problems to be solved where technology is a great enabler.