Last week in our St. George, UT office we were fortunate enough to have lunch and celebrate Chip Ehlers twenty (20) year anniversary with LearnKey!
He is one of the most well-respected, hardworking, smart, and dedicated team members you will ever meet. Over the years Chip has been recognized for his great contributions as he has won recognition for his “can do attitude” many times. His peers were proud to be part of the celebration as Chip is someone we all greatly appreciate having on our team.
He wears many hats when it comes to his role at LearnKey from order entry, invoicing, inventory management and fulfillment to printing and shipping catalogs, Chip never says ‘it can’t be done.’ Of course he is most famous in the St. George office for serenading his coworkers when a catchy song comes on the radio, but its been a while:)
Thank you Chip you truly exemplify our core values: Ease – your easy demeanor, Value– Your work speaks for itself and Trust – well “In Chip we trust”
Last Friday July 9th, the LearnKey Utah and Arizona teams got together to reconnect and introduce our newest Know Your Talents and Brighton team members who took the trip from Arizona. With over thirty-four (34) attending we enjoyed great food and got to hear from our founder John Clemons talk about how he created the first course (WordPerfect) back in 1987 founded the company and brought along LearnKey’s first computer, old newspaper magazines, the original accounting ledger, old shirts, pictures, courses in VHS, DVDS and great company history. Then afterwards he broke out his guitar and played great music for an hour or so.
This is the first time we have been able to get together in a large group setting in over seventeen (17) months and everyone had a blast. We talked about how the entire company works so amazing together as one team and how everyone is “connected and are always there for one another”. There is no me its WE and we all do our best to not let any of our team members down.
I reminded them of the great NFL Head Coach Bill Walsh who said ” if you can get people to laugh and trust you, you can get them to be serious too.” The entire LearnKey team is a true champion.
David Clemons, LearnKey’s former President also shared what he has been up to the past three years launching his HERO non-lethal safety pistol. One of the surprises is all the LearnKey employee’s received safety training and HERO 2020 non-lethal pistols. It was our way as owners sharing that we care for them and here is a way we can help them protect themselves. He and his team took the time to teach everyone how to shoot it and protect themselves. It was an awesome afternoon.
To top things off our Kelly Woods brought up his box/race car and cruised it up and down the canyon. Then our very own Sheena Chamberlain took it for a ride which was the icing on the cake to complete a great afternoon of fun.
I am reminded how truly fortunate we are to have great people, all sharing the same goal to help our customers “Improve their Employability Skills Every Day”.
One of the greatest assets LearnKey has is our people who drive a great culture. Years of reinforcing our core values, Ease, Value, & Trust, the dividends continue to pay to this day. We know we are fortunate to have awesome team members, especially during these times. Which is why it is so important to celebrate and recognize individuals and teams for their accomplishments.
Our newest quarterly Key Contributor Award Winner Annalise Sluder, LearnKey’s lead writer, is a perfect example. We were pretty excited about launching a new course earlier this year (non IT) covering Communication Skills for Business (CSB), one of the first communication skills certification courses of its kind.
Annalise took extra steps to ensure it was a success. Her manager Marion had this to say: “Always a ‘can do’ attitude and what really stuck out is since taking the lead writing position she has stepped up to better the writing process, trained other team members in Natasha, and M’lissa, then got certified in the CSB course to make sure the workbook and tests were the best they could be. She truly lives our core values, ease, value and trust.”
LearnKey’s Senior Instructor, Jason Manibog had this to say: “We put Annalise in the Lead Writer role and man, has she taken on the lead, with an emphasis on lead. She has steered the writing in a perfect direction, organized all the standards, communicates and adjusts perfectly to our standards and the needs for each course, and she has put anyone who touches writing tasks in the best position to succeed. I know I’ve had to worry far less about how tests/workbooks are as we the authors give her the ‘look’ needed for a course and she takes it from there.”
Our Chief Employability Officer, Beth Ciaramello said something that was so sweet after everyone else chimed in. She said, “Plus, Annalise has an incredible attitude and treats everyone with impeccable kindness.”
That said it all and we sure did enjoy celebrating your award during our all-hands company meeting this past Wednesday, April 29th, 2020!
Bravo Annalise congratulations we are blessed to have you on our team. Every quarter this award gets harder and harder to award as there are so many of our team members who are always going above and beyond to reinforce our “Why”: Improving Employability Every Day.
For a company to be on the same page it has helped a great deal that everyone knows our “Why” – Improving Employability Every Day. Our newest Key Contributor Award recipient Beth Ciaramello lives it every day as our Chief Employability Officer.
Beth’s job is to connect our students to employers, work study programs, and get them job ready/hired. She is also quite worldly as one of her personal accomplishments last year was traveling abroad working remotely.
She is being recognized for taking on three major projects, creating and implementing a ProScan to Placement process (P2P), finding new great talent to support the new process, taking over Brighton Colleges Employability activities, and taking over all recruiting and hiring for LearnKey staff (yes we are hiring).
Her “can do attitude” has resulted in two awesome new team members (Jeff & Wendy) based in Scottsdale, who have learned the P2P process and fully implemented it. We now have improved tracking and placements for both Brighton and LearnKey. Additionally, Beth continues to recruit awesome talent and truly displays our core values (ease, value, and trust).
The value she brings to our internal teams and external customers is exceptional. A great example is a recent partnership she has established with a new employer to our programs. This has required a lot of moving parts to come together and she has stayed with it all the way.
As a leader she knows our business and students as well as anyone else. One of her greatest qualities is the ease in which she works with everyone. Always willing to listen, offer advice and support no matter what. What that has left along the way is a tremendous amount of trust between Beth and everyone she interacts with on our teams.
We are so fortunate to have you on our team. Congratulations Beth for always keeping our Why – Improving Employability Every Day front and center for all of us.
Yes, Improving Employability Every Day is our “Why” and how we do that is through making great courses so youth and adult learners gain Industry IT Certifications, graduate our programs, and get employed! While LearnKey is known for great Video-based training we do provide additional content with each course including: labs, assessments, lesson plans and workbooks. Therefore, our production team consisting of video editors, technical writers, quality control, and system support staff have to always be working in sync to meet our course deadlines.
Our newest Key Contributor Award Winner M’Lissa Woods is making quite a name for herself by leveraging her amazing technical writing skills. M’Lissa joined us in July 2018 her first project was to complete Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) workbooks for courses we shot earlier in the year. She jumped right in and after four months completed more than double, ten (10) workbooks a normal writer could complete in that period. Her ability to process work alone with focus and strong organizational skills are second to none.
This not only ensured we released these courses on time but she also really embraced our core values (Ease, Value, and Trust) which is huge for our culture. Her work is of great Value requiring minimal QC efforts, she immediately built a great deal of Trust with her peers, and she is very Easy to work with as noted by her manager and peers.
M’Lissa is going to help us reach our goals for 2019 which by the way are pretty lofty: Produce eighteen (18) courses including Microsoft 2019 series and our Signature CompTIA A+ course, migrate our students to a new learning management system & student information system, as well as provide more tutoring and customer support for our VA students. It is great to know we have employees like M’Lissa on our team to help us along the way.
We feel very fortunate to have M”lissa on board and if her name sounds familiar that is because her husband Kelly Woods is a previous Key Contributor Award Winner– so it runs in the family!
Please join me on congratulating M’Lissa for this great accomplishment.
LearnKey is excited for the new year and for us to continue to grow and exceed the goals we have around our “Why” – Improving Employability Every Day. This coming year we want to see hundreds of graduates from LearnKey and Brighton College gain employment through our learning systems, programs, and strategic partnerships.
You heard LearnKey partnering with Brighton College, yes, to kick off 2019, that is exciting news. Partnering with Brighton college is a great move for us because we cater to the same student demographic. Those students interested in New Collar Jobs. With our dual alignment with Career & Technical Education programs for Information Technology, Allied Health, Legal, and Business Management it becomes a way to leverage what both our organizations are good at, which is programs that lead to in demand jobs.
In the industry we saw strong growth in our K-12 Market and vocational rehabilitation programs. Globally recognized entry-level IT & Career Ready Industry Certifications are on the rise worldwide. We are seeing it first-hand and some of the most popular obtained from our student/learner demographic were tied to: Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) , IC3 Global Standard 5, which is the newest addition to the IC3 Digital Literacy program, CompTIA’s A+, N+, and S+, Adobe, Quickbooks, and Entrepreneurship Small Business. Like all other education organizations in Information Technology, Cybersecurity continues to see strong growth with our students and adult learners wanting streamlined programs for that career.
At LearnKey a Better Learning systems (check out our updated website) company, we have three big goals this year that tie directly to Improving Employability Every Day, and they are: Create a better student learning experience through upgraded learning management technology that our employees really want to use; second, do the exact same thing with our Student Information System (SIS 3.1 upgrade), again want happy employees who use our technology; and third, Improve the student progression success of our team members and students by 40%. This will drive a better learning experience which will lead to more graduates and more of our students getting hired!
Exciting times ahead of us to kick off 2019.
Morocco and I had a rough start. That new normal I found in Vietnam, well, it turned into a dumpster fire. My suitcase broke, my phone broke, my phone was repaired, my phone broke again, Wi-Fi stopped working, cellular service was not available, my computer stopped charging.
It is unclear to me if it was Marrakesh or the series of unfortunate events, or a combination of both, but I was slow to warm to Morocco.
Views from the mall food court in Marrakesh
A small courtyard in the Medina, the old city markets in Marrakesh
I started working during the day again. It was hard to adjust to working during the sunshine. I was enjoying having days to explore and then nights to work, and/or sleep (which is optional during remote year).
The infamous tannery where all the raw animal hides are treated, dyed, and cut for various crafts. The smell was intense.
The landscape is reminiscent of a young, less developed southwestern United States; wild west with a mini-modern city stretched out, painted the same colors as the surrounding, scattered with a casino, an occasional tumbleweed, and a mall with a Chili’s. Baby back ribs, anyone? The old square is where most of the shopping happens. It is bursting with life! Jemaa el-fnaa, the medina or old city, is city jam-packed with trinkets, artisanal crafts, exotic foods, and spices.
Leather Baboosh, aka Moroccan slippers are very common artisanal crafts in the Medina.
I am blown away with the languages people speak, especially in the market! Arabic, French, English, Spanish! The majority of the people were at least bilingual, often trilingual. The best salesmen spoke, what seemed like every language and could guess where you were from just by looking at you.
In Taghazout, camels cruising the beach were just as common as tourists. For a small fee, you can go for a quick ride and take photos.
Breathtaking Sahara Desert.
Side trips (as we call them in Remote Year) included the surfing beaches in the north of Morocco like Taghazout and Agadir, and surfing sand dunes and camel rides in the Sahara Desert. Both adventures were incredible and reminded me that Morocco is way more than just the crazy whirlwind of Marrakesh. The natural beauty of Morocco is stunning and assisted
in opening me to the appeal of the country, but it never quite felt like home, even a temporary one.
Anyone for a magic carpet ride? Artisanal rugs made with the Fez blue cobalt.
During Ramadan, Moroccans fast between dawn and sunset as worship to God. Because there is no separation of church and state, it is illegal for a Moroccan to eat during the day. We have a couple of people in our RY group that could have been mistaken for Moroccans; they were advised to keep their passport on them in case an issue arose when they were eating or drinking in public.
Reminiscent to the dedication during Thaipusam in Malaysia (March’s blog), I am impressed by the dedication that our local friends have for their religion. They describe Ramadan as a time to reflect, become closer to God, and abstain from eating to unify the rich and the poor. I decided to try the fasting for two days.
Day one, I brushed my teeth for 10 minutes as an excuse to try and put moisture back into my mouth. I was sure not to ingest as that would be cheating. No water, no food, all day long. What was I thinking!? A few other girls in the group were fasting in solidarity and around 8:00 P.M. we all met at my apartment to break our fast. It was like Christmas. We sat around the table and enjoyed the traditional meals for breaking the fast. Dates, Harissa (Moroccan soup), milk, and Chebakia (a honey-soaked Moroccan cookie) filled our empty bellies. I thought we were all going to stuff our faces as fast as we could, but we each took time to taste every bite. We sat around for hours and chatted, and of course, drank as much water as we could fit around all the food. Day two was much easier. I had the traditional last meal before sunrise, which I did not do the first night. I stayed awake until 3:00 A.M. just to eat and drink one last time. I had an unusual amount of energy on day two and once fast broke, I only ate a few things. Dates, more cookies, and a small piece of chicken. It was an incredible experience, both challenging myself, and being able to relate to those fasting for an entire month.
Tajine all around! Also pictured is the Moroccan salad and the beautifully crafted Moroccan dishware.
In addition to the Ramadan foods, Morocco is filled with incredible flavors and diverse food selections.
Key Moroccan staples:
Tajines – a version of a Dutch oven and refers to any meats cooked over coals, low and slow.
Msemen – the BEST pancake, thin, soft, and pillow-y served with Amlou (almond butter with argon oil) and local honey.
The TEA! Mint tea, tea time is very important. It was a time to slow down and enjoy time with others. The higher you pour, the better.
The workspace was far away from our apartments and awkwardly quiet, I think I used it twice. I worked from home mostly as it took a lot of effort to go out as there was no Uber (this was the first location with out it), taxis seem to always want to swindle you, and I worked weird hours.
It was weird working during the day again. I found myself adjusting to work late into the evening without even meaning to. It may be that I am more productive at night, or I may have never adjusted to the local time.
Low Atlas Mountains passing through on the way to the Sahara. Reminded me of Sedona, AZ.
The final farewell to Marrakesh and our 100-day celebration (100 days of being on remote year), brought the community back together at the end of the month, which had seemed to be a little disconnected. With our sense of community revived, we set out for Croatia and a month by the sea.
Shukran & Au revoir!
Month one has come to a smooth coast. Feels like the longest month of my life (in the best way possible).
Wow! What a diverse population to say the least. Muslim, Hindu, Arabic, Indian, Indonesian, and Chinese influences make up the welcoming city of Kuala Lumpur, also known as KL. KL is littered with hidden labyrinths of indoor malls, amazing diverse food stalls, and pop-up restaurants. If you needed anything at all, you would find it in a mall. Need a dentist? In the mall. Need vaccinations? In the mall. Need an Auntie Ann’s pretzel fix? In the mall. Grocery stores? You guessed it, the mall.
The bustling metropolis is home to innumerable skyscrapers reminiscent of downtown Manhattan mixed with the luxurious shops of the Las Vegas Strip. The two most iconic buildings are the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower (pictured). Petronas has also become home to the most employees in KL, home to over 50,000 employees. Through interactions with the local people, I have learned that Maybank, Shell (oil and gas companies are abundant in the market), and Intel are large and sought-after employment options.
If there wasn’t a mall or skyscraper taking up real estate it was a temple. The temples (Hindu and Muslim mostly) in KL were stunning to say the least. The detail, dedication and decadence of the religious people is much to be admired. One of the first experiences I had was the religion procession, Thaipusam (pictured). Beautiful chaos, as we entered the Divine Circle. Religious devote faithful climbed almost 300 stairs with hooks in their flesh, bare feet, and 5 feet tall to the temples nestled inside a natural cave. As we, the remote year family, ascended the stairs, the amount of people exponentially grew as quickly as personal space diminished. At the entrance of the Batu Caves, we were greeted by devote Hindu’s eating hot coals to remove them from trance state, smells of warm bodies, incense, fragrant saffron, and turmeric permeate the air, American sports-like announcers chanting Malaysian blessings and the beat of the drums kept us going up what seemed to be a never-ending stair climb in 90% humidity. In the temple was not short of gift shops as they lined the inside of the cave, monkeys savoring bananas and other treats people were sharing, and chickens cooing and clucking in what seemed to be their form of praise. My heart and my senses were filled and the energy and passion fueled my journey for the entire month in Malaysia.
Notable observations in KL: monkeys run around the city like squirrels, our accommodations were a 5 minute walk from the world’s smallest rainforest, Bikut Nannas.
From the moment I arrived, I knew I was going to have a strong relationship with the food here. Street food street (pictured) had anything you could desire from SE Asia. The pungent smell of durian that cuts through the air like hot steamy trash; it is more a mix of hot garbage (aka rubbish), sour garlic and a hint of pear. The local favorites were nasi lemak: a fragrant rice dish served with the most tender, slow-cooked chicken falling off the bone, covered in a sweet, spicy, and salty sauce. Eaten with your hands with creates a sensual relationship with food and those you enjoy it with. Another favorite (in which I ate far too much of) was roti with dahl. Roti is a magical tortilla style bread slathered with butter and served with, well, served with really anything as it was so versatile and delish! The tandoori chicken, unlike any tandoori chicken I have ever had. The street buffet had the best tandoori, it was charred and crisp on the outside and as you bite through the crisp outer crust of char from the open flame the internal white meat, falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. When laziness struck on the late-night work shifts we would have Uber Eats deliver some Halal, an Arabic favorite among the remote year fam.
Luckily, walking at least 5 miles a day to enjoy local events, food, or malls, helped build up an appetite without any weight gain.
The Remote Year Experience:
The walk from the accommodations to the workspace was an interesting one as you had to cross through the jungle known as bar street. The marketing tactic for the bars and restaurants was to shout at you profusely claiming they had the best drinks, food, Wi-Fi, air con (air conditioner), really anything to get to come inside. I walked down bar street nearly every day for one thing or another and thought every time, umm don’t they remember me? I walk here nearly every day. Finding a new normal did not include that walk so often I worked late nights from my apartment which was productive but could be a little lonely. Good thing I had amazing food to keep me company on those late nights.
Working night shift was an easier transition than I could even imagine. I enjoyed having my days free for exploring and had incredible support from others that had to work the same shift. It was tough as I did not see many of those who work days and could not make full use of the workspace as it would require an Uber as I did not feel safe walking home alone.
Adjusting to the culture, location, weather (mainly humidity coming from AZ where there is none), all while getting to know 34 strangers and performing the duties and functions of a full-time job. Often, we refer to time as RY time, as one mentioned is a pressure cooker. Feeling after a month of knowing our RY family, many have already become close enough to be real family. How has this only been a month? Speaking in time-space continuum, it is amazing how much you can fit into a day while working 40 hours. Sleep, optional. While I was living my best life in KL, I didn’t feel like I was doing too much, however now that I am reminiscing through the photos… I do not know how I did it all. Month one, in the books.
Quotes Of KL:
“I am not sure what I am eating, but it is delish!”
“Where is the rooftop pool? Does it have Wi-fi?” (just to get a dose of sunshine)
“What’s the Wi-Fi? (Wi-Fi is given out more freely than water.)
Insert Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones theme song into all adventures.
Terima Kashi! (Thank you)
Week one of Remote Year ends, I must remind myself that it is in fact only 1 week! After a short week of a crash course in acclimating to a new culture, new location, and total opposite time zone, I find that I am blown away that even with all those distractions, we have already created deep connections with a talented, diverse group of nomadic professionals. In our travel family of 35 people we have IT professionals, graphic designers, attorneys, HR/management and political consultants, producers, operations managers, finance professionals and entrepreneurs. The work ethic is astounding, the talent is mind-blowing, and I get an entire year with this group.
WAY harder than I expected. How does one pack for a year?! Be warned, this is not an advising entry.
Supplies: Bagail packing cubes, 24-inch Samsonite suitcase, and 30-liter North Face Backpack
Packed each packing cube individually, weighed them, added up to about 38 pounds. Too easy. Ready to combine that with my 8-pound suitcase should be totally fine. Oh, but wait, that is 46, must be under 20 kg which Is 44.9 pounds.
Take out two shirts and extra pair of shoes I won’t need. No problem.
Let’s get this all together now.
Everything is going my way! Room to spare in the suitcase, easy to close, this is way too easy. I lifted it up to the scale, feels a bit heavy.
Scale: 52.8 pounds. I took stuff out and it weighs more than originally?!
Round 2 Beth vs. Samsonite
Take out a pair of jeans, two more shirts, and some luxury items I enjoy (the struggle was real on that one). Sweating as if I am running a marathon in 70% humidity.
Scale: 47.2. Dear baby Jesus, please help guide me, give me strength.
I need reinforcements. “Mom, I need help!” Mom provides sound advice, that I of course, do not take, because, Yes! I DO need 7 tank tops!
Back hurts. I am sweating. Start heeding mom’s advice.
No extras, less shirts, one bra, still tough to remove dresses, but down two more dresses, 1 skirt, really… I am not even sure what is left.
Hallelujah! I can successfully board the plane.
Immigration: My first time out of North America and I stood in line for an hour just to be asked, “are you traveling alone?” said with an awkward giggle from the immigration dude/officer. Is that normal? Seemed a bit anticlimactic. Then, wait for it, the FIRST stamp in my Passport! Wow, what an incredible experience. I feel like I accomplished something. Made the 24 hours of travel and loss of one day all worth it.
Airport: Surprisingly western. Littered with overpriced stores and souvenir shops. You know you are not in the states because of the smells of curry being carried to your nose in the humid, wet air, as if you were face-first over the hot pot of freshly cooked curry. Another shocking difference was the restroom. I was not expecting to squat but after being on a plane for almost 5 hours, any bathroom would suffice. At first, I thought it was so kind for two women to let me ahead of them in line, I thought, “they must see the emergency in my eyes.” Then I waked into the stall only to have the metaphorical wind knocked out of me in shock. Knowing I was being looked at, I acted like, oh, I got this. One thing the Army teaches you, you can pee anywhere. So, I used the “squat” toilet, only to realize as I left, there were western toilet options. The women were not allowing me to go ahead, they were waiting for the western toilet. Well, when in Asia!
Fast forward to about five days into the year: More than enough clothes, but should have brought my little bottle of Tide (MOM!) and my water filter. Could have done without 1 pair of jeans (too hot and humid). Overall, there is no way of knowing what you will need for an entire year. If the rest of the locations are like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, there will be plenty of places to buy anything you need.
As we kick off the new year at LearnKey there is alot of excitement. We recently had everyone in the company write up their 2018 goals (i.e. courses released, students gaining certification/graduation/employment,etc.) and by the looks of it, we are going to be a big year. We plan on adding new offerings (i.e. language localization) and will be enhancing some of our courses with other learning facilitators.
Each month I will share a status on one of our goals. This month it is industry certification. Last year, we exceeded our goal, having our military veteran students achieve over 658 globally recognized industry IT & Career Ready Certifications in CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, Windows, IC3, and more! That was a great accomplishment, as it aligns with our true “Why,” which is Improving Employability Every Day. This is a big one for us because it is a team effort to make sure our students succeed. Next year’s goal is to exceed over 800 certifications. Additionally, we expanded our offering of courses available through Certiport and on the GMetrix Platform, enabling thousands of other students in college and K-12 to have access to our certification courses.
We continue to see increased demand for soft/employability skills training with some of our most popular titles on Job Hunting in a Digital World, Know Your Talents, Making a Good Impression, Resume Skills, Business Ethics on the Job, and Be Careful Before You Click!
Speaking of soft/employability skills, be sure to read the article on “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees and what it means to today’s students”. Very interesting in 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view), having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues, being a good critical thinker and problem solver, and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
These skills are in demand at every level of an organization, which is why we are dedicated to making sure our Video-Based Digital Media Library of courses has over 225 titles on those important skills.
Our next big course release is CompTIA’s Security+, coming at the end of this month. We are really excited to make that available as this is one of our signature courses. You can find more info on our 2018 course release schedule here!
Here’s to a great start in 2018 and check back next month for another update.