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Brand Story: Degreed

Degreed is the workforce upskilling platform for one in three Fortune 50 companies. We connect all your learning, talent development, and internal mobility opportunities to intelligence on the skills your business needs next. And we do it all in one simple, fluid, skill-building experience that’s powered by your people’s expertise and interests. So you can transform your workforce from within. Founded in 2012, Degreed is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, with additional offices in Salt Lake City, New York, London, Amsterdam, and Brisbane.

1. Who are the founders and what is their background?

Degreed was founded by David Blake and Eric Sharp. Both believe that learning is too important to stay the way it is — individuals need to own their lifelong learning and career growth. Before Degreed, David helped to launch a competency-based, accredited university and was a founding team member at Zinch (acquired by Chegg NASDQ: CHGG). Eric led software development at Mediconnect Global during an exit to Verisk Health for $349 million. He has more than 20 years of experience in software engineering, mostly coding and leading the development of award-winning healthcare products.

2. Can you tell us why it was created? What is its mission?

Degreed was created to jailbreak the degree. It gives individuals ownership over their learning and career growth, by helping them transact on their current and future skills. Ultimately, the vision is to make skills the currency of work, not credentials or connections. Empowering people to build careers and work on roles and projects that truly align with their skills, learning, interests and aspirations.

3. What are its USPs?

Degreed was the first of its kind in the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) sector, and since then it has remained at the forefront of (firstly) learning, and now, upskilling and reskilling. It achieves this through remaining highly user-centric. Learning opportunities are tailored to people’s interests and aspirations, while work opportunities (in the form of permanent roles, secondments, stretch assignments, project-based work, volunteering and more) are offered based on skills, learning, and career goals. Every Degreed user has a skill profile that tracks all of their current skills, experience, and formal and informal learning, to give an up-to-date view of what they can do. This profile follows individuals throughout their career to become the most accurate information on their skills — enabling them to transact on their current and future skills.

4. Can you share the story of the brand’s journey – from concept to where it is now?

Degreed was created in 2012 on a simple premise: Education is too important to stay the way it is.

Co-founders David Blake and Eric Sharp set out to “jailbreak the degree” with the conviction that the traditional degree is an exclusionary toll-gate to success, which refuses to acknowledge there are other ways to learn. Skills, irrespective of how or where people develop them, should be what determines an individual’s opportunities.

Initially, Degreed was offered as a B2C product, but in 2015 its strategy shifted to become a B2B product aimed at organizations with thousands of employees in their workforce. In 2016, the product developed by Degreed started to be known as a learning experience platform (LXP).

Degreed grew quickly to become the LXP for one in three Fortune 50 companies. In 2019, it acquired London and Brisbane-based Adepto, a total talent platform that positioned Degreed to excel at career mobility (matching people to work opportunities based on their skills and goals). In 2020, Degreed surpassed 500 employees globally and launched its Career Mobility product.

Now, Degreed has just raised $153 million in Series D funding and is now valued at $1.4 billion. It has expanded to three core products: Learning Experience, Career Mobility, and Skill Analytics. Each solution helps business leaders understand the supply and demand for skills across their organizations and connect people’s skills to internal opportunities like projects, stretch assignments, and gig work, creating value for the business and their people.

5. What’s the secret to the brand’s success?

The secret ultimately lies in Degreed’s people. Degreed was founded on a vision to change the way people access opportunities and every team member is driven to reach this goal. Degreed invests in its people personally and professionally — we recognise that people need meaningful work that challenges them and grows their skills. Equally, we understand that work is only one aspect of people’s lives. Every Degreed employee understands that they can take time out to recharge, to spend time with their families, to take care of their health, to care for others, and to pursue interests and passions. By enabling our people to live their lives to the fullest, they can bring their best selves to their work.

6. Who are the key personnel and can you tell us a little about their contribution to the brand?

There are so many people who have contributed to Degreed’s growth and success over the years. But the senior leaders behind Degreed are:

David Blake, Degreed’s Chairman and co-founder

Eric Sharp, Co-founder

Chris McCarthy, Degreed’s former Chief Executive Officer and now Strategic Advisor and board member. During his three and a half years as CEO, Chris led Degreed through a period of significant growth with compound annual revenue growth of 76% and an 800% increase in enterprise value. He stepped down as CEO in April 2021 to address a chronic back issue.

Dan Levin succeeded Chris as CEO in April 2021. The former Box (NYSE:BOX) COO will lead Degreed through its future growth trajectory.

Chris Milligan, VP of Strategic Initiatives (and former VP of Career Mobility) was the CEO and founder of Adepto, joining the Degreed team as part of the acquisition.

Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning and Talent Officer

Janice Burns, Chief Career Experience Officer

Kat Kennedy, President and Chief Experience Officer. As the first product hire, Kat has been instrumental in driving Degreed’s growth, shaping its product and culture, and deepening its client relationships

7. What are its most successful innovations?

Degreed is known for creating the first LXP in the sector, and is continuing to innovate now with its Career Mobility and Skill Analytics solutions.

8. How has the brand been promoted over the years?

Degreed has a wide range of marketing and sales efforts. We’ve invested heavily in the brand and recognition among key audiences in the HR and learning space. Client advocacy, led by Degreed’s Head of Communications and Client Advocacy, Sarah Danzl is a core tactic, encouraging Degreed’s clients to spread the word about Degreed and how it’s changed their learning and workforce strategies. Degreed’s clients regularly speak to the media, at events, and to other peers about the platform.

Other marketing efforts include email marketing, PPC advertising, social media (both organic and sponsored) organic PR and paid media. Once a year, Degreed holds its in-person, 3-day, flagship event, LENS, to unite the greatest minds in HR, learning and business. During the pandemic, this became LENS Lite, an online 1-day event that attracted over 10,000 registrations for the first event.

9. What are the biggest challenges and how have they been overcome?

A particular challenge facing Degreed is in educating the market about the critical need to upskill and continue investing in people’s skills (especially during economic volatility and uncertainty). Degreed has many internal experts to leverage through interviews, thought-leadership pieces, speaking engagements and more. Their views and insights are vital in educating the market and supporting people to build the skills they need for the future.

10. What are the brand’s biggest successes?

Degreed has grown quickly since its inception, but particularly during 2020 where it focused on supporting its clients, prospects and wider network in dealing with the sudden impacts of the pandemic and remote-work shift. In 2020 alone, Degreed more than doubled its active user base and increased its team by 50%, to 600 employees, across six continents. One in seven Degreed users activated their profile between April-May 2020 (the first global lockdown).

11. What are the founders most proud of about the brand?

Degreed remains true to its original goal, to jailbreak the degree and make skills, not credentials or connections the way people build meaningful work and get access to career opportunities. People are at the core of everything Degreed does, from the user-centricity of the platform to the way it takes care of our people. For example, it recently implemented a monthly wellness budget for every employee to spend on things that make them feel better, from massages to sports classes to art workshops.

12. Can you tell us about any eco/sustainability initiatives the brand has?

Degreed remains committed to creating a sustainable workplace for its people, creating a sustainable product, and also further its clients’ sustainable agendas. There are dedicated pathways on sustainability and climate change, from both an individual and business-change perspective. All of Degreed’s offices follow sustainability initiatives like recycling and being mindful about waste and energy usage, and employees working from home offices are encouraged to do the same. Where possible, Zoom meetings take place instead of in-person meetings to reduce travel and, specifically, international travel to only essential trips.

13. Can you tell us about any key charity/philanthropic initiatives/efforts the brand has?

One recent initiative for the company was introducing one dedicated day each quarter where Degreed employees can focus on volunteering. Good Deeds by Degreed aims to give 10,000 person-hours to community service in 2021. And in doing so, it’ll support the local communities and causes that are most important to Degreed’s people. During the first Good Deeds day, Degreed employees took part in a range of volunteer activities from providing hots meals to the homeless, to working at vaccination centres, taking part in sponsored fitness activities, knitting hats, cleaning up local beaches, to caring for pups at the local dog shelter.

14. What’s next for the brand?

Degreed is continuing its global growth in 2021, as well as continuing to build on its products’ functions based on market, prospect and customer feedback. Specifically, its recent funding round will be used to accelerate product development, enhance data infrastructure, fuel global expansion, and pursue strategic acquisitions.

15. Can the founders or senior personnel share 5-10 key pieces of advice for success?

Dan Levin, CEO: Stick to hard facts when assessing a project or performance. As Philip K. Dick famously said, “reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” Obfuscating a situation with unwarranted optimism doesn’t change the reality, it just makes us less likely to solve the real problem. Celebrate your victories honestly, and when things aren’t going as planned, pitch in as a team to fix it. This will push you to consistently deliver the best results possible.

Chris Milligan, VP of Strategic Initiatives: Your beliefs become thoughts, thoughts become actions, and actions become output. Positive thinking is everything. You can believe you’ll achieve something, or you can believe you won’t — either way, you’ll prove yourself right. Failure can’t be seen as final. When you don’t see failure as final, then it becomes a stepping stone on your journey.

Janice Burns, Chief Career Experience Officer: When you’re on a journey where you cannot see the end of the road, you must use your passion to guide you. Even if you take detours, always return to your original purpose. Consider the legacy that you want to leave the world. Use your skills to make a difference and do something you feel passionate about – the economics will (ultimately) take care of themselves.

Website: https://degreed.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/degreed

Twitter: @degreed

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DegreedOfficial/

David Twitter: @davidblake

Eric Twitter: @ericgsharp