Things Have Changed

Can E-Learning Translate to Job-Ready Skills? – with Chris Dutton

April 04, 2021 Things Have Changed
Things Have Changed
Can E-Learning Translate to Job-Ready Skills? – with Chris Dutton
Show Notes Transcript

In a world that's increasingly becoming data-driven, we see the importance of business intelligence or "BI". With more data getting gathered, we have the ability to find key metrics that can simply help us make better decisions.

Today we have a professional that has dedicated his life to helping people get into the field of business intelligence:  Chris Dutton, Founder and COO of Maven Analytics, an online business intelligence platform where you can start your journey towards becoming a BI professional. He shares with us the story of how he started with excel!

Excel is just one of the tools that Maven offers courses for, and is where Chris found his passion for teaching. He started out as “The excel guy”.

Chris is now a best-selling instructor on Udemy. This guy has taught about HALF A MILLION students. You can trust he knows what to focus on in the world of online learning. And at Maven, you can learn other BI tools like SQL, PowerBI, and Tableau. What makes it so special, is what Maven really focuses on: Student Outcomes.

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Chris Dutton [00:00:02] Excel is an unbelievable teaching tool for analytics by data science as a whole, by definition, Excel is a full stack development tool. It just works in a different way than a language like Python or R. And what's beautiful about Excel is that it exposes the data layer, the logic layer and the presentation layer inside of a single user friendly interface. Being able to teach those topics inside of a familiar Excel workbook is incredibly powerful. And what I found is that it helps people really understand and grasp some of these really complex topics. 

Jed Tabernero [00:00:44] That was Chris Dutton, founder and chief operating officer of Mavin Analytics, an online business intelligence platform. Or you can start your journey towards becoming a B.I professional. In our call today, he makes the case for Microsoft Excel. 

Chris Dutton [00:01:02] You've got 750 million Excel users around the world, so it is objectively it's the most ubiquitous and most popular data tool on the planet. 

Jed Tabernero [00:01:11] Excel is just one of the tools that the MAVEN analytics platform offers. And it's actually where Chris found his passion for teaching. Chris used to be known as the Excel guy. She's now a best selling instructor on Udemy. This guy has taught about half a million students you can trust, he knows what to focus on in the world of online learning, and it may even you can learn other BII tools like school PowerBI and Tableau. What makes it so special to us is what Maven really focuses on: The students 

Chris Dutton [00:01:55] at Mavin, our key metric for success is the student outcome, whether it's landing a job, earning a promotion, earning a certification, it really is the metric that drives how we operate our business. It drives what we build, how we build it, how we interact with our students. And in doing so, it really helps with metrics like retention, engagement, because essentially what we're doing is aligning our incentives with our students. Our incentive is to help you land a job. Then we're not successful unless our students are successful. 

Jed Tabernero [00:02:30] Stick around to learn more about Chris and to see how he's going to help you make sense out of the data. Welcome to THC, where we unpack the ever changing technology economy 

Adrian Grobelny [00:02:53] hangout with Jed, Shikher and Adrian as we tackle the industries of tomorrow. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:02:59] This is Things Have Changed. What's exciting for us is we have a person on today who has start over like, I don't know, some crazy numbers, half a million students across like two hundred countries. If that wasn't cool, his role as an instructor, he founded world class learning platform called MAVEN Analytics. But just before we start, Chris, this is an actual review for you on one of the platforms. And in quotes, I'm less of an expert at breathing than Chris. Is that Excel. So great to have you on, Chris, co founder of MAVEN Analytics. So first up, Chris, how did you get this good at Excel? 

Chris Dutton [00:03:52] How is it was it was a long and slow road, put it that way. And I went into my first full time job out of college as an analyst at an ad agency in Boston. And when I stepped through the door on day one, I thought I was about a ten out of ten out of Excel, like I would have like I messed myself like everyone else on the planet who has opened the program. Yeah, I was I was an Excel wizard, a badass, whatever you want to call it. And when I started on boarding in that first role, I realized that I was going to be replacing a senior analyst who had become known as the Excel guy at the company. And when he first showed me the stuff that he had built for the company, my mind was just blown. It was stuff that I had never even seen before. Function's functions named arrays VBA code. I very quickly realized that my ten out of ten was actually more like a three or four out of ten, which is a very common theme that I hear with New Excel users. It's it's that Dunning Kruger curve, which is that the fallacy where as you just begin your learning journey, you very quickly categorize yourself as an expert. And then the more you start to dig in, you more, the more you realize you don't know hopelessness sets in. They call it that the peak of incompetence and then the valley of despair when you start to realize how little you actually know. But the thing is, I loved everything I was seeing about Excel, and it was a little scary to realize how much I had to learn. But it was also very inspiring at the same time. And I think what struck me so profoundly at the time was that this guy was building Excel reports and dashboards and models that not only were extremely complicated and sophisticated under the hood, but they were beautifully designed and they're functional and they had amazing UX components, things that you would never associate with Excel. And I just really fell in love with the program from that day on. And I spent the six and a half years at where I played that that role for the agency really specializing in Excel. When he left, I inherited that title of Excel guy. My cubicle kind of became the unofficial Excel help desk. And I would have colleagues coming by pretty much every day asking for advice or tips or helping fix broken formulas, things like that. And I loved it. It was an amazing way to kind of sharpen my own skills. And that was actually also the moment when I realized my passion for teaching is being able to see the look in someone's eyes when that complex topic finally clicks for the first time. Like I just found that so incredibly fulfilling and to be able to. Be the one imparting that knowledge and eliciting that response in someone with a really profound and powerful thing for me. So I think that was one of the first moments in my life where I realized that I love to teach and could first see myself teaching professionally in future. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:07:17] So these are like the early days, right? Like, oh, no, late 20s, I think. Yeah. And so where were you going to to actually learn these skills or was it just like textbooks or just like tribal knowledge. 

Chris Dutton [00:07:31] No textbooks as never a textbook guy. It was not online learning because I didn't even know about online learning at the time. I think. Ninety nine percent of it was just on the job and learning from other experts in person. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:07:47] OK, that's that's fascinating where, you know, you have these years of accumulated knowledge in your head and you're like, OK, maybe I can just start condensing this and maybe start providing this info to other people who definitely need them. 

Chris Dutton [00:08:02] Yeah. And I mean, I stayed with that first job for six years. When I left, I decided to start my own kind of gig as an analytics consultant, and I wanted to make training part of what I was doing professionally. And so. My plan to kind of build that service, smaller scale, that part of my business originally was book as many corporate training sessions as I possibly could, because that was all I knew at the time and that's what I had been doing at the agency that I worked at. I was teaching the incoming analyst classes. So that was like. My only real path that I was aware of to scale this training business and actually kind of stumbled across the online learning thing accidentally, and I had booked a training session with a client who wanted to cover some pretty nuanced Vrba stuff. And I needed to brush up before I taught that session. So like anyone, I went to Google and I said, you know, VBA Resources. And I found this site called Udemy Dotcom, which I had never heard of at the time. And they had a course on VBA that looked pretty legit. It's like 12 bucks or something. So I enrolled and two things kind of struck me. The first was that there were something like fifty thousand students enrolled in this course. And I was like, well, that's pretty amazing. Like that kind of scale and reach for one course, at least at that time, just seemed unbelievable to me. And then from there, thinking about the revenue potential from an instructor standpoint, it seemed like it was a pretty viable business model. Right. So that kind of piqued my interest. And the other thing that jumped out at me once I dug in was that the course was so, so bad. It was not mean to sound mean and like no offense to the instructor or to the platform. But the whole time I'm taking the course, all I can think about is how I would be teaching it if I were in that role and how I would be structuring the curriculum differently, how I'd be sequencing topics in a way that beginners would understand better, how I would be adding more practical kind of Hands-On demos and communicating things and distilling topics in different ways. And that's that was, I guess, what you call the light bulb moment where I realized there's a lot of potential in this online learning space. And I feel like I could be uniquely qualified to teach in courses or at least give it a shot. And the more I started comparing pros and cons of online learning versus this traditional in-person learning model that I'd grown accustomed to, many people had, the more online learning seemed to be the play. I had full control over how I would build the curriculum. I could cover so much more content than I ever could condense into a one day or half day session for corporate client. I could pace it in a way that would keep advanced users engaged without totally overwhelming beginners, all of that stuff. And I could price it at a price point that makes it affordable and accessible to people around the world, all of which are good reasons to give it a shot. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:11:33] So and when was this? 

Chris Dutton [00:11:36] When will dismiss twenty. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:11:37] Fourteen still super early. 

Chris Dutton [00:11:39] Yes, this is the summer of 2014 and I, I distinctly remember that it was summer because I spent probably four or five hundred hours hunched under a heavy fleece blanket in my apartment in Boston in the middle of July, trying to eliminate echo and get the audio quality just right, sweating in this dark, miserable cave for hours and hours on end recording this course. And that was that was my first course ever as the Excel formulas and functions course. And needless to say, I had a lot to learn and has kind of figuring it out as I went. It was worth doing. It was worth doing well. So I really devoted a lot of time and energy into that first course and probably took three or four months and then I was off and running from there. 

Jed Tabernero [00:12:29] I share your frustration with the classes that I saw online during the time. It was about the time I was just learning about finance in general and just accounting, just the basic concepts of how to put data into something presentable. And Udemy was one of the ways that I was looking into it. YouTube was the primary way for me to learn anything. You see, if it was specific, like, I don't know, how do I make this data set into a pivot table? What are the shortcuts for X, Y, Z? And then my life suddenly turned into a shortcut kind of Excel guy because the finance industry requires certain, like just the way they train you. Like my first week they took away my mouse and they just had me use the keyboard to do all the functions and excel to be able to do the finance functions. And it was like it was it was a lot to try to do because I never had a formal Excel class, like many people who open this and look into it. And the classes on Udemy were there were reasonable, but I never completed a class on you me for Excel. For some reason I didn't know what it was. What was it that made you think? Like what I. I can teach this in a better way because I am probably funnier than like ninety nine percent of these people. What was it that made you do that? 

Chris Dutton [00:13:48] Honestly, I think the hardest part about being an educator teaching technical topics is the ability to distill complex ideas and framing them in a way that a 10 year old child could understand. And that really is the approach that we take and what we strive for with everything that we teach, whether we're teaching a relatively simple Excel formula or something a little bit more complex. To be an effective educator, you have to bring it down to the level of your learner. But we start simple. You start with the component pieces and the core elements, and then we slowly build and sequence from there. And at Mavin we probably spend more time on curriculum design and course flow than anyone else out there. I could say that was a pretty high level of confidence because it's that effort that really helps to build a great course at the end of the day. And if you don't dedicate the right amount of effort and attention to that phase of the instructional design in the way you're communicating and building on these topics, you end up with courses that can't keep students engaged. And maybe that's part of your experience as a learner. 

Jed Tabernero [00:15:03] One hundred percent, that definitely was. But before we get into that, I guess one thing I'd love to find out is, you know, you were one of the best selling instructors on you to me and you to me. It's a massive platform. At what point did you say I need to be on another thing? 

Chris Dutton [00:15:21] Yeah, well, to clarify, we still teach with you to me and you and me is still a very important partner for us as a business. The the moment where we realized that we had an opportunity to build something natively and unique in the Mavin Analytics platform that happened really just about two years ago. So we had been building a ton of traction on you. To me, it was our primary partner and distribution channel for these courses, and we started to expand our instructor roster, all teaching under the Mavin Analytics brand. And then the beauty of to me is that you get amazing reach and you get access to students from every corner of the world who would never find your content otherwise, which is a big reason why they've been such a great partner to work with. But when we started talking to students, getting feedback from students, one of the themes that kept emerging was that they just were feeling lost on a platform as big and broad as you to me. And there are many, many other platforms that we call kind, of course, factories where they teach thousands of topics from thousands of instructors. And it's great from a variety standpoint. But when a student enrolls many times, they just leave feeling lost because they don't even know where to start. Even if you're trying to learn a very specific or niche skill, you might have 40 or 50 courses to choose from. That all have kind of similar landing pages, similar price points, similar reviews. So how do you know where to start? So one of the really important reasons for building maven was to create what we call a guided learning experience where we can create these online flexible self-paced courses, but also build these really thoughtfully designed, curated learning paths and give students direct access to the instructors themselves to help coach them and guide them along the way. And that's it's really an effort to kind of bridge the gap in the e-learning space between those course factory models where it's high volume, low price point, very low touch. And then the other end of the spectrum, we've got very high price premium live boot camps that are inaccessible to most students. So we're trying to kind of play in between there and give the benefits of that personal human touch, plus the flexibility and the price accessibility of the course factor in models, too. So we kind of try to get the best of both worlds there. 

Adrian Grobelny [00:18:14] And we have a lot of companies starting to pivot away from Excel and start integrating different languages and different platforms. Like a lot of my friends have gone into finance learning Excel and then to take it to the next level, they're having to learn other programs such as school and Python. And, you know, Excel has been around since I don't know. What is it like the Niños, the. 

Jed Tabernero [00:18:41] Like crazy. Yeah, I think eighties is when they made it go out 90s when it became a household name, but it's crazy 

Adrian Grobelny [00:18:47] and we're still having new platforms, new courses on Excel. That blows my mind that we're still having issues with teaching Excel, yet it's been around for so long. So why did you feel Excel was the first product and the main focus that you wanted to center around when you have all these other languages, all these other platforms coming out? 

Chris Dutton [00:19:11] The question, there's a lot there. I think the first thing I'll say is that the excel of today looks nothing like the excel of the 90s or even the excel of five years ago. And this is a big part of the reason why many people don't realize how powerful Excel is or they discount Excel as an analytics or data tool because their idea of Excel is the version of Excel that they had used way back in the day for a very simple spreadsheet, calculations or data entry types of tasks. But Microsoft has pushed Excel forward at a tremendous pace, and I think they don't publicize or promote the advancements as well as they should, if I'm being honest, because nowadays Excel can handle hundreds of millions of rows of data. You compare that to 10, 15 years ago when you had sixty thousand row limits and then million limits. So that tools like Power Query, which can help with ETEL sourcing data and transforming and shaping data for analysis tools like Power Pivot four building reports and dashboards that blend data from multiple sources. These are the types of tools that are completely changing excels role in the data world and really making it a viable tool for professional analytics experts and business intelligence analysts. So not only that, but you've got new formula enhancements happening. You've got new data types. It's tying in with other tools like Microsoft powered by and working really well side by side. I learn these new tools and saw the evolution happening and getting really excited about it. And I wanted to share that same experience with other people to open their eyes as well. The other thing I'd say is that I firmly believe that the best online instructors and educators are people who practice what they preach and are true experts and practitioners in their craft. So Axl was my bread and butter. That was my sweet spot. And starting there and really focusing my content in the Excel space made sense for that reason as well. And the third reason is that Excel is an unbelievable teaching tool for analytics by data science as a whole. And the reason it's such a great teaching tool is that by definition, Excel is a full stack development tool. It just works in a different way than a language like Python or R. And what's beautiful about Excel is that it exposes the data layer, the logic layer and the presentation layer inside of a single user friendly interface. And so as you're learning about these pretty complex things, algorithms, formulas, whatever it may be, being able to teach those topics inside of a familiar Excel workbook show that transition from raw data through logic and calculation, through visualization and output is incredibly powerful. And what I've found is that it helps people really understand and grasp some of these really complex topics in a way that wouldn't be possible if they were simply running lines of code and scripts and tools like Python or R. 

Adrian Grobelny [00:22:45] I feel like you should be like a spokesperson for Excel. We need to get Chris like a chair position as head of Excel Development. 

Chris Dutton [00:22:53] And if you can't tell, I'm pretty passionate about this 

Adrian Grobelny [00:22:57] stuff at Microsoft. If you're listening, give 

Shikher Bhandary [00:22:59] this guy 

Chris Dutton [00:23:02] gets a bad reputation. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:23:03] It's crazy to think how much is still on Excel as a business language between businesses and between vendors. I've seen it used more than any other software. 

Chris Dutton [00:23:14] You've got seven hundred and fifty million Excel users around the world. So it is objectively it's the most ubiquitous and most popular data tool on the planet. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:23:22] So if Tablo was sold for 19 billion to Salesforce, 

Chris Dutton [00:23:29] what 

Shikher Bhandary [00:23:30] is Excel as a standalone company like the number is ridiculous. Like you wouldn't be able to put a number to it or no one would be able to afford it. 

Chris Dutton [00:23:39] Absolutely. 

Adrian Grobelny [00:23:41] You as a company have to be looking at the data for your users, what are you seeing in terms of users careers in industries? Which industries do you see using your courses the most? 

Chris Dutton [00:23:51] Yeah, we've been publicly live for just a little bit over a year, so we're learning. But what we're seeing so far is that we've got a lot of students coming from accounting and finance backgrounds and we get a lot of students who said we've got a lot of students who don't have any professional background yet and want to launch their first role or first career. And in fact, that is our number one target student. We really are trying to prepare people and give them those foundational skills that they need to launch a new career. But to your point, we also do cater to people who are looking to transition careers, to up skill within a role or even to go off and start their own business. So we've actually had a number of students, after taking our courses and completing some of our paths, go off and become independent consultants and trainers themselves, which is actually kind of cool to see, like a former student then becoming a teacher in their own space. So, yeah, a lot of a lot of finance, a lot of accounting. But really, aside from that pretty good mix, just based on the fact that data is everywhere and it really has become a pretty critical role across every vertical, every industry, every type of business. 

Jed Tabernero [00:25:16] Yeah, so you touched on on a point earlier about what machine learning it's it's something you don't hear in the context of Excel, you know, and I wanted to bring up because I I've recently just become interested in this space. Let's just say the entire space of artificial intelligence. Right. The big buzzword of the 20th century, artificial intelligence. And I took a class in college and had a very difficult time, just like trying to understand the basic concepts right. Into artificial intelligence. And recently, I've been trying to take classes to try to get that Udacity. Coursera has some really in depth whatever the universities partner with them. But then as I was researching Mavin, I noticed you had an email course. And initially I was like, OK, wait, how I understand Power by Tablo. How is there an email course in this context? And I looked into it and I read some blogs and whatnot is pretty interesting because I don't think I can try to go and learn machine learning right now without having a transitory step. That's going to make me comfortable. I believe myself to be somebody who is OK at looking at data and being able to scrub it and go through the process of getting at least some insight, making it do anything beyond that. On Excel was wild to me, but that's the first step, right? Cleaning it up and building that initial framework. So it was interesting for me to see that blog where John talk to you and ask like, hey, why are you doing this? And so you're like, hey, I want to make machine learning more accessible to people. Right. Just in general, because most people understand excel. And like you said, most people come in and go like I'm an Excel God, you know, and in that 

Shikher Bhandary [00:27:02] type of you are the only one who goes around saying, I have not heard a single person say that. Even Chris doesn't call himself Excel. 

Jed Tabernero [00:27:10] God, no, no, no. He has he has stuff to to back it up. I just talk. I just talk to talk. That's it. But no, it was interesting for me to see that conversation. 

Chris Dutton [00:27:20] The Machine Learning series is something I'm really, really excited about. And these that we've got part one that's live now. I'm actually working on part two as we speak, partnering with an instructor, Josh McCarty, based out in Pittsburgh, who is an amazing practitioner in the data science space. He runs a team. I worked with him in the past. And so we're kind of partnering up on this. And these courses are truly unlike any other machine learning courses out there. And the reason they're so different is because we're taking a different approach to teaching Emelle one of the faults that we've seen in all of the other machine learning courses out there is that they're trying to teach you two things at the same time, trying to teach you how to understand these algorithms and models and data science concepts that aren't always very intuitive. And at the same time, they're trying to teach you how to master programing language. Those are completely different skill sets. And trying to teach both at the same time is incredibly hard, let alone trying to learn both at the same time when you're brand new to this world. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:28:34] So it sounds as daunting as hell like machine learning does 

Chris Dutton [00:28:37] what it does. And like, let me just be crystal clear. I don't have a machine learning background, and that's why this series is shaping up so well. It's because Josh is the one with the domain expertize I'm the one who is helping him deliver the content and putting it through the lens of I am someone learning this stuff for the first time, too. So who better to empathize with the student than me? Right. So basically the process is is funny because Josh will take a stab at some of the content for explaining some of these algorithms. I'll look at the slides and say, too complex. I don't get this cut this change this word. And we just slowly work through that process of distilling it down into the simplest language that we can possibly use without sacrificing accuracy. Right. Of course. But framing it in a way that really helps people just get it at a fundamental level. So the reason we wanted to use Excel is that I deliberately did not want this to be a coding course. I don't want to cover Python or SAS or any other language is part of this. I want to decouple that from teaching the fundamental concepts, because not to go on a rant here, but I see way too many people who just want to be coders. Right. And they come out of college and they love this idea of typing this complex code. It feels really cool when you when you can do that. Problem is, if you use that as a crutch or you rely too heavily on the code and the out of the box libraries that you'll find in these languages, if you don't understand exactly what's happening beneath the surface and why, then you're wielding a pretty dangerous tool, right? As an employer, you would never hire a data scientist who knows how to run a script, but they can't explain to you what a decision tree is doing. So our whole goal with this series is that you actually put it really well, like we are trying to create that bridge for people with a kind of analytics or by background who are interested in the world of machine learning and A.I. and all that, but maybe a little intimidated by it. Or maybe they haven't found the right way to learn it yet. Like you are the exact student that we're targeting with this course. 

Jed Tabernero [00:31:14] I would love it if I saw it. I was like, this is me. 

Chris Dutton [00:31:17] And like part one is all about kind of data profiling Kuai and like it's the boring stuff, but we have to cover it because it's so important and it makes up such a big part of the analytics workflow. Then part two, we're getting into classification models, then we get into regression and forecasting and then unsupervised learning. And what I've done and kind of my role as part of this course is using Excel as a medium that people like you and the everyday student with an analytics background can relate to and understand. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:31:53] It's so neat. I think the title of this episode is going to be more of a gateway drug to machine learning. I think that's going to hit all the skills that we want. Everything is the one thing we did was when we were looking through your course material. It's like, OK, this is fun. I'm interested in UFO sightings, you know, things like that. Usually it's just a data dump and you have to sort things out. But how has the preparations been on your end as an educator, as a normal course recipient, you had so much feedback. But now as an Excel course guru, how do you design the product so that it's easily digestible by your audience? 

Chris Dutton [00:32:37] Yeah, so many of our courses put you in a role. We play like the it's almost like role playing where we say, all right, for this course project, you are playing the role of a newly hired analyst for Spotify or for this hotel chain or whatever it might be. And throughout the entire course, you're taking the skills that you're picking up and learning and applying them and building on them to create this project that persists throughout the entire course. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:33:05] Experience done, mimicking your own job training like you get in first day at the job, you have to pass through the data and try to get some information. 

Chris Dutton [00:33:15] Yeah, exactly. And a lot of our courses will have assignments where you'll actually it'll look like a Aslak screen or an email template where you're receiving an email from the director of marketing and it's saying, hey, there, we need a new table to capture this and this or we need to filter our data to remove these anomalies, whatever it might be. But it's forcing students to reframe it as not just abstract skills, but tools that they can be applying in the real world and showing them a lot of the ways that these tools actually are. And so that's, I think, a unique component to our courses and something that we really try to weave into all the courses that we teach. And that to your earlier point about the additional data sets, that was a very popular feature that we added to MAVEN Analytics a few months ago called the Data Playground. And the idea is basically every student is going to be looking for more opportunities to practice what they're learning outside of the courses themselves. So what we started doing was collecting these very interesting data sets from all different industries. We've got World Cup data, UFO sightings, marketing, campaign performance, IMDB and movie ratings, all this stuff, Spotify. And then what we do is two things. We offer some recommended analyzes for people who want to put their skills to the test and explore how to apply those skills to different types of data sets. And we also run monthly challenges now where when we release a new data set, we frame a question that we ask our students and our community to solve. And in fact, our our latest one was the Queen's Gambit challenge, which is kind of building on from from the Netflix. So I found this really cool chest data set and asked people to basically. We build a one page dashboard showing what insights and patterns they can derive from that data set. It basically said, if you are playing against Jennifer Harman, the main character, and she led with the Queen's Gambit, what would your response be and why? So you can actually look at the data and there are many ways you can approach it, but you could say, all right, let's filter down to Queen's Gambit approaches played by white. Let's filter to only the top ranked players who responded and what was the win probability of each response. So it's just is a very playful challenge that we offered there that students had a lot of fun with and we got over one hundred amazing custom built dashboards that that people had put together just because they're looking for ways to apply their skills and prove their skills and get feedback from other students in the community. So it's it's a really fun thing that we've started doing in the past few months. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:36:15] The word game, a fight has a negative connotation, but it does mean good things in this concept, in this this platform where you are like getting them to be part of the game. OK, Queen's Gambit, how do I beat her? Right. And then you're trying to create a challenge which is actively reinforcing the learnings that you have provided through the course. 

Jed Tabernero [00:36:37] Right. Any online education company has problems acquiring new students retention rates. Like that's something you must pay attention, because to be honest, like Udacity, how many times I've tried a used car and just been like, dude, this is way too much about what are the challenges of that space? 

Chris Dutton [00:36:56] Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of challenges that we're still trying to solve. E and EdTech, it's crazy crowded space. What covid has done is accelerate the focus on E learning in general and as a result, it's made the space more and more competitive. And I think one of the biggest challenges for us is kind of Wild West industry like E learning where there are no standard accreditation metrics or quality standards that apply in the same way that apply to physical institution or university. How do you differentiate quality? Right. Because you've got a lot of platforms that have amazing designers and marketing teams who can make it look very legitimate. But as soon as you dig into the core content, the heart of the product, it falls short. So how do you how do you get people to understand, like we are the real deal? Our content is extremely high quality. We are incentivized by your success as a student. How do you communicate that through marketing channels? And that's something that, to be quite honest, we're still working on solving as we do. We really just start this journey towards growing. You brought up the idea of retention and churn, especially with online courses and with subscription platforms. One thing that I really believe in from a retention standpoint is that the reason many of these platforms out there struggle with retaining or engaging students is that they're focusing on the wrong measure of success. And these companies, their their businesses have a lot of these companies focus on KPIs like revenue or profit or student volume as their optimization metrics. And when you do that, you as a business are incentivized to grow and to scale and to add more and more courses and more and more instructors to optimize towards those metrics. But when you do that. Oftentimes, quality suffers, oftentimes the student experience suffers and we see it all the time, these platforms that their big selling point is we have twenty thousand courses. If you want to learn how to bake bread or get into astrophysics, we got you right. And I just I think that's ridiculous in a way. Right. Because I would rather go go deep in the area that our team is is really designed to teach, then try to go broad. And so at Mavin, we don't use those metrics to to optimize or to manage our business. Our key metric for success is the student outcome, whether it's landing a job or earning a promotion, earning a certification. It really is the metric that drives how we operate our business. It drives what we build, how we build it, how we interact with our students. And in doing so, it really helps with metrics like retention and engagement, because essentially what we're doing is aligning our incentives with our students. If our incentive was building profit, that a misalignment, their incentive is to help you land a job, then we're not successful unless our students are successful. And when you operate in that world, it really helps guide you towards building the best product that you can. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:40:27] Yeah, and I feel your engagement with your community on the social media platforms like LinkedIn. I came across MAVEN was John posting something about, I think a school thing that I needed for work, and I use it most like this, a school and then came across. And so it's such a great way to build firstly engagement and vastly increase discoverability because people are returning to your platform and your not only maven, but the extensions of that platform, which is your social media accounts, which you're still providing tips and tricks that is very applicable 

Chris Dutton [00:41:08] to LinkedIn has been a big focus for us this past year and it will continue to be this year. And that's primarily where we're building our tribe and our community. And it's been very cool to see our instructors establishing themselves as thought leaders, 

Shikher Bhandary [00:41:24] influencers, LinkedIn influencers, 

Chris Dutton [00:41:26] influencers like in in the data world, which is probably the least cool version of an influencer, but still counts. And then from the MAVEN handle itself, like running these challenges, helping connect students with job opportunities. And what has been amazing to see is that students and members of that community are now connecting with each other and like, you know, hooking each other up with jobs and giving each other feedback on their data playground submissions. And I hate sales. I hate being sales. I hate trying to, like, tell someone to buy my stuff. And what works well with the LinkedIn stuff is that all we try to do is add value. Right. And have valuable conversations. And eventually people will indirectly get to know us, get to know our brand, get to know our platform. And if it's the right fit, they'll they'll buy the 

Adrian Grobelny [00:42:25] that adds to your credibility not being so sales not being, you know, purchase here. And, you know, you need this course to take your Excel skills to the next level that I see all over YouTube and 

Jed Tabernero [00:42:38] subscribe 

Chris Dutton [00:42:39] now probably to be fair, it probably hurts me here and there, too, because there is a point where, like, maybe I should ask someone like, hey, we have a product you can buy. I get what you're saying. It's we try to be, you know, just very, very personable. And we try to operate more like individuals and less as a business, trying to sell you something. 

Adrian Grobelny [00:43:05] And and looking at the website, I saw team training and yeah, I thought that was really interesting that you guys had a designated tab for team training. There must be a really big focus, something that you guys think is really important to your courses and providing that value, building that credibility and almost creating curated courses for different companies and different industries. 

Chris Dutton [00:43:31] Yeah, it was a very important part of our product that we kind of had on the roadmap from day one. We wanted to offer an individual training option and a team training option. And I come from a background of training teams. So I know a lot of the pain points that R&D or learning and development training providers at companies go through. And part of it is the whole online versus. Offline comparison, I think more people are starting to become more interested in the online education model these days than they have been in years past. But even even with the online model, you run into a lot of headaches, like, OK, I want to train 20 people on my team. I think they should learn, excel, like maybe school. I don't know. Some might want to empower. I but I'm not really sure how do I effectively train them without just buying 20 versions of the chorus and sending them the link and saying, hey, like when you find time, like just go through this course and give me a thumbs up when you're done, obviously that's not the most effective way to train. But going back to the old school in-person seminar model has other headaches like cost, and you have to travel an expert out there and you have to get everyone in the same room at the same time. So what we're trying to do is eliminate the headaches, create a flexible learning option where if you are team hiring or training 20 people, what we would do is a live onboarding session where we get to understand who you are, what your team is looking to learn. We would create a customized learning plan for you based out of courses in our library. And then we've built some pretty great tools that allow you to essentially assign team administrators who can create course assignments and deadlines for all the members of your team. And you have a view where you can at a glance, track how every single person on your team is progressing, how they're scoring and their assessments, whether they met their deadline for each course, whether they completed the path that we assign for you. And that level of visibility is something that has been really lacking in this space in the past. And that's something we really wanted to to help solve. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:46:03] You've had such an awesome organization, Chris, but we wanted to give you the stage to direct our listeners to your incredible platform and where they can read more about what you write on your blogs and your LinkedIn page and because you guys are very active there. 

Chris Dutton [00:46:19] So so this is the part where I awkwardly try to go to Mavin Analytics that I that's our our learning platform. We actually just updated the platform so that you can start learning completely for free, no credit card required. You can start every single one of our courses and pass kick the tires, see if you like it. If you do, you can upgrade to monthly or an annual subscription. And I've got a blog section on there where we write about new topics every week. You've got the data playground, which is free to everyone to download data sets and practice analyzes and follow us on LinkedIn and you'll see all of our activity there as well. 

Jed Tabernero [00:47:02] Oh, and one more thing. Make your boss pay for it and, you know, sign up your teams. So that's it. 

Chris Dutton [00:47:11] That's a get go. We do have some blog posts from our CEO about tips for how to make that case. And we have a lot of people who get their employers to pay for training because ultimately it's a win win for everyone. 

Shikher Bhandary [00:47:25] Hey, thanks so much for listening to our show this week. You could subscribe to us. And if you're feeling generous, well, you could even leave us a review. Trust me, it goes a long, long way. You could also follow THC activity on the scoreboard, on Twitter and LinkedIn. This is things have changed.