Taking On Technology Education for Women with Skillcrush Founder Adda Birnir

Taking On Technology Education for Women with Skillcrush Founder Adda Birnir

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The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why, after working 4 years in media, Adda taught herself to code — and founded Skillcrush shortly thereafter.
  • How customer interviews inspired Adda to repackage Skillcrush’s tutorial-style learning to classroom-based online learning with dedicated instructors.
  • How Adda approached customer research to take the guesswork out and really get inside her ideal customers’ head to create just what they needed.
  • Why the Skillcrush team is fully distributed and how a remote team forces you to deal with structural issues — quickly.  

Today on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I talk with Adda Birnir, founder of Skillcrush, an interactive learning community that teaches (mostly) women to code. Only a few years ago, Adda left her media job, learned how to code, and launched Skillcrush. Impressive!

She used her newfound coding skills to change her career path — and knew that other women could use those same skills to transform their lives, too. In this episode, we talk about how Adda uses customer research and feedback to design a service that her ideal customers love — and what the realities are of growing a business with a fully distributed team.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On customer research

When all else fails, just going out and taking the time to talk to your customers, it will always send you in the right direction. And I will also say, we’re almost always wrong about what we think going into it. Every time we want to skip that step, we’re always so glad that we did it.

Adda Birnir

Customer research is at the heart of everything Adda and the Skillcrush team does. When Skillcrush first launched with two tutorials, they followed up with customers. Were they interested in buying more? It turns out that most said no.

Adda wanted to understand the why behind their disinterest. So using advice from the book Running Lean by Ash Maurya, she scheduled in-person customer interviews to find out more. Not only did she call up everyone who fit her ideal customer — Adda also asked friends to introduce her to their friends who fit the bill.

By sitting down with her ideal customers, face-to-face, Adda gleaned information that transformed the way Skillcrush operates today.

On taking risks in business

There’s no way to guarantee success ahead of time. You just have to, at the end of the day, risk to the extent that you can. Then balance the risking it with the fact that when you launch something you’re going to learn a lot. Even if something flops, that’s good learning which is still excruciatingly painful for me every time.

— Adda Birnir

Having a new program campaign underperform, new platform messaging not resonate at all, or having zero people sign up for your new course. No one likes to see their idea fail — but, at the very least, you’ve learned something new about what works and what doesn’t.

Adda brings this very approach to everything she launches in Skillcrush — and, even years later, having an idea flop is not a good time, no matter how much she learns. Running — and growing — your business requires you to adapt, change, reiterate, and try, try again…

And when it comes to product development? “What you try not to do is do it based on what you like,” says Adda. “Just assume that you have no idea what you’re doing and operate from that place, because, in my experience, it’s the healthiest place to work from.”

On growing a distributed team

I think that problems that growing companies face (at least structurally) — you hit them earlier with a remote team. Or, let’s put it this way, there’s no way of getting around them.

– Adda Birnir

Wouldn’t it be nice to figure out organizational issues while your team is still small? That’s exactly what Adda thinks, too. From her experience, she’s found that having a small, yet distributed team helped her identify organizational issues that needed smoothing out before growing more.

Sometimes even hiring a single contractor highlights where tasks or project assignments fall through the cracks — but it’s a good way to test the structure of your business.

Listen to the full episode with Adda Birnir, founder of Skillcrush, to hear more about how to use customer research to repackage your offerings and how to take risks, even if they flop.

The Evolution of CreativeLive and Online Education with CreativeLive Co-Founder Chase Jarvis

The Evolution of CreativeLive and Online Education with CreativeLive Co-Founder Chase Jarvis
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • How CreativeLive has evolved since it started 7 years ago
  • What’s new and exciting in the online education industry
  • What enhancements to self-education should be expected in the near future

My guest on the 100th—yes, 100th—episode of the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast is Chase Jarvis, co-founder of CreativeLive, the online education company that co-produces this podcast with me.

In celebration of this milestone, CreativeLive and I are thrilled to announce that we’ve put together an amazing giveaway for our listeners!

You can win my hand-picked bundle of 14 CreativeLive classes—taught by some of your favorite Profit. Power. Pursuit. guests—valued at $1,486 dollars PLUS a trip to CreativeLive studios as a studio audience member for an upcoming class of your choice!

Listen to our 100th episode interview with Chase Jarvis for details and information on contest rules.

Here are the incredible classes you could win in the contest bundle!

  • Instagram Marketing for Small Businesses with Sue B. Zimmerman
  • The Art of Networking with Jordan Harbinger
  • A Brand Called You with Debbie Millman
  • Mastering Your People Skills with Vanessa Van Edwards
  • Personal Branding for Creative Professionals with Dorie Clark
  • Make Your Dream Trip a Reality with Chris Guillebeau
  • How to Leverage the Power of Live Online Broadcasts with Joel Comm
  • Become a Better & Funnier Public Speaker with David Nihill
  • Think Bigger, Make More with Jason Womack
  • The Personal MBA: The Foundations of an Effective Business with Josh Kaufman
  • Heroic Public Speaking with Michael Port
  • Make More Money & Discover Your Worth with Sue Bryce
  • Branding Strategies to Grow Your Business with Jasmine Star
  • Create Your Dream Career with Michelle Ward

In the special 100th episode interview, Chase and I chat about the evolution of CreativeLive since its inception, the state of the online education industry and the exciting time we’re entering to enhance the experience of self-education.

Evolution of CreativeLive

Our goal is to unlock the power of creativity that’s inside of every person.

– Chase Jarvis

The concept for CreativeLive started when Chase and co-founder Craig Swanson began toying with the idea of making workshops to inspire and support creators with a fresh approach to education. They wanted to give students access to the innovators, visionaries and leaders who are doing the work. After their first pilot class on Photoshop, they knew they were onto something. Today, they have more than 1,500 classes, 2,500 articles, this podcast and much more that help creators live their dreams.

While there’s much that’s stayed the same since the company started, the biggest thing that has changed is the scope of content they have to offer students and how they give those students access to precisely the class they need. CreativeLive has more than 10 million students who consume 3 billion minutes of video on the platform. Listen in to the entire podcast to hear how they are “growing into our own skin” and how they hope to connect students with the learning that will unlock their biggest need or challenge. Doing so will help them make a living and a life doing what they love.

Today, the CreativeLive team is much more intentional and sophisticated when determining what new content or classes to provide and how it finds instructors than it was in the early days.

Online Education Industry

In the future, all CEOs will be considered artists.

– Chase Jarvis

Education is this amazing glue between brands and customers. In the future, Chase believes that education is going to decentralize away from schools and become integrated in every brand/customer relationship. Education is the most authentic content marketing that exists. Content marketing adapts to education rather than the other way around.

Companies that care about you will provide great education. If their products are part of that, then that’s a nice incidental thing. As brands provide value to consumers’ lives over time, when it’s time to transact, those consumers will be there for you. That’s a massive global trend.

Opportunities to Enhance the Self-Education Experience

I think we’re just getting started.

– Chase Jarvis

Now, CreativeLive is working on how to make the website and the platform better with the use of technology to help the student journey. The team is trying to solve problems such as how to string a lot of lessons together to enhance the self-education process. Because they’re getting smarter and more experienced, they can leverage technology and create a better user experience. Data is also helping inform the classes that are created and offered and to develop solutions to what students want. Just as the CreativeLive team has become more intentional and sophisticated, self-education platforms will be as well.

Tune in to the full podcast to hear more from Chase about his predictions for the online education industry, how he integrates creativity as part of building a business and what’s on the horizon for CreativeLive.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you will be with me every week as I get the Nitty-Gritty details from today’s thriving business owners.