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Malinda Coler, Co-Founder&CEO of LessonsUp: Seeing is believing

Who is Malinda Coler?

Malinda discovers doors where no one knew they existed. At the outset of the iPad she walked into the Tall Chair office to visit her software engineer friend. The next day, she was invited to interview, “but I’m a teacher,” she said to CEO Dan Brazelton. Dan suggested that she come lead the production of interactive books on the newly released iPad, working with the best storytellers in the world: Disney. 

Malinda never looked back, and led growth and operations at startups for 11 years. She is now the founder of LessonsUp, a career advancement platform that helps underrepresented people make more money and fulfill their biggest dreams. She leverages insider knowledge of the hiring process, and powerful networks, to build a diverse and equitable workforce.

What’s the story behind LessonsUp?

Malinda woke up April 1, 2020 at the outset of the pandemic with no job, along with 30 million other Americans. She had been building startups from the ground up for ten years, working directly with founders. She knew how to build a company, and knew that it was time to build solutions to the problems she cared about most in the world. 

She initially thought she was building a platform to help seniors learn how to adapt to today’s technology, but as she put the message out into the world for services to help with tech, people asked for help using technology for career advancement. 

LessonsUp became the fastest growing community of top-tier underrepresented talent as more and more people requested help. Incoming requests helped develop the career advancement programs that lead to job offers in 10 weeks. Malinda felt like she simply kept building to meet user needs, until she did.

Pratigya only had a few months left before her student visa expired when she joined LessonsUp. After finishing her Master’s degree in Computer Science, she expected job offers to come her way, but they didn’t because hiring is a severely broken process that favors select populations. For six months Pratigya had almost no traction in her search, no end in sight, and a lot of fear and pressure. 

In Job Search Boot Camp, she quickly developed an industry-standard resume, LinkedIn profile, and networking blurb. She committed to the top 8 proven networking tactics every week, and met with her cohort every week to practice networking, interviewing, and negotiating. 10 weeks later Pratigya celebrated her job offer. She is a Business Analyst on the pathway to Product Management. We extend a warm congratulations to REI Systems on their recent hire.

LessonsUp now has over 500 career advancers in the community, and is celebrating new jobs every month at companies like Apple, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and more.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Bootstrapping! We have zero capital to work with, so we launched services very quickly and cheaply. Malinda built everything on no-code tools to get services up and running, and we’re looking to raise an angel round in the next 6 months.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Every month leaders at top companies, like DoorDash, SoundHound, SmartThings, Shift, Beyond, and more meet a room full of 50 top-tier candidates that are 95% women and people of color. We love it when they hire them, but the best part is that every month they see proof that diversity is possible. Seeing is believing. There are no more excuses for ignoring diversity needs. As Cyber Security Director Katalina de Otegui recently said in a fireside chat with our community, “If I can find Latinos, so can HR.”  

What is your vision for the future of LessonsUp?

LessonsUp is a Talent Community that supports you no matter where you are in your career. The minute you need a new job, raise, or promotion, you are welcomed by a community of leaders and ambitious professionals to support and empower you. 

Join a structured program to achieve your next milestone, and meet regularly with like minded professionals who share similar goals. This may be especially important at that critical time where you wake up with no job to go to, while everyone else around you is going to work. Good news. You have a place to go too, and serious work to do to advance your career, and support others in advancing theirs. 

As a leader, your membership in the Talent Community gives you direct access to top tier underrepresented talent to build your teams. 

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Test and validate new business models before you invest money into building them. Make sure you know that you are building something of value. 

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

As a no-code enthusiast: AirTable, Hubspot, and Mixily have been invaluable to getting LessonsUp off the ground.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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