Rise up: 5 LA companies prioritizing professional development

by Joyce Famakinwa
September 19, 2018

No one wants to feel like their current position is a dead end. The opportunity to rise through the ranks and grow professionally is important to just about anybody, but especially to those of us on the hunt for a new gig. Professional development signals that a company chooses to invest in its talent and is in it for the long haul.

We wanted to find out what it looks like when a company actually makes a deliberate effort to support their employees’ career trajectories. From management boot camps to annual eLearning stipends, here’s how companies prioritize professional development.

 

StackCommerce team
photo via StackCommerce

StackCommerce is passionate about aiding people in their discovery of new brands and products through media and publications they already use. The company’s native commerce platform allows online publishers and brands to reach the right audience and drive revenue. Elizabeth Weyand, StackCommerce’s senior people manager, said that continued training and education sets their employees up for success.  

 

What are some common career path opportunities at your company?

We believe career growth can happen in several ways, shapes and forms. We are also very collaborative and consider this a huge factor in career growth. Stack has had several internal success stories of individuals who started in one role to grow into another because the company needs aligning with the individual’s passions. Outside of this, we have a robust HR process, especially when it comes to meaningful raises and promotions. We leverage quarterly reviews, annual reviews and 360 reviews to provide valuable feedback. As a result, the unified feedback will justify a raise, promotion or expansion of the individual’s role as long as it is in line with the company objectives and needs. Stack celebrates promotions monthly and we have peer recognition programs that help contribute to the supportive atmosphere.

Stack celebrate promotions monthly and we have peer recognition programs that help contribute to the supportive atmosphere.”

How does leadership support career growth at your company?

Since we are a smaller company and there might not be as much upward mobility than that of other companies, we offer internal training for managers, as well as host training on the software specific teams use (i.e. Looker, Salesforce, etc.). We also support our staff to further their education and training with a $500 per year eLearning stipend and a $10 per month reading allotment. We believe all of these factors can impact an individual’s career while at Stack, and lead them onto success later on in their career.

 

Evite team
photo via Evite

An invitation is the first sneak peek of what’s to come. That’s why Evite’s platform lets users create or select invites for events and occasions of every stripe. The company’s app allows people to send invites, track RSVPs and see who has viewed the invitation. Evite CTO Perry Evoniuk talked to us about how mentorship benefits the growth and development of the tech team.  

 

What are some common career path opportunities at your company?

Generally, career progression builds from an entry-level position to a senior title, then to technical lead, and often but not always to a director position. Early on in our growth, we developed a very senior-level staff base, which has not only developed engineering excellence in the organization but has also provided a means to mentor less experienced staff. This has really helped to accelerate the career progression of the technology teams as Evite has grown in the last several years.

Because Evite is still a small to medium-sized company, switching disciplines either within the technology team or even outside the technology team is very fluid and dynamic. Although the specific focus of an individual may be in the team they’re assigned to, taking on work outside of that area is welcomed. Often we accommodate this by progressively assigning more and more advanced work to build experience before making a formal transition. This same flexibility exists in switching to disciplines outside of tech.

The biggest contributor to career growth is the openness of leadership in allowing individuals to contribute to areas outside of their expertise.”

How does leadership support career growth at your company?

One item that has proven effective at continuously gauging and improving Evite’s working environment is a program called “voice of employee.” This is a survey-based program that assesses Evite’s progress on different items important to employees, including career growth. As a result of this program, we’ve continuously improved our approach to career growth through improved training opportunities, better clarity around career tiers and organizational structures that make sense and provide career progression.

The biggest contributor to career growth is the openness of leadership in allowing individuals to contribute to areas outside of their expertise.

Ample opportunities are also provided to attend training or conferences. In numerous instances attendees have brought back game-changing new approaches or technologies which we’ve incorporated. We’ve had very strong ROI from exposure to career growth-related training outside of Evite, so relevant training opportunities are strongly encouraged.

 

GoGuardian team
photo via GoGuardian

GoGuardian’s Chromebook-based management software aims to help schools address the risks associated with classroom technology. The company provides monitoring, filtering and theft prevention products that make it easier for teachers to stay on top of their students’ online activity. Baran Birol, GoGuardian’s talent manager, explained how the desire to learn is ingrained into the company’s cultural DNA.  

 

What are some common career path opportunities at your company?

Just as there isn’t one path to summit a mountain, there isn’t just one path for career growth and development at GoGuardian. We believe that every person’s path starts with optimizing for personal growth and learning. The curiosity to learn and drive to improve oneself is infused into our DNA, and we try to embed this into our daily tasks as part of our culture. A desire to grow and learn is the common denominator shared amongst each Guardian (that’s what we call ourselves).

We believe that every person’s path starts with optimizing for personal growth and learning.”

How does leadership support career growth at your company?

Leadership lives and breathes our values, which are meant to create an ecosystem where folks can learn through experimentation and engage in honest conversations about growth and development. Leadership leads conversations with their teams and individual employees around setting goals, guidelines and coaching to carve a unique path for each individual’s career development. To assist the leaders within the org, we are also in the midst of implementing a platform to store the data and help facilitate the conversations around career growth. It is through honest feedback, transparency and challenges/goal setting that leadership helps most with career growth at GoGuardian.

 

PatientPop team
photo via patientpop

PatientPop’s marketing platform makes it possible for medical practices to scale their digital operations. The company provides SEO services and content marketing solutions to improve a practice’s web presence, making it easy to reach potential patients. VP of People Operations Alexis Kavazanjian told us that it’s not uncommon for PatientPop to promote from within.

 

What are some common career path opportunities at your company?

At PatientPop, the opportunities for career development are endless, and while there is no set career path, there are some common moves employees have made. Teams are working together on a consistent basis, and we find a very strong bond between our sales and customer success teams. It’s not uncommon for an employee on our customer success team to jump into a sales role or vise versa. In addition to moving laterally across departments, we see a lot of upward movement; the majority of our managers started as individual contributors and have worked their way into management roles. We have new roles and opportunities opening all the time, and we pride ourselves on having a bias for promoting from within.

We know that by investing in our employees, we are investing in our business and have developed many tools and resources to support our employees.”

How does leadership support career growth at your company?

We know that by investing in our employees, we are investing in our business and have developed many tools and resources to support our employees. For example, we have a career web posted on our wiki that shows employees what jobs are currently open and the skills and experience required for those roles, and the people operations team holds regular office hours to discuss how employees can gain the skills needed in order to successfully transition into a new role. We have a career pathing worksheet that we provide to employees to encourage them to discover their strengths and weaknesses and improve their marketable skills. We just recently held a management boot camp run by our SVP of CS, Carla Nichols, that provided the team with an overview of what it means to run a CS department along with tricks and tips on how to be accountable for your own career development.

In addition, we have monthly manager training sessions where we teach our new and emerging leaders the skills they need to be successful, as well as a comprehensive interview training program for all employees and regular book clubs. As a company, we are passionate about learning because when employees are learning they are developing skills needed to move forward in their careers.

 

Liferay team
photo via Liferay

Companies in multiple industries work with Liferay to help them create and manage customer experiences thanks to a platform that allows users to build websites, portals and intranets. Liferay Senior Manager Jerry Niu filled us in on how regular check-ins with managers keep employees on the right track.

 

What are some common career path opportunities at your company?

While all departments at Liferay offer somewhat different career paths, one common path, and the one we follow within my department, offers six stages in ascending order: associate, mid, senior, lead, principal and senior principal. These stages are followed among both technical and nontechnical professionals. Employees typically spend about two years in the associate and mid roles before continuing to progress in their career. Once an employee has reached the senior title they are expected to serve in a managerial role and possess a great deal of technical expertise. Those in the lead, principal and senior principal positions are responsible for directly leading teams.

Employees are assigned a mentor separate from their manager who has previously held their position and can help them grow in their role.”

How does leadership help support career growth at your company?

In addition to offering a clearly defined career path, direct managers at Liferay are required to regularly check in with each member of their team. Quarterly check-ins are required, but managers are encouraged to check in every month to help ensure that every employee is progressing toward their career goals. In cases where the direct manager doesn’t work with an employee on a day-to-day basis, they will reach out to those who do for their honest feedback. Employees are assigned a mentor separate from their manager who has previously held their position and can help them grow in their role.

 

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