The Art of the Upskill: How Pluralsight Promotes Professional Development from Within

Pluralsight’s devotion to equitable skills development starts with its employees.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Nov. 10, 2022
The Art of the Upskill: How Pluralsight Promotes Professional Development from Within
Brand Studio Logo

Jeremy Morgan, a senior developer advocate at Pluralsight, stacks his books on neat diagonal shelves in his home office. His colleague, Technical Lead Kristen Foster-Marks, begrudgingly stows her volumes in a small closet — “I actually feel like I’m dishonoring them,” she lamented — while Learning and Development Manager Bree Smith takes a more organic approach. “I’m so organized, except for my books stacked randomly everywhere,” Smith said, laughing. “I worry they feel left out if I don’t finish them.” 

A love of reading isn’t the only thing these three colleagues have in common.

Much like their unique book storage systems, Morgan, Foster-Marks and Smith have pursued their mutual devotion to learning on markedly different paths. The “art of the upskill” may look disparate in each learner’s hands, but the trio’s shared passion for it crackles in every exchange.

 “As an idea person whose head is always in the clouds, I love that we have space to learn new things at Pluralsight and see where they take us,” Smith said, sharing that “seek to learn” is one of the five values Pluralsight team members are committed to. It should come as no surprise that the word “learn” arose no less than thirty-six times in an hour-long conversation with the Pluralsight team. 

As a workforce development company, Pluralsight was built upon the commitment to provide equitable growth opportunities for all tech professionals — starting with its own. 

 

Pluralsight team members gather around a computer.
Pluralsight

 

What Pluralsight Does

Pluralsight is a self-described “technology workforce development organization” that strives to empower companies and teams to develop critical skills, improve their processes and gain insights into their growth. The company’s tools include Skill and Flow, which provide tech professionals with effective resources and learning communities centered around building both the hard and soft skills of the modern tech industry. 

 

“We are a part of the intended audience for our products,” said Foster-Marks, who serves as technical lead of Pluralsight’s Technology Center of Excellence.

“We have the opportunity to make use of them and make them better,” she added, placing careful emphasis on the conjunction.

Senior Developer Advocate Jeremy Morgan agreed. Over his seven years as an author of code with the company, he has often turned to Pluralsight’s learning platform and labs to sharpen his creative skills or brush up on a lesser-used language of code for upcoming projects.

 “It’s always a great place to start,” Morgan said, adjusting his rectangular glasses. “After a few courses, I’m still not an expert, but I always know more than I knew before.” 

For Morgan, Pluralsight’s mission of advancing the world’s tech workforce appeals to his compassionate sensibilities. 

“Our work is about breaking down barriers for those who would ordinarily face roadblocks to getting into or ahead in the technology industry,” he said.

 

Our work is about breaking down barriers”

 

“I grew up on a farm: There wasn’t a lot of access to technology,” he continued. “The odds of being born where I was and becoming a software engineer are pretty low — but technology has completely changed my life.” 

Morgan counts himself as one of the fortunate few from his town to have pursued a higher degree and kicked down the door to a career in software engineering. He savors the chance to hold that door ajar for the next generation of tech hopefuls. 

“I first got into computers in the early ’90s, and now it’s more possible than ever to break down those barriers for people, from Africa and Siberia to New York City,” he said. “Everyone should have access to these skills, and Pluralsight really walks the walk when it comes to providing.” 

Development Manager Bree Smith nodded along as Morgan spoke. Heralding from a background in education and recruiting, Smith is finely attuned to the learner’s experience. 

“I find a lot of joy in the fact that our company sees the value in investing in humans, from a cultural and business standpoint,” Smith said. 

Despite being five years deep into her tenure with Pluralsight — “Ancient times in tech years, like dog years,” she joked — Smith considers herself a nontechnical explorer of the tech wilderness. Her tech insecurities became all the more glaring when the Covid-19 pandemic descended, pushing her in-person onboarding sessions online overnight. 

“As someone in a nontechnical position, who still doesn’t know how she works in tech, I am beyond grateful to work at a company whose product makes it easy to house recordings and resources and host a really engaging online onboarding experience,” Smith said, raising her hands in gratitude. 

“I’m very driven by emotion: You won’t see me get jazzed about tax software,” she confided. “But the benefit of what we’re doing here is so clear, it’s easy to get behind the products.” 

The collective fire for personal growth at Pluralsight lies in the intersectionality between customer and developer. As a result, its workforce is equal parts customer and creator — invested in all facets of the experience. 

 

Technical Center for Excellence

Asked how Pluralsight’s Technical Center for Excellence engages with the company as a whole, Foster-Marks is ecstatic to dive in. “We are the ones who look at how we can use the products to help our folks internally,” she explained. “How can we treat our internal folks as the intended audience for these products?” Accompanied by applause from Smith and Morgan, she added: “We also just stood up an accessibility team — with a design team connected to our accessibility initiatives for all users.” 

 

Few have as many access points into the Pluralsight journey as Foster-Marks. Breaking from the rigid tracks of academia, Foster-Marks breathed new life into her career first as a Pluralsight user.

 “Right at the end of my first coding bootcamp, I discovered Pluralsight,” she said, sighing wistfully. “There was no question: It was so worth the money to me.” 

Foster-Marks dove headlong into her second life as a software engineer, utilizing Pluralsight’s Flow product as she honed her resume. When a position opened at Pluralsight about three years ago, it felt like fate — but the role called for a coding language Foster-Marks didn’t speak. Although she was sure she would never hear back, she applied anyway.

“What do you know, I got a call back,” she recounted. “Every step along the way, I reminded them, ‘I don’t know this language.’”

“I’ll never forget the final interview, when the hiring manager said, ‘It’s okay: We trust you to learn on the job,’” she said, her face lighting up with a sentimental grin. 

“The highest rungs of our executive leadership preach this message: ‘Let’s use our products to learn on the job,’” Foster-Marks said. “It feels like a dream to work somewhere I can actually take time — not personal time — to keep my technology skills fresh.”

By all accounts, Pluralsight has enmeshed education into its daily activities, banishing the belief that tech professionals must shoulder their continued career growth by night. By baking time for professional development into the day-to-day work of its employees, Pluralsight has broken open the model of traditional career trajectories and created space for honest exploration. 

“Coming from a career in academia, it was mesmerizing to see how many different roles there are at Pluralsight,” Foster-Marks said with a laugh. 

She continued: “We have this incredible messaging and encouragement around internal mobility and job-crafting — it gives us all space and permission to imagine ourselves in new roles.” 

“The possibilities are just incredible.” 

 

Pluralsight team members gather around a computer.
Pluralsight

 

What is Psychological Safety?

Harvard Business Review defines psychological safety as “the belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation.” The term has been identified as a “critical driver of high-quality decision making, healthy group dynamics and interpersonal relationships, greater innovation, and more effective execution in organizations.” In other words, psychological safety is more than a buzzword: It is a cornerstone of creativity and imagination in the workplace.  

 

Resting her chin in her hand, Smith ruminated on her own exploration at Pluralsight. 

“We can get stuck in thinking of our careers as a fixed track, but they’re more than that,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you what I’m going to do next, but that permission to explore has led me to so many opportunities.” 

For instance, Smith was recently able to launch a value ambassadors program that Kirsten is also a part of. 

“The intention is to help others feel empowered to speak to values and create more connections at work,” she said. “It started with a ‘Wouldn’t this be fun and helpful?’ and it’s turned into a fifty-person program with monthly meetings and a budget. I’m able to have both permission and encouragement from leadership to turn a little something into something.” 

“Coming from recruiting, I’ve interacted with people that are hungry and excited, but they feel like they have to go elsewhere to get opportunities,” Smith continued. “At Pluralsight, we’re creating this space to say, ‘Hey, we believe in you, and we can help fill any little gaps with the learning products we have.’”

“We all have very different paths to achieving growth and development — being able to foster an environment of safety and encouragement to get there is huge,” she said. 

 

BENEFITS THAT BUILD LIFELONG LEARNERS

  • Protected learning time 
  • Annual Career Week and mentorship programs 
  • Employee Resource Group-led programming
  • Leadership series and career ladders
  • Heavy focus on internal mobility and internal-first hiring
  • Pluralsight @ Pluralsight
  • Budget allocation for professional development and tuition reimbursement program
  • Professional development toolkits

 

It is in this culture of safety that Morgan’s excitement for the future is rooted. “The world of development often talks about psychological safety, and we certainly have that here,” he said.

Grounded in this safety and his accomplishments as a software developer, Morgan cherishes the runway he’s been given to explore other outlets. 

“I’m not necessarily interested in going directly up the corporate ladder,” he said. “My leader said, ‘Great, let’s work on a way you can improve the skills you’re interested in,’ and now I’ve been focused on becoming a better content creator through our courses on content, public speaking and how to interview in a podcast setting.” 

“I’ve done the corporate ladder, and now I just want to make cool stuff,” Morgan said.  

“Like Bree, I have one million ideas a minute — and some of them are even good,” he quipped. “Some are flops, and some are fantastically successful, but I always know I have that safety to imagine.”

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Pluralsight.

Hiring Now
Fluidra North America
Hardware • Internet of Things • Retail • Robotics • Software
SHARE