Workplace

Amazon and others use this company to reskill employees

Rebekah Rombom at Flatiron School shared best practices for deploying education benefits that tech workers actually want to engage with.

Man at laptop

Offering education benefits is a critical way to retain and promote the best employees.

Photo: Wes Hicks/Unsplash

Very early in my career, one of my former employers quietly offered its staffers the opportunity to sign up for an online course to learn Python. The company was paying for it, yes, but there was little information about the time commitment or what a person could do if they actually learned Python. Needless to say, I did not sign up for the course, and I do not know Python. Cue Marlon Brando:“I coulda been a contender!”

My personal regrets aside, Rebekah Rombom, the chief business development officer at Flatiron School, said this is the wrong way to go about offering education to workers. The Flatiron School has made a name for itself over the past decade by training and retraining professionals in software engineering, data science, product design and cybersecurity — some of the most in-demand skills in the tech industry today.

For Rombom, who works with Flatiron's corporate partners, the secret to getting employees to upskill, reskill and engage with education benefits is all about providing awareness and setting expectations. In today’s competitive market for tech talent, offering education benefits is a critical way to retain and promote the best employees. Rombom spoke with Protocol about the current landscape of education benefits and what HR managers should consider when deploying these programs.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

How has the demand for training to upskill and reskill employees shifted over the past two to three years?

What we see companies really wanting to do is either supercharge employee engagement across different sub-goals — recruit, retain, engage, increase employee satisfaction — or fill in-demand roles in the targeted way. These technical roles that we train for are some of the hardest to fill [and the] most competitive in the market, with a wide gap between talent supply and employer demand. And in addition to companies who are looking for ways to engage and retain their employees, we've also seen companies say, “Hey, I have these really hard-to-fill roles, and are there folks internally that could be repositioned?”

What are you seeing in terms of the amount of time and support that companies are allowing for their employees to grasp difficult subjects?

We have coaches and instructors who work directly with students, both one-on-one and in small groups and in a class setting. And their job is to help folks navigate through the material in whatever way will help them grasp it best … And so for an organization, a lot of companies have seen a ton of value in that. You can give your employees content, but if you're really looking to make a transformational change, part of that experience is often a guide, a coach and instructor to help you through understanding the content.

We have been running a program in partnership with Amazon where we are retraining warehouse associates for careers in software engineering and cybersecurity. The first round of that program wrapped up late last year with over 270 graduates, warehouse associates that now have the skills to start careers in cybersecurity or software engineering. These are folks with full-time jobs. All of those graduates I just mentioned worked full-time hours at an Amazon facility, so we had to structure a program in partnership with Amazon that would work for those people's lives.

It was 10 months, part-time learning that folks could fit into their work schedule. It had both a large self-driven component where there's content you can access at any time and instructor support that was flexible and could work with your schedule. So things like lectures you could pop in to and conversations with peers and teachers. I think that's one of the benefits of working with an organization that does this.

We've seen students already start their new cybersecurity and software engineering careers, both inside and outside of Amazon, which is really exciting.

What do you tell executives who are weighing the pros and cons and the reality that once you arm people with new skills, they might not stay?

I think it depends on the company's goals. So for a company that's looking to attract, engage and retain over a couple-year period, retraining frontline workers for new skills and then giving an opportunity to path into a new job at the company, or start their new career elsewhere, might be a really good option. For a company that's looking to in a very targeted way transition existing employees into high-demand roles inside that company, we would recommend a different kind of program, something that's maybe smaller and more tailored to the technical skills specifically at that organization.

What are some best practices that HR managers should consider to make sure employees are engaging with their education benefits and also finishing the program?

One thing is awareness and inviting people into the experience. We’ve worked with a lot of students over the years who have really different backgrounds than what has traditionally been considered a technology worker. So inviting folks in to participate in the tech workforce I think is one really important part, and making folks aware that these pathways exist.

And then [No. 2] is expectation-setting. This experience is hard and requires dedication. It's pretty uncomfortable to learn an entirely new set of skills that you don't have, and it requires openness and vulnerability and a lot of hard work. Making people aware of that in the beginning profoundly helps set them on a productive course through something that's going to be kind of a bumpy ride. When we're engaging in these conversations, organizations already know that they're going to need to identify the time and get manager support, and I think that's what HR and learning and development teams tend to be really good at.

Enterprise

UiPath had a rocky few years. Rob Enslin wants to turn it around.

Protocol caught up with Enslin, named earlier this year as UiPath’s co-CEO, to discuss why he left Google Cloud, the untapped potential of robotic-process automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.

Rob Enslin, UiPath's co-CEO, chats with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: UiPath

UiPath has had a shaky history.

The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion. To add insult to injury, UiPath laid off 5% of its staff in June and then lowered its full-year guidance for fiscal year 2023 just months later, tanking its stock by 15%.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Workplace

Figma’s chief product officer: We can do more with Adobe

Yuhki Yamashita thinks Figma might tackle video or 3D objects someday.

Figman CPO Yuhki Yamashita told Protocol about Adobe's acquisition of the company.

Photo: Figma

Figma CPO Yuhki Yamashita’s first design gig was at The Harvard Crimson, waiting for writers to file their stories so he could lay them out in Adobe InDesign. Given his interest in computer science, pursuing UX design became the clear move. He worked on Outlook at Microsoft, YouTube at Google, and user experience at Uber, where he was a very early user of Figma. In 2019, he became a VP of product at Figma; this past June, he became CPO.

“Design has been really near and dear to my heart, which is why when this opportunity came along to join Figma and rethink design, it was such an obvious opportunity,” Yamashita said.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Climate

Microsoft lays out its climate advocacy goals

The tech giant has staked out exactly what kind of policies it will support to decarbonize the world and clean up the grid.

On Sept. 22, Microsoft — seen here, CEO Satya Nadella — published two briefs explaining what new climate policies it will advocate for.

Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The tech industry has no shortage of climate goals, but they’ll be very hard to achieve without the help of sound public policy.

Microsoft published two new briefs on Sept. 22 explaining what policies it will advocate for in the realm of reducing carbon and cleaning up the grid. With policymakers in the U.S. and around the world beginning to weigh more stringent climate policies (or in the U.S.’s case, any serious climate policies at all), the briefs will offer a measuring stick for whether Microsoft is living up to its ideals.

Keep Reading Show less
Brian Kahn

Brian ( @blkahn) is Protocol's climate editor. Previously, he was the managing editor and founding senior writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate site, where he covered everything from the weather to Big Oil's influence on politics. He also reported for Climate Central and the Wall Street Journal. In the even more distant past, he led sleigh rides to visit a herd of 7,000 elk and boat tours on the deepest lake in the U.S.

Climate

The next generation of refrigerants is on the way

It’s never been cooler to reconsider the substances that keep us cool. Here’s what could replace super-polluting greenhouse gases in refrigerators and air conditioners.

It’s incumbent on refrigeration tech companies to not repeat past mistakes.

Photo: VCG via Getty Images

In a rare display of bipartisan climate action, the Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment last week. The U.S. joins 137 other nations in the global effort to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. Now the race is on to replace them for climate tech startups and traditional HVAC and refrigeration companies alike.

Most HFCs have a global warming potential (GWP) more than 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide — though some are as much as 14,800 times more potent — which makes reducing them a high priority to protect the climate. The treaty mandates that the U.S. and other industrialized nations decrease their use of HFCs to roughly 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Latest Stories
Bulletins