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That's the Ever-Evolving World of Learning Tech!

Instructional designer turned customer success consultant, Erin Peterschick, joins me to talk about the constantly changing and evolving world of learning tech. Erin discusses what's been most surprising about her new role at Totara, the company behind the award-winning learning experience platform. We also talk about the challenges of implementing increasingly newer and more complex applications in the workplace, as well as the fallout of our society's churn and burn culture. Erin shares how she has personally had to become more agile with new technology this year as she took her in-person, local learning conference "Learnapalooza" fully online within six weeks!

Erin and her partner at Skillsleap will share more about how they made that transition possible at the upcoming Tech Fest.

You can connect with Erin at or through LinkedIn.


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:04

Okay, today I have a learning experience designer turned Customer Success consultant, Erin Peterschick here with me today. Thank you so much for joining me, Erin.

Erin Peterschick 0:15

It's great to be here, Leslie.

Leslie Early 0:17

So we're kind of I'm kind of excited about this talk, because we're gonna sort of talk about, you know, the constantly evolving world of learning technology. But before we get into that, do you want to take a minute to sort of introduce yourself and kind of share a little bit with the listeners?

Erin Peterschick 0:34

Sure. I'm probably not unlike a lot of the folks that are listening to this an accidental instructional designer, or accidental learning professional. It's a it's a second or third career. For me, I backed into it from other worlds. And it's always kind of funny to me how the dots Connect, in hindsight, like when I started out working in government and electoral politics and working for large state agencies. You know, in hindsight, oh, look, it was large scale change management. And we did a lot of training and learning as part of that. And that was the elements that engaged me and brought me the most enjoyment. And so I, I chased those those paths and ended up teaching English in another country and China for several years. I know, a lot of our colleagues have done stuff like that, too. And then, most recently, I was working for Boeing, as a learning experience designer, and now I've moved into kind of the learning tech space as my customer success consultant role with a company called Totara.

Leslie Early 1:37

Cool. So um, yeah, so you're sort of into this, like learning tech space, which I really don't know that much about. I mean, I'm a user and consumer of learning tech, but I have no idea how that stuff gets developed. So, like, I know, and I also know, this is sort of a new role for you. So I'm just curious, specific to your, your company. What's something that has, like, surprised you as you've gotten to, like, peek behind the curtains a little bit?

Erin Peterschick 2:05

Yeah, no, that's a great question. Well, I feel like I should start with the caveat that, you know, it's almost kind of new to me, too, I, I don't have like deep chops, or a long history of like a learning management system, LMS, system administrator, you know, architect or anything like that. And now I'm in a company where that's their core product. And it's a, it's an awesome product. We We are open core. So the code is open, which values wise really resonated with me when I joined the company. So there's sort of a core, you know, custom code that then clients can customize with their own plugins. And, yeah, it's just a really fascinating world, and not one I had a lot of exposure to. So you know, of course, it's surprising to me just how much there is for me to learn, like the learning curve on the upskilling. And just getting to know the product, because in my role, eventually, I need to be able to demo the product and speak to it, you know, super cogently and compellingly enough to, you know, kind of like we do in learning needs analysis, you know, you're, you're doing a needs analysis of the pain points of your potential client, and then trying to showcase, you know, how your product can meet those needs with as little friction, or as much, you know, practical time boxing and costs, you know, because everybody's very cost conscious, of course, and a lot of our clients do see significant savings because of our approach on the on sort of the core product being open, open core, if not full, open source. So that's been certainly surprising. I'm also just kind of super delighted at some of the newer products that we've come up with, like I got super into degreed, I really like learning experience platforms. And when I was at Boeing, I kind of became like a power user out of the gate when we brought degreed on and, and I've followed them as a company for years. And now, you know, my company is kind of entering that space, too. And so it's kind of fun to start kind of, like popping open the hood and like, Okay, what does ours do versus what theirs does? Because that whole like, social collaborative, you know, meeting people where they're at learning in the moment beyond traditional LMS is, is just super exciting space for me personally, like, philosophically and professionally and personally. So I've been excited and kind of surprised to see that learning experience platform, landscape change with, you know, new products and companies coming online. You know, it's it'll be an interesting space to watch, I think in the coming coming couple years.

Leslie Early 4:52

Yeah. And to back up a little bit. It's like, there are sort of in the ID field, the learning development field, there are so many tools at this point, I think at one point, it started off with like, PowerPoint articulate presenter, which evolved to storyline and rise. And so even within those older tools, they're evolving themselves to stay competitive with all of these other competitors are coming in. And now, you know, learning experience is different. And that's a whole nother branch that's like, shaping how instructional design is and the merging of so there's just so much activity going on so much evolution happening right now.

Erin Peterschick 5:39

Yeah, no, I, I couldn't agree more like I have so much empathy for just the complexity that we're all dealing with as human beings. And then you have these complex technical solutions that are being debuted in your work, and you have to ramp up on those two. And, you know, I have some, maybe some less popular thoughts about just how, you know how much we're kind of outsourcing our decision making, or our thinking to these, you know, air quotes, capital T, capital S, the system can do that for us. And then, like, deep, deep expertise, whether it's in finance, or HR, and people or whatever is sort of like, it's kind of being lost, because I feel like companies are just kind of, Oh, you know, the system will take care of that.

Leslie Early 6:29

Yeah, like getting, you know, changing or outsourcing that decision making process to an algorithm instead of letting a person sort of put put their brain to it, because it's hard to it takes a lot of time and money to invest in a person to get them to that level of decision making toys, if it's like, I can pay a few 1000 a few grand, and get a solution that is sophisticated and can make decisions. But like, it's, in my mind, I think I'm still thinking that, hey, I would still maybe rather have a human do some of this work.

Erin Peterschick 7:07

Yeah. And, and to be fair, like, you know, from my understanding of the research, the literature, the stuff that you know, Deloitte needs, you know, big, sophisticated, smarter than me think tanks are putting out is absolutely for some of these lower level sort of tasks that don't require, you know, true critical thinking, sure, bringing on like, make my work more efficient, streamline work, work processes, I just think it seems like the workflows and the processes seem like they're getting equally complex to keep up with the complexity of these systems. And so we're not actually hacking it to make work easier for people. It's just sort of piling on more expectations, like, and now you're going to be an administrator of this complex system. And you're like, I'm not what I went to school for. And now I have to ramp up on it. And I think, yeah, you touched on something or your last comment also just made me think about, we're also grappling with a lot of churn. And people not staying in their roles or at companies like, like, I look on LinkedIn, and people are there for like, seven months, nine months, a year, a year and a half, and they're on to the next thing. So you're losing all of that capability that you invested in the person. So you can't even really trust that that's going to be there either. So how do you solve for that? Like, yeah, we get into, like knowledge management and sort of, like institutional memory quandary is that I think a lot of companies are facing to, and then the loss of learning and knowledge, right? Who knows this? Who's really good at this? Are they still here, and they teach someone else?

Leslie Early 8:46

I just feel like, again, that just goes back to my original thought that right now, maybe not just in our industry, but in a lot of industries because of the information revolution, like it's just, it's changed the way we work. It's changed how long we stay at work, it's changed all so many things that everybody is, in turn, right now. Everything is in turn, everything is tumultuous, right? That was even before Yeah, COVID 2020 a lot of th stability of like, the generations before us just isn't here anymore. For us. It's just not here. And I don't know, if it will level out and stabilize at some point. It doesn't seem to be seems like it's just gonna continue how it's going. But I also wanted to say, I appreciate your point of I was thinking of outsourcing this sort of human decision making to to an algorithm, but how you said, Oh, but then if the tool itself is increasingly complex, then that doesn't even work. Like the fact that we brought in the tool to make this simple, but now The tools are so complex that yeah, it's just, it's like the snake eating its tail.

Erin Peterschick 10:07

Totally, totally well, and I think for me as a, you know, a person who's passionate about learning and helping bring out the best of people in their work, you know, so much of, I think our shared sense, you know, sensibilities, you know, certainly I know, you feel this way, but we as l&d people, I mean, we're capable of such empathy, and insight. And so it's like, with, with great power, or whatever, great power comes great responsibility. I feel like learning professionals are uniquely positioned to kind of straddle all of these areas, you know, like knowing enough about technology, but also trying to understand culture and in the employee experience and engagement issues that, you know, your HR colleagues grapple with, and then, you know, trying to partner effectively with your communications folks to make sure that it's clear what, what is out there to help employees do their jobs well, or effectively or more efficiently, partnering with your colleagues in it to know enough to be dangerous, or even get really sophisticated about how all these complex, you know, it? systems work together? I just, I think we're kind of we're weird, like liaisons or expeditors, of those kinds of relationships and conversations. Yeah. Those sometimes were marginalized from those conversations as well.

Leslie Early 11:29

Yeah, that's true. Yeah, I guess yeah. Because we come from the background of like, doing lots of empathy exercises and needs analysis and trying, not taking face value, what someone tells you their need is, but also trying to understand some underlying maybe systemic issues or different things like that.

Erin Peterschick 11:52

Yeah, in our, in our colleagues over in product, you know, like product designers, product managers, sometimes I look at them and like, they're often like, run like an agile team and things like that, I look at them, and I'm like, holy cow, they're doing what we do better than we do. Because they're just really looking at that whole user experience. And getting that that quick MVP, you know, of a product out the door and watching people's actual behavior as they interact with the thing that they created. And sometimes we're kind of hampered by these. No, you know, we got to do this big, long training, you know, curriculum design, and, and it takes us nine months to get it out the door. And it's, you know, it's still the second we launch it. So I look at my colleagues over in product. And I'm like, I kind of want to be more like you guys. You seem to be doing this, right.

Leslie Early 12:39

And I do think that that's being brought in more, I think people are talking about that, that trying to get more agile, trying to become more iterative and less linear. And also, another one that I've heard is design, bringing design thinking in and trying to bring that that perspective in. So yeah, again, just like what we've been saying this whole time is like there's just such a mesh of things happening all at once so much motion happening all at once. And you sort of had to go through this personally recently, right? Like you sort of had to go through a very quick transition yourself with your conference, which was such a great conference, by the way, so you pulled it off very well. And I'm speaking of learner Palooza, but I would like I don't want to tell your story for you. So go ahead.

Erin Peterschick 13:28

I appreciate that. Awesome. segue. Yeah. Because we did we kind of had to do the same thing that I was just speaking about, where we had to look at sort of like, what are our options, if we're going to take a live, you know, up to 300 person, day long event of learning, that traditionally has had a lot of kind of secret sauce or special? You know, what's the magic? The magic is the connecting with people, the you know, the conversations that happen in the margins, you know, some of the great stuff that happens at conferences, for sure, or, or in person events, how do you then pivot to virtual if you're even going to do it because there's, of course, that decision, and then doing the inventory and like approaching vendors to try and find the appropriate technological platform to meet my end my end users needs, you know, my, my attendees and participants needs and to do it quickly, and in an agile manner, like we were just talking about, we ended up we ended up making the call to go from in person to virtual because, you know, we just kind of continued to monitor the health situation and the recommendations, and we probably waited too long, but we were just kind of like, hoping that maybe, you know, and then you start looking at the analog interventions to keep 300 people safe in a physical space. And when you do this event, kind of, you know, off the side of my desk me and my business partner do this like Like outside of our day jobs, kind of fun for the last six years, and it's a lot of work, and it's a small but mighty team that pulls it off. If you're cost conscious, it's just really hard. So we had to shift our cost consciousness to, okay, what's the platform? What's the technology solutions that we can do that get a little bit of the magic? are within budget? And then how do we effectively redesign and redeploy something in about a six week period?

Leslie Early 15:29

So six weeks? I didn't know it was that fast?

Erin Peterschick 15:34

Yeah. Well, again, we probably waited too long to pull the trigger on that.

Leslie Early 15:38

I think everyone was still a little bit too optimistic at the beginning of, you know, the first half of 2020 thinking like, oh, maybe things will calm down by then. And here we are. A year later. Yes.

Erin Peterschick 15:54

Yeah, well, again, I want to say insanity is doing the same thing over and over. And I just feel like we're trapped in that loop right now. Yeah. With the re lockdown, at least in my state. Yeah. me to where I am.

Leslie Early 16:08

But I did want to reiterate that I think you you guys did a great job. That was my first time attending and I probably wouldn't have had the chance. That's the other pro that came out of that. Right? Like, I would never have had the chance because I'm nowhere near where the original location was in Seattle. Right?

Erin Peterschick 16:25

That's where Yeah, yeah, no, that's a great point, like, not only taking something that has historically been in person, but historically very regional, hyper, hyper local, like we would showcase local talent, because we kind of looked around and we're like, look at all the amazing learning people that call Seattle home base, whether it's Melissa Miller way or my role, Dan or Chris Peary, or just, you know, these folks that we had in our own backyard, that's kind of how we started doing this conference, because we're like, you know, Seattle is kind of this hub of learning, we've got all these companies like Amazon, and Microsoft, and, you know, Boeing and, and all this talent, let's, let's showcase the dickens out of it. And then we grew our global footprint, we had people attending from the Emirates, and Japan, and Sweden and the UK. And I was blown away at how something that we traditionally did and offered for just kind of our community, our own backyard had value and made an impact. And rippled across the globe. You know, I love seeing people post on LinkedIn, and getting to meet you and Erica and get to work on the job seeker, you know, help me I'm transitioning, or help me I've lost my job because of COVID. Like, Oh, just get being able to give back like that. So, so powerful. You're right, you're right.

Leslie Early 17:47

Yeah, that when I was super excited to be a part of that, and to be able to contribute, and also just to be present, because it was it was a very nice experience. I did want to sort of ask where your what's coming up next for you like what's going on?

Erin Peterschick 18:06

Yeah, I've been kind of lying low. Because it's been, it's been challenging to transition to a new job, new company. Like I said, just my own, you know, kind of upskilling is taking a lot of cognitive energy. But speaking of learning Palooza, we did get invited to kind of come tell that story at a conference that's coming up. And it has itself historically been fairly large several days. But it takes place usually in Australia. So to your point, I get to go be present with folks that I might normally not get the chance to meet. And so that's the innovation and tech Fest, they call it innovation and technology, HR and LD conference, and it's coming up the seventh through the 11th of December. And it's all online. And we're gonna do a session where we just kind of share like an A 30 minute pre recording, unfortunately. But that's a great way to, you know, to solve for some of this stuff. And then we'll be available for the live q&a. So it's kind of one of those hybrid events. And I'm happy to share the link so that you can post it in show notes. Yeah, definitely. We'll see some folks there, either in my session or all the other awesome sessions.

Leslie Early 19:20

Yeah. So awesome. Okay, well, is there I mean, I know you're super busy. But you know, if people have questions or they want to reach out with to you, where are you available?

Erin Peterschick 19:32

Yeah. The digital spaces that I inhabit include. We have a website for the company, me and my business partner used to put on learning Palooza and it's called skills leap. So it's skills And we're kind of focusing in 2021 on upskilling and helping people focus on skills because we think that's a great intervention. And it's also on Twitter at skills leap. And then I personally, I love LinkedIn. So come find me on LinkedIn. It's just my name and there aren't too many. Erin Peterschicks.

Leslie Early 20:06

I didn't think so. Okay. All right. Well, thank you so much, Erin, for joining me. I've had a great conversation and I have a lot of things to think about now.

Erin Peterschick 20:15

I appreciate your time and your energy and just keep doing this. keep showing up in the world the way you are. And thank you so much for having me.

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