Malinda Coler is is the co-founder and CEO of LessonsUp-a company that empowers people by teaching tech skills.
What are you working on?
I’m on a mission to empower everyone to reach their potential through technology. Access to so many goods and services requires digital literacy, and those who didn’t grow up with tech are at a disadvantage. Even those of us who did grow up with it and need support with more complicated programs have few options, either impersonal online learning, or expensive services. No one should be held back by technology.
Could you tell us about LessonsUp?
We offer individual lessons in technology, all major apps, devices, and platforms. Your personal instructor will meet with you over video chat (and for those who are newer to tech, we walk through the process over the phone). Lessons are 1-hour, and depending on your level may start with goal setting and planning to get you where you need to go. Most clients do 3-5 lessons to build and retain skills, then move into maintenance mode, coming back every few weeks or months as needed. Our instructors specialize in helping you understand and access the apps and services you need in your life. Meet our awesome tech instructors here.
What challenges and success have you encountered while developing and running LessonsUp?
Our biggest challenge is reaching the population who needs us the most, as they tend to be the least connected to tech, or friends and family who can put them in touch with us. To solve this we’re partnering with local gov and health agencies. Our biggest success is our fantastic teacher population, who adapt quickly to meet the needs of their clients, stay on top of the latest trends in tech and education. We’ve also had some great marketing successes in our D2C model with apps like NextDoor, Pinterest, and Facebook.
You're background is not in tech: What misconceptions or surprises did you have moving into tech?
I thought you had to be able to code, or be a math or data whiz to work in tech, which is not true at all. Tech companies have a set of processes they follow to build products and services, and it requires a well rounded team from all areas of business to be successful. I was surprised to learn that my experience as a teacher equipped me to be successful in tech: curiosity in what people are working on and how things are done, ability to develop and lead processes, and most of all, ability to instil a sense of ownership in all stakeholders and team members. With the right team, you can build anything.
What are your goals?
My goal is to disrupt the $350 billion tech support industry, which has largely overlooked the need for tech education to support users. With 8 years experience leading growth and ops teams in tech, I’ve seen that companies mis-spend a portion of their support budget, failing to meet the needs of a class of users. As a former educator, I’ve observed that the unmet need is educational, and that’s the need I intend to fill. In addition to a direct-2-consumer model through LessonsUp, we’re partnering with tech companies to create an overflow support model for tech support agents to escalate users to LessonsUp instructors for those users who need tech training. In a similar model, we’re also partnering with health benefits programs to ensure seniors can access telehealth and wellness services that require digital literacy. We are on a mission to make sure that no one is left behind as access to goods and services goes digital.
Do you have a mentor?
I have super supportive group of friends and contacts, but am not working with a mentor.
Do you mentor anyone?
Not right now. I supported a close friend last year in her journey transitioning from financial to FinTech. She started her new job a couple months ago. I’d love to be a mentor!
What's the best and worst advice you have received?
Worst: “Just fill out the online job application” - no, this is not enough. Reach out, find a connection, network, set up informational interviews with people in the industry to get an introduction. It will be very hard to get in the door if you’re just filling out online applications.
Best: Ask for help. Literally, if you want to do something, ask people for help.
1) You increase your chances of getting support immediately.
2) People like to feel needed.
3) If you get rejected, just ask the next person. There is zero to lose.
Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?
Instead of blogs or specific personalities, I get my thought leadership and motivation from a number of communities. My top recommendations: Women in Product Facebook, Women in Tech Facebook, Girl Geek Dinners, Ladies Get Paid Slack, MindtheProduct Slack, and Online Geniuses Slack.
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