Talking with Kat Kennedy CXO of Degreed

November 10, 2020
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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app,where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and thepsychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 2 (00:18):

Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have Kat Kennedy today is alongtime friend and connection, and I've watched her, um, kind of go up theranks at degreed and, and start a lot of great things there. And I'm reallythrilled to have her on, to talk a little bit more about degreed, herbackground, um, her kind of role as chief experience officer and how thatrelates to product and tech. And, uh, just talk a little bit more about kind ofthe environment we're in now.

Speaker 3 (00:48):

Yeah. I'm sorry for, I don't even know what fell off mydesk.

Speaker 2 (00:53):

It's like culture,

Speaker 3 (00:54):

It's just something new that we were about to go live onthe street, but yeah, nice to be on, you know, just on the street today andtalking and, um, you have my sub Katz chief experience officer, which I joke isa completely made up title. It just means that I get to support product andtechnology, and I work closely with this security and it teams as well, um,which is just really fun. Uh, my job is working with the people that build allthe things. So can't be it.

Speaker 2 (01:24):

It's a really good spot to be in. Tell us a little bitabout degree and kind of what you guys are focused on and, um, how you've kindof got to there.

Speaker 3 (01:33):

Yeah. So degreed is an enterprise SAS company. Uh, we workwith incredible organizations, some really big logos with where we focus withthem is on helping them to understand the skills of their people. So, you know,if those big organizations are hiring thousands of people every single month,do they know what skills are coming into the organization so that they canbetter develop them to do the work? And so we help them understand the skillsof their people. Then we facilitate connection to learning experiences. Sopartner with great companies like Pluralsight and you to me. And it just,there's so many to name all of those companies, they're creating the trainingfor upskilling. And so we connect them to those systems. And with our mostrecent acquisition that we're helping to do is expose all of the work thatexists inside of the organization. So internal mobility, facilitation, likewhat jobs are open both full time and also smaller things like projects andstretch assignments and mentoring.

Speaker 3 (02:39):

So you put all three of those together and we understandwhere someone is, um, understand supply of people. And then we know the workthat needs to be done, the demand for skills, and then we're helping to burstthe gap of building skills with what we call our learner experience platform.So it's really just fun work. We get to work with incredible people, incrediblecompanies, and it's all to the betterment of humanity, right? So that, thatcliche of doing work that changes the world, like actually really, really dofeel like we get to do work that changes the world. So I love that. I lovedegreed. I love what we do. And yeah, just, it's been a really fun journey.I've been with the company since 2012 actually. So for eight years been builtin degreed.

Speaker 2 (03:25):

Awesome. Yeah, really cool. To kind of see how you guyshave grown up. And, you know, I've had a lot of friends who have kind of comeinto those doors and, uh, really, really a big fan from the outside. Um, asyou, you know, people, analytics has exploded, uh, obviously learningdevelopment has exploded kind of keeping talent around and like you exactlywhat your guys are going after it degreed, how do you, what would you call likethe DNA of a good customer experience? And that's going to be from like maybean individual who ends up being involved with you guys to the company-wide, uh,experience to customers who are using you.

Speaker 3 (04:02):

Yeah. Um, our, our stakeholders can tell you what I'mgoing to say, because the key word is partnership and they it's the drinkinggame with cat, which is how many times will she say partnership on this call,but that really is it, do we treat our interactions, not with a vendor andstakeholder relationship, but do we treat it as a partnership where we'retrying to come to the table together and solve problems together? I think thatis what makes all the difference in the world is are we partnering on solutionsversus this is a tool that we are going to put into place to, you know, justtechnology or a mechanism, um, that works in some scenarios. It definitelydoesn't work for degree. W we've been able to set ourselves apart throughpartnership. So very closely with our client project teams to listen to whatthey're trying to accomplish. Like companies spend crazy amounts of money onsoftware, like trying to solve problems. Um, instead of focusing on the softwareand the functions and the features, let's focus on what they're trying toaccomplish and use them as your advocates to build the solution together.That's what I believe has created really meaningful relationships with thosecompanies that we serve. And I think they would say that they've got a prettygood customer experience due to it.

Speaker 2 (05:33):

That's awesome. Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. A lot ofcustomer led feedback, a lot of involvement, a lot. I like the wordpartnership, obviously that you use where it's not the it's where you see yourcustomer as a core piece of who you are. Um, you know, we, we, one of my bestthings I love to do is look at, or best marketing material you can find is likeGartner trust, radius, G2, and look at their reviews. And that's where you,that's where I always find like half of my taglines is people are like this,about cloud app or this about this. And it's like, you can almost, they explainit for you of what it is.

Speaker 3 (06:14):

Oh yeah. When I had a product marketing sent me this onepager of just, we do interviews with end-users and interviews with clients, itmade me cry, talk about how they think of this solution. And it's like, it'sjust, there's something really special when you get to hear people talk aboutsomething that you've built together. Like it's just pretty special. It's likesomeone talking about your little baby, you know, everybody thinks their baby'scute, but there's something special. Uh, another person says your baby's cuteand validation there

Speaker 2 (06:53):

On a level deeper. Um, as you're kind of developing yourroadmap as you're looking at what to do next, and kind of thinking about thecustomer in mind, how does the feedback, the QBR, the customer advisory boards,you know, interviews, whatever things, how do those shape, what you guys workon and, and hopefully, you know, create a really loyal customer from

Speaker 3 (07:15):

Yeah. Um, our client advisory board, those people get, um,I'm sure that they're sick of me. Cause like I've got their cell phones, I'mtexting them like, Hey, I had an idea, but like, that's been the, I mean, it'sbeen massive as I look back on the eight years at degree, the burst to painfulslog because we were doing it alone. Like we were trying to anticipate justfrom the outside, looking in towards those companies, what do they need? What'sa solution that we can bring to the table. And so it was our best gueststhrough yes, a lot of just research, but it was our best guess. And we werelucky that we found an opportunity worth pursuing, but then the six years afterthat, so much different because we can talk to those clients. And so when I'mable to speak to not just the buyer, but also those who are going to beimplementing and we just focus on what are they trying to accomplish huge.

Speaker 3 (08:19):

And so that's what we do is I just try to get as many ofthose conversations as I possibly can and really listen to what they're tellingme. Um, so that's, that's our client advisory board. We meet every single monthand we, yeah, we go back and forth between them presenting to each other, youknow, like they're all like-minded while they're coming from differentindustries, the problems look pretty similar that they're faced with. So theypresent, that's good to hear, to hear, hear them speak about, Hey, we cameacross this. Here's how approaching it and then getting feedback from theirpeer group on what they've learned, or if they've faced something similar. Andin those conversations, it's just, it's a beautiful thing because we can hearthe opportunities for degree to step in and make that challenge a little bit easierto overcome. And then the meeting following that, we'll talk about what weheard.

Speaker 3 (09:21):

Hey, I heard you articulate this. Here's what we thinkthat means for how degreed can better serve. Is that right? Is that not, youknow, and it's a safe space for us to come up with like crazy ideas and belike, is this crazy? What roadblocks are we going to run into? If we go afterthis? And it's a relationship of trust, they give us very candid feedback. Um,and in that group, like as we form those relationships, they'll call me whenthey run into an issue, I'll call them when I'm sensing an opportunity. And Ican check that thinking in real time, those relationships can be B and does notyour client advisory board, where we have that type of dynamic. We try to scalethat across so many different clients. So I, if our product management team,isn't spending like 10 hours a week on the phone with clients, like they're notdoing it right. They've got to be talking to them. They got to be hearing fromthem. And they've got to make sure that they're having not a vendor and clientrelationship, they're having a partnership and a human relationship with thosecompanies. So that's where I try to focus both on my own interactions and onacross the team, are we having empathetic human connections with the people whouse our technologies, because that makes all the difference.

Speaker 2 (10:42):

That's great. You know, one of my favorite things to doat, uh, cloud app is we have this like public Trello board. And I love when weactually release the feature and we move it, you know, from, in production toreleased and we get all these comments and like everybody is real excited. Wwhat do you guys do you do that as kind of like a part of your cabs, or you'relike, Hey, remember those great ideas you came up with, they're actually livenow, you know, that type of validation. How do you guys kind of execute onthat?

Speaker 3 (11:14):

Yeah. So we also have, um, product council. So our cab islike 10 hand selected by me and our head of client experience. Just like theseare peoples that, like, I feel safe bringing crazy ideas too. And I knowthey're going to give me a real response, not just like, yeah, cool idea, cat.We love it. They'll be like, that's terrible. What are you doing? So that's ourclient advisory board. And then we have our product council, which is a broadergroup. Um, and they're segmented by, for, by industry type. Um, and then wehave our entire client base and every time that we do an impact release, sodegreed releases every two weeks. And then every two months we have an impactrelease ahead of the impact releases. We do a release webinar, and that's wherewe're hearing of like, Hey, you know, you told, Hey, Barry, at Airbnb, you toldus that you can get this here. It is, check it out, Larry, you know, and that'swhere we're having that interaction.

Speaker 2 (12:17):

That's cool. Yeah. It has a nice like way of buildingcommunity, as well as, uh, you know, validating, like you said, how can, youknow, we're, we're streaming right now? Um, video is kind of taken over. Um, Iknow you're obviously a CloudApp user, right?

Speaker 3 (12:33):

Yeah. We use it all the time.

Speaker 2 (12:36):

How can, uh, you know, screen recorder videos or, uh,screenshots or annotations, you know, we just released video annotations forMac. Um, how can those things really help connect with your customers, um,visuals and video different?

Speaker 3 (12:52):

Yeah. We're only meeting once a month, which isn't thatmuch. Right. And me getting on the phone and trying to explain a conceptproduct concept can be very difficult. So what I'll do is record it, send themthe video, even like I just use the video annotation. So money by the use ofthat. And I can do like this thing where like, if I was sitting in the roomwith them, it'd be pointing at my screen and highlighting a certain area. I cando that now with the video connotation, I send that over. And then Paula, afterthey've watched it and were able to have a very rich conversation now with allof the context. And I know that we're talking about the same things, becausethey were able to get insight into my brain through that video. And I also useit with investors as well, just to get their key, make sure that they'reupdated on big opportunities that we see.

Speaker 3 (13:50):

We're a distributed company across the globe. We've alwaysbeen remote, but especially in COVID where we're not having the face-to-faceinteractions at all. And instead of just slacking people, I can send them amessage video recorded, and it just feels a little more human. It feels morereal than like my Slack. I joke about this all the time, but like my Slack toneis a very mean tone. I sound not like a nice person on Slack. And so it'simportant that I do these videos for my, my directs and my teams so that theycan hear like, Oh, she's not actually angry. She was just trying to get a pointacross. And so I'm very grateful for cloud app and in our ability to do thatquickly and at scale it's huge.

Speaker 2 (14:41):

Yeah. It's amazing how just tone and, and that context canbe because yeah. I feel like most people sound angry or maybe your brain like

Speaker 3 (14:52):

Our brain doesn't yeah, yeah,

Speaker 2 (14:56):

Yeah. It's very true. Um, you know, degree is all aboutlearning content. Skill-building how has that helped to create those loyalcustomers? How have you been able to land and expand quickly and how has thatkind of influenced your growth?

Speaker 3 (15:11):

Yeah. So, Oh man. Where to even begin. Um, the wonderfulthing about what degree does is it's a problem that everyone immediately canconnect with. Um, whether they have felt that personally, or they've seen itacross their own teams, the world has evolved so quickly and our ability tokeep up with it from just seeing people and understanding where they're at.Well, it hasn't. So like everyone has felt or seen that injustice play out. Sowe're lucky that as soon as we talk to anyone, whether it's an end user or, youknow, ultimately the buyer of the solution, they get it. They're like, yes,this is a need that we have. And then we get to talk about what the world lookslike, because we solve it together. And what that looks like at scale, like wedo enterprise contracts and most of our implementations start enterprise wide.

Speaker 3 (16:13):

They're rolling it out to the whole company at once. Andthat is just so powerful because then we get to see how people are interactingwith the system. And yes, there's set up that goes in ahead of time, but just,I think ultimately to answer your question, what it comes down to is can wetell the story about what the world looks like as we collaborate together, notjust talk about feature function. Um, that's what we've done differently fromthe beginning is connected with the story it's been very human and that thencreates like loyal users. It's something it's really special to, um, hear fromour clients because they talk about the story in the same way that we do. They,they desperately want to enact the change and knowing that we're providingtechnology that helps to enact that change. It's just, it's pretty fun. It'sreally, really fun.

Speaker 2 (17:14):

Yeah. That's cool. Your, your brand is kind of eclipsedthe product itself. When you have a community like that, that's kind of helpingyou to, to accelerate it. That's cool.

Speaker 3 (17:26):

Yeah. One of these days the product will catch up to thebrand, but I think it's great. What it never does. It just means that the storykeeps ahead of us and we have an exceptional product we relate to, but it'ssomething really special when the, the opportunity and everyone's commitment toenact the change overshadows the technology itself. It's special. Yeah. You'reselling a three

Speaker 2 (17:50):

To five-year vision, right? You're it's always like thehalf these products we're talking about will never ship, but this is how we seethe future going.

Speaker 3 (17:59):

Yeah. I was, I was having a conversation with the prospectthis morning and just having a candid conversation of like, this is the partthat degree is going to play. Like it's going to be this much. Everything elseis already in your ecosystem. It's how we tie those things together that reallyenacts the magic. And I think as technologists, we can get thrown off.Sometimes that simplicity is actually the answer because we'll think, Oh, allthese features, all these functions are going to be like the game changer whenit's like, Nope, a simple solution could make all the difference in the worldif you overthink it. And that prevents you from actually getting it delivered.And either the hands of people did not change happens at all. And so that's whyI'm always kind of working with even our go to market teams on it's like,actually the answer is simple. When you, when it's over complicated, we don'tget anything done. And the fun moment when you're on with a prospect or aclient, and, and that clicks for them like, Oh, this is so simple, but all theexecution and the simplicity is really cool too.

Speaker 2 (19:11):

It's of through like the, so, you know, cloud app w one ofour aha moments where it really gets sticky is not the screenshot itself or thevideo itself, which are pretty simple to do. It's when you mentioned earlier,someone watches that video or views that, and you get an email or you seek thatanalytics. And that's when people are like, Whoa, not only did I just do thisand send it, but someone actually looked at it and it's like, yeah, that's whenpeople like the usage just goes crazy when people kind of hit that moment. Soit's such a simple little thing, but, uh, that's when it kind of explodes.

Speaker 3 (19:52):

Yeah. I can, I can attest to that moment, like when youget the notification of like, someone's watched it and it's like who they aregetting there, we're about to have a real good conversation.

Speaker 2 (20:04):

Definitely. So I like to flip things around a little bit,uh, at the end and kind of ask you as a customer yourself. Uh, what has anexperience been? Maybe it's been a local business with how they're treating,you know, everything this year. Maybe it's a tech company that you work with orvendor what's an experience you've had as a customer yourself that has made youmore loyal, makes you want to talk about it in this moment. And what did theyactually do that did that.

Speaker 3 (20:35):

Yeah. And I truly mean this it's cloud app that like Isent, um, I think it was you and Scott an email and just said like, I wish thisexisted, which I was living out my own worst nightmare as a product person.When like you get the emails of like, what if in a world you could do thisthing. And I was like, I'm going to do that to someone else might as well. Andthe response that I got was not just a thank you for your feedback, but it wasScott. Yeah. We'll, we'll consider it like wasn't cast aside. Um, I wouldn't, Iwould never do that to a client this happened. Um, and it would tell you so,um, but it was recognition of what I was actually saying. So thanks Kat. Here'swhat I hear you asking for. If I walk through this scenario, here's what I seethe experience looking like, and it wasn't just one proposal.

Speaker 3 (21:35):

It was three different. It was, here's what it could looklike in this scenario, or is it this one or is it this one? And so I felt, um,listened to and understood. And then I also felt a part of this solutionbecause my feedback was asked and then we went to the next level. So it reallyset up the conversation in a powerful way and used cloud app to facilitatethose conversations as well. So it was just a really good exchange and I learnedquite a bit from it because the utilization of your own product in thatdiscussion alongside just like really great service, it inspired me to takethat and apply it in my own interactions with our partners. Um, so yeah, Itruly mean it. Like, that's, that's one of the moments that stuck with me andthat was what, like a year ago that we had that exchange

Speaker 2 (22:29):

Got the Scott's a wild man with support. Like he's, he'll,he'll be DM-ing people on Twitter from our brand handles, like our healthyresponses, you know, like Saturday night at like 10:00 PM. And he's like tryingto get to the bottom of it and he'll have zoom calls with people that arecomplaining on, on social channels or like reaching out. And it's just, yeah,he's, he's a wild man. Uh it's, it's pretty cool. We've, we've definitely triedto focus on that customer first, like you guys.

Speaker 3 (22:56):

Yeah. And it shows it really does. Yeah. I, I've got agood chunk of the team he's in it now speaks for itself when it starts tospread. Right.

Speaker 2 (23:07):

Awesome. So if you pull out your crystal ball and lookinto it, what do you see the future of, uh, you know, I normally askedexperienced business, but I, I kind of want to dive into degree a little bitmore and just say, what do you see the future of learning and skill building,and really kind of, maybe even more broad of like people analytics and, and,

Speaker 3 (23:33):

Um, so people are like, she's going to geek out and I getprepared. I have this fascinating conversation all the time with clients and Icall it like the 10 million pound gorilla in the room. We still talk aboutwork. Like we talked about work in the industrial age. It is here is yourtitle, and here is your role. And that's not what work looks like anymore atall. But like enterprises rely on this definition of work, which is super highlevel. And doesn't actually mean anything related to the work to be done. And Ididn't come from an HR background. I was a software developer before degreedand my naivety and my inexperience in the industry has paid off beautifullybecause I'm like, Oh, I didn't know that wasn't a question that we ask. And,and at some point in every exchange with a client, they're going to say, well,our job coats are just a mess.

Speaker 3 (24:36):

And I'm like, what do you mean? They're a mess. And they'relike, cool. Project manager can mean 30 different things, but it's only projectmanager. And it's like, what do we do? What do you do? You know? And they'relike, we've we figure it out. And it's like, yeah. And it's like, well, let'stalk about, let's dig in to how many inefficiencies and the reason why theyhaven't solved it is because we don't have a better definition of work yetbecause we don't have the right ingredients to give us that information. Atscale, like these organizations have hundreds of thousands of individuals likecities that work for them. And so like, yeah, that's a really tough problem tosolve. And they hadn't been able to address it because they didn't have theright ingredients. But now technology is such, and the ecosystems of thosetechnologies are such that we do have the right ingredients and we've got datascience that can do some predictive analysis on it and start to have a betterarticulation of what work looks like.

Speaker 3 (25:37):

So what I'm excited is we're right on the precipice ofthat moment of getting to a better understanding of work, what it looks like,what it's evolving into and the, the, the moment like where it starts to belike, eh, it's no longer funny. It's kind of scary if we don't solve that.Well, automation is happening. Work is changing. So for us to be efficient, wehave to have better answers to keep up with where technology can potentiallytake us. And so that's what gets me excited. I think the way we talk about workis going to change drastically over the next five and especially 10 years. Andwhat that means for us as people is we all get to apply our strengths increative ways when we don't have this broad box applied to us. And here is youat work, but like, here's you and your strengths at work. And here's how youcan apply them in this massive theme. That's so beautiful. It's beautiful forpeople. It's beautiful for organizations. So yeah, I geek out it, but like,that's what I believe the future looks like is we're going to have betterdefinitions for work, and that's going to lead to more just like meaningfulexperiences for employees and way more efficiency for organizations. And whenyou can, like, usually those come at the cost of the other, no, they don't haveto, they can help each other along. So

Speaker 2 (27:05):

That's great. Yeah. It's and no better time than thepresent to be disrupting, you know, the modern workplace. And, and I agree likeI, one of my favorite managers and at Adobe who I had for probably four years,uh, she always worked with my strengths. She's like, I know you're not likeUber data science guy. You can do good stuff with data and we'll work withthat. And then we'll put you with data science guy who can not tell a storylike you can, um, and you can kind of work together. And like, she knew thatjust from her experience, um, you know, being at the end of her career andeffort. But if we can figure that out via technology now, all the better versushaving to rely on just not everybody has that skill of recognizing here.

Speaker 3 (27:59):

And like she got it through experience so she could seeit. Could we give those without the experience visibility? Cause I think withtransparency often comes realization. We can see things where like we can seethings so we can bring that transparency out. I think those that aren't asexperienced are going to be able to see it and they see it, they can act on it.So that's where I get very excited about what we're headed into.

Speaker 2 (28:25):

Very cool cat. It's been a real fun conversation. Thankyou for your time today. And everyone check out a cat underscore the geek onTwitter

Speaker 3 (28:36):

And sure.

Speaker 2 (28:38):

I'm on LinkedIn as well. And, uh, check out degreed andthanks for your time today.

Speaker 3 (28:44):

Thank you. Thanks everybody. Bye.

Speaker 1 (28:48):

Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. Wehope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration andenhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0movement today by getting cloud app. The instant business communication toolused to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect forboth internal and external communication. Get started Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.