Meet our Newest Content Developer

John Riehl, one of Smartly’s newest content creators, is a former Air Force officer and current sailing instructor who knows a thing or two about computers.

John Riehl, one of Smartly’s newest content creators, is a former Air Force officer and current sailing instructor who knows a thing or two about computers. He’s writing a new computer science curriculum for Smartly, scheduled for release in 2018.

In this post, we catch up with John to learn what he’s working on and why he decided to join Smartly. Find out why he believes developers should go back to basics and what distinguishes the Smartly computer science curriculum from others on the market.

1. What’s your name, and where are you based?

John Riehl, and I’m based in Port Charlotte, Florida. It’s about 90 miles south of Tampa, on the Gulf Coast.

2. How long have you been writing for Smartly?

I started in August of 2017. I’m coming up on four months, so I’m still a newbie!

3. What’s your professional and educational background?

I graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Computer Engineering in 1989. I went to school on an ROTC scholarship, so I went on active duty in the Air Force after graduation. I stayed in 26 years, working in a variety of jobs closely related to computer technology—but nothing actually hands-on in terms of building or programming computers. During my time in the Air Force I picked up a Master’s in Computer Engineering along with Master’s Degrees in Air and Space Studies and National Resource Management.

4. How and why did you start writing for Smartly?

After I retired from the Air Force I wanted to get back to my technical roots in computer science. I came across Smartly, and it seemed like the perfect fit—share my knowledge and with the next generation of IT professionals while working from home on a flexible schedule. I appreciated Smartly’s innovative approach to education and was (and am) excited to play a small part in equipping the workforce of tomorrow with the skills they’ll need to succeed.

5. What are some of the subjects that you’ve written about in Smartly?

I’m working on a new curriculum for Smartly—Computer Science. What’s interesting about the course is that we’re striking what I think is a great balance between theoretical underpinnings and practical application. There are a lot of online courses for computer programming, but most of them focus just on the practical aspects—how to arrange instructions in a particular programming language to get a program to run. When it comes time for the learner to expand in a new direction or handle a novel situation they’re not as well-equipped as they would be without some fundamentals under their belt. On the other end of the spectrum is a typical four-year computer science program, which builds an extensive theoretical foundation at the expense of time (and money) getting the student to market, as it were.

6. Why do you think it’s important for students to understand computer science?

It’s not an overstatement to say that IT has fundamentally changed the world we live in. Given its impact, it’s important for those involved with building IT capabilities to get things right. A programmer without the right fundamentals is like a chef who doesn’t know what his or her ingredients taste like. Both can follow a recipe and put something together, but the result might not be very good. In the case of computer programs, it could be very bad indeed. Here’s a story about how not knowing the fundamentals created an unintended result. Imagine if that counter had been for something related to scheduled maintenance on a nuclear reactor.

7. What’s the hardest concept you’ve had to communicate (so far), and what was it like to try and distill it for the Smartly platform?

In general, the toughest part for me has been figuring out what the right level of detail is for a concept. For example, when you talk about digital videos you can range from “a video is a series of still images” to “here are the technical details of each of the over 100 different video compression formats in use today.” Finding what the learner needs to know, narrowing the scope down to the most important elements, and presenting it in a way that doesn’t make it a rote memorization exercise is always a challenge.

8. What do you admire about Smartly learners?

It seems to me that Smartly learners are self-starters who are willing to break with convention to improve their knowledge and marketability. They could “play it safe” by getting the standard college degree. Instead, they see an opportunity to be part of a new approach. Those kinds of people will take that same spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship with them into the marketplace, making things better for all of us.

9. What do you do to keep your learners in mind?

I must confess that I’m still working on this. Too often I’ll assume that a concept is obvious—after all, it’s obvious to me! I rely extensively on the Smartly review process to identify when I’ve leapt too far. I do my best to keep the lessons interesting. Having taken many online courses myself, I’m well aware that it’s very easy to get distracted with email, Facebook, etc. if the material is dry.

10. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I can’t speak for other content developers, but one great side benefit for writing educational content is the learning I do along the way. The process of articulating concepts that I have in my mind forces me to think through them in greater detail than I did when initially learning them. There have been a few times when things I thought I knew turned out to be based on bad assumptions and mental short-cuts that I shouldn’t have been taking. Bottom line—the work is fun and fulfilling from a personal perspective, and rewarding from the perspective of doing something that will have greater benefits down the road.

Two Smartly MBA Students Make the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Congratulations to two Smartly MBA students who have been honored in the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 List.

Smartly is proud to announce that two Smartly MBA students have been honored in the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 List. The annual list by Forbes magazine recognizes young leaders who are making outstanding contributions to business and industry.

Kaitlyn Yang is being recognized in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment category. She is the founder of her own Los Angeles-based post-production studio, Alpha Studios, and has over 40 credits to her name, including the five-time Emmy award-winning Robot Chicken. Kaitlyn is a Smartly MBA 2016 graduate and also a graduate of University of Southern California’s Animation and Digital Arts Program. You can find Kaitlyn’s profile on Forbes here.

Mary Iafelice is being recognized in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs category. Mary is the co-founder of the Washington, DC-based humble ventures, which supports entrepreneurs from underserved communities, including veterans, women, and people of color. In the company’s first year, they’ve helped 25 startups raise over $4 million in funding and achieve nearly $1 million in revenue. Mary is a Smartly MBA 2017 candidate and also a graduate of College of the Holy Cross. You can find Mary’s profile on Forbes here.

“Having not just one but two Forbes 30 Under 30 winners in the first year of our MBA program is a testament to the quality of the Smartly community. Kaitlyn and Mary are two high impact entrepreneurs that we’re proud to support,” said Tom Adams, Smartly’s CEO. “We look forward to seeing them continue to grow their respective companies.”

Congrats to Kaitlyn and Mary, and may they have continued success with their companies!

The Smart Way to Recruit for your Company

Smartly is on a mission to connect learning and skill attainment to positive career outcomes for candidates.

Our Mission:

The team behind Smartly set out to alter the status quo in higher and professional education. We realized there was a larger issue at hand that needed to be addressed – it’s common for students to spend upwards of and often over $100,000 on a graduate degree without clear career advancement. On the other end of the spectrum, employers are at a loss on how to reach out and acquire talented candidates. Our career network, Smartly Talent, makes the process of hiring and vetting more streamlined and efficient for our partners – leading companies and organizations. We are on a mission to connect learning and skill attainment to positive career outcomes for our candidates.

Sign up. Once you have signed up and been accepted into Smartly Talent, you will be able to quickly view and connect with our candidates. You’ll be able to put in Preferences to find candidates that match your openings. Plus, our machine learning algorithms also suggest suitable profiles to you. We’re using technology to connect companies to talent, and strengthening the workforce with more efficient employment matches. You’ll be: joining a range of companies in our network including:

– Multinational Financial Institutions

– Premier and Boutique Consulting Firms

– VC-Backed Startups

– Publicly Traded Consumer Packaged Goods Companies

– Global PE Funds

– Digital Marketing Agencies

– Market Research Firms

…and more…

Our Candidates. In Smartly Talent, you will find high-caliber candidates looking for new opportunities. They have studied at elite universities and achieved results at innovative companies. These candidates join our career network, Smartly Talent, when they are admitted into one of our learning programs – world’s first, elite free MBA (2-10 years of work experience), executive MBA (10+ years of experience), and the Smartly Business Certificate (0-2 years of experience). 

Browse Top Talent: In the “Browse” view, you can filter candidates by office location, role, years of experience, and keywords. When you see a candidate that you are interested in, you can Invite to Connect and send a message to the candidate letting them know what position(s) you are recruiting for. You can also just Like a candidate to request a connection without sending a message. We also give you the option to Share a candidate with a teammate via email or Pass on a candidate that you don’t want to connect with at the moment.

smartly browse our candidatesFeatured Candidates: Our matching algorithm and personalized curation are used to suggest candidates that might be of interest to you.

Smartly Featured Candidates

Track Your Candidates: In your Tracker, your interactions with candidates are centralized. You’ll be able to see candidates you’ve connected with, your pending connections, and candidates passed on.

Save for Later: You can use our newly introduced “Save for Later” feature to revisit candidate profiles when you’re ready to make a decision.

Invite to Connect: When you’re ready to move forward with a candidate, you can use our “Invite to Connect” feature to start the interview process.

Hire!: Your first hire is free while we’re still in beta! So sign up or head back to Smartly Talent today to browse our candidates!

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Hire for Potential – Smartly Talent

As your business grows, how can you hire with the same mentality as your upper management?

As companies scale, upper management begins to focus more on business operations and the macro management of the organization. Recruiting decisions shift to hiring managers and recruiters. As a recruiter, you aim to hire candidates that uphold the company’s values and culture. Before you reach out to candidates, everyone on the hiring team should have a clear sense of your company’s core values and markers you’re looking for during the interviewing process. Now the question becomes, how can you hire with the same mentality as your upper management?

Ask behavioral interview questions

Technical questions are an important part of any interview process but it’s important to remember that they are only one piece of the puzzle. Asking behavioral questions during an interview is a great way to test emotional intelligence, temperament, and the candidate’s stress response. The unconventional nature of behavioral questions tests candidates’ authenticity and problem-solving skills

Look beyond the resume

The difference between skill and competency is hard to gauge by quickly scanning a CV. It’s especially hard to vet candidates early in their careers based on resume alone. Inc. Magazine argues,  “excellent candidates are being overlooked, not because they lack ability, but because they have a blank resume.” For inexperienced candidates, it’s important to look at aptitude and whether they could learn the necessary skills, and then quiz their skills and competencies. You want to hire for the future–you want to hire people that are not afraid to take initiative and have great work ethic. Sometimes the best candidate is not the one who has the most relevant experience but the one with the most potential. Here are two suggestions to consider. First, you can ask candidates to solve a problem during the interview or submit a writing sample with 24 hours. Second, to gauge passion, you can ask candidates to speak about any personal projects that they may have started or are working on.

Hire for the “IT” factor

Soft skills and non-technical skills can be hard to quantify. Understanding how a person works with others or their leadership potential isn’t something that any resume or even quick interview will uncover. But, these skills are important to the “IT” factor. Google believes that “Technical ability will only carry you so far. Employers also want to see a skill that can’t be taught.” That’s why asking behavioral interview questions are so important. Behavioral interview questions help identify intangible skills.Teamwork, communication, work ethic, adaptability, problem-solving, and intellectual humility are some of the important qualities to look for when hiring and vetting candidates. As you make your next hire, keep asking yourself–does this candidate have the “IT” factor to be successful at your company? 

We know that building your team can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why we designed Smartly Talent, our hiring platform where you can efficiently browse and connect with high caliber candidates for your open positions. We have amazing software engineers, data scientists, marketing managers, account executives, product managers and more who are active in our career network and are taking advantage of our learning platform to gain the business skills they need to get ahead in their careers.

Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates today! And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free.

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4 Proven Methods to Retain Your Company’s Top Talent

A few tips to ensure that you’re doing your part to keep your company’s “All-Star” talent around for the long haul.

While attracting top talent requires diligence, retaining them poses another challenge for young startups and large companies alike. Cultivating and nurturing talent is essential to the success of an organization, as high performing employees directly impact your business. This function is something that cannot be automated; companies that support and encourage educational development, professional growth, and overall satisfaction of their employees tend to see lower employee turnover rates. Here are a few ways to ensure that you are doing your part to keep your “All-Stars” around.

Encourage Mentorship

One of the most valuable assets for a young startup is time. Having standard operating procedures and training modules in place allows new hires to better understand the day to day requirements of the role. Having mentors with experience at an organization can help new hires with onboarding and understanding the organization better. Mentors who are currently in roles that new hires want to take on in the future can provide valuable advice on how to accelerate their personal and professional development.

Promote a Learning Culture

Forbes believes that “establishing learning and development processes, and routine coaching practices, helps ensure people are acquiring new knowledge and skill to keep up with the intensified ‘mitosis.’” Give candidates space and ability to explore and learn new ideas. A great example is companies investing in B2B online learning platform subscriptions for their employees. This gives employees the ability to learn and hone skills that can aid them in the current role and promote their professional development.

Give and receive feedback

In his book “The Hard Things about Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz explains “that the reason employees leave a company is due to lack of guidance, misaligned expectations, and questionable feedback they receive. Often times when employees resign, they are leaving their managers and not the company.” Constructive criticism and valuable feedback help show that an employee’s work has a meaningful impact and areas upon which they can improve. When giving feedback specificity, observations based on facts, and encouragement on how to improve moving forward are crucial. This helps build trust and relationships between managers and their employees. Impactful feedback is critical for employees to grow and succeed which then impacts the company as a whole.

Reward and Retain

Working at startups can be risky and equate to long hours, but rewarding your hardest working employees can help provide a balance or a sense of fairness. According to research done by FastCompany, employees who feel tired and burnt out are 31% more likely to look for a new job than those who have a great work-life balance. For smaller startups, organizing weekly lunch outings and happy hours are a quick easy way to reward employees after a hectic week or project. Asking your “A Player” employees for product input and feedback is a great way to let them know their ideas matter. It also helps when the upper management at a company is vocal about the impact that each and every employee has on the company’s vision and direction. Townhall meetings that congratulate and spotlight team members and groups based on their accomplishments is another way to ensure that employees are rewarded for their hard work. For Series A and B startups employees, perks are often rewarded based on performance and meeting goals. Some examples include bonuses, onsite gym and spa facilities, and lounge areas with games and snacks.

We know that building your team can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why, we designed Smartly Talent, our hiring platform in which you can efficiently browse and connect with high caliber candidates for your open positions.

Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates today! And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free.

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Three Strategies for Interviewing Candidates – Startup Recruiting Guide

The recruiting process can be time consuming and expensive. Here are few tips to help you interview and hire great candidates.

Recruiting new employees is one of the most pivotal moments in an early startup’s lifecycle. Time and resources are scarce, so finding qualified candidates quickly becomes a top priority. For any startup leader, it’s necessary to take ownership of the recruiting and hiring duties, at least for the first few hires, as they are going to set the tone and define the culture of your company for years to come.

The recruiting process can be time consuming and expensive. Harvard Business Review reports that bad hiring decisions result in high employee turnover rates. Plus, the estimated cost of replacing a salaried employee is close to $7,000 dollars. The interview process is a good way to weed out candidates that may look good on paper but don’t have the skills or personality to fit in with your company. Here are a few tips to help you interview and hire candidates:

  • Review samples of a candidate’s past work and/or have them bring it in and walk you through it. This could be a personal portfolio, blog, website, or code repository. You want to test that they can articulate the process of building on an idea and how they worked through challenges they came across.
  • Host a group interview and have candidates work on projects in teams. This helps you identify which candidates work well with others and are not afraid to be outspoken when needed. You can also get a glimpse of candidates with great work ethic.
  • Present a problem that your company is currently facing and have the candidate work out a plausible solution on a whiteboard. Whiteboard challenges are a great way to test the candidate’s skills, ability to think on their feet, and their ability to communicate effectively. If the role is a bit more technical, an individual timed hackathon is a great option to consider.

We know that building out your team can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why, we built Smartly, where you can efficiently browse and connect with high caliber candidates for your open positions. Also, in our previous post we covered some great options for choosing an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your startup, you can find that here.

Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates today! And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free.

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Guide to Setting Up Recruiting at a Startup by Smartly Talent

When short on time, how do you efficiently source, interview, and track talent?

It’s difficult for early stage startups to find talent when they need it. In fact, startups are often hiring for a role a month after they needed the person for the role. The last thing there is time for is hiring, but there comes a point when new talent is needed to scale. When short on time, where do you start to source talent? And once you have a list of candidates, what are you using to interview and track processes? When you are looking to fill more than one position, it’s time to start building your recruiting processes out.

The first step should be getting an affordable and functional Applicant Tracking System (ATS). A simple ATS is key to maintaining a talent pipeline, keeping track of candidates’ interview progress, and their offer status. Otherwise, you may lose track of people and resumes, or worse, forget about a candidate and give an applicant a bad experience. This is because an ATS helps you keep track of candidates so they stay in the loop about their interview status and feedback. Here are a few great options as you pick your ATS:

Product: Price:Notable Feature:
GoogleHireFrom $2400 to $12,000 per yearIntegrates easily with G Suite apps
Greenhouse$6600 per yearTailored Interview Kits for every candidate and position
Lever$4000 per year
*Price goes up as employee size goes up
Create individual and full job sites and landing pages
WorkableFrom $600 to $4800 per yearBuilt in social media recruitment

We recommend GoogleHire because of its ability to integrate easily into existing Google Suite software and its price point. As a startup that uses Google’s productivity suite, we find value in being able to find, track, schedule, and message candidates in one platform. You can easily have your team collaborate in hiring decisions as well.

Google Hire ATS
Our choice for an easy and affordable ATS is Google Hire!

This is the first in a series of articles about setting up recruiting at your startup! 

At Smartly, we know that scaling your team is challenging and time consuming. That’s why we built Smartly, where you can efficiently browse, vet, and interview high caliber candidates for your open positions. And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free. Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates!

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