What the democratization of learning means for Chief Revenue Officers and their teams

CROs tech skills
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Chief revenue officers may have all the career experience they need to hire a sales manager, but judging the skills of a software developer may be a bit of a stretch.

Of course, most CROs probably don’t oversee teams of programmers today, but the increasingly data-driven nature of sales means they could be pulled into hiring discussions that would once have been completely out of their purview. Much like their CMO counterparts, who now sometimes have those with analytics and even data science backgrounds reporting into them directly, sales is quickly becoming influenced by the degree to which an organization makes strategic use of technology.

Similarly, a lot of what CROs and their teams will need may come via “off the shelf” or software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, but it’s reasonable to predict at least some of what they need may have to be developed in-house, or at least tweaked to meet specific business objectives.

It may be tempting, therefore, when CROs look at the kind of tech talent that’s coming into an organization, to focus on traditional credentials like university or college degrees.   There are still plenty of great candidates who come into the workforce that way, but it’s no longer the only way.

For proof, just look at TopCoder, a crowdsourcing platform that hosts coding contests, which is enabling programmers to distinguish themselves based on skills they’ve learned via coding bootcamps, workshops or online learning platforms. Some of these developers and programmers are now being recruited from the likes of Facebook and Google for positions that would once have only been open to those with a computer science degree from schools like Carnegie Mellon, Caltech or MIT.

It’s not just Silicon Valley startups that are changing their attitudes. CNBC recently published a story that listed 14 different well-known organizations that no longer require a post-secondary degree for a knowledge worker job. Some of the brands included Apple, IBM and even Penguin Random House.

This is not to suggest the workforce is somehow dumbing down. It’s a trend that can be tied not only to fierce demand for tech talent, but to the rise of new learning platforms that are challenging the form, structure and substance of traditional education. Coursera, a popular online learning website that partners with Ivy League schools and global tech companies, offers college credit as a “premium service” for which users pay extra. Udacity, which aspires to train tomorrow’s self-driving car engineers and machine learning experts, partners with the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon to offer “nanodegree programs.” Meanwhile, Udemy, a crowdsharing platform on which virtually anyone can teach, well, anything, has dispensed with diplomas and degrees altogether.

CROs need to be aware of this because, in some cases, those they might work with in the future will have come to the world of software development as a second career. Course Compare actually conducted a survey to explore the value of degrees versus other credentials in which we got direct quotes from respondents. This one stands out:

“Training for this profession is becoming ‘democratized,’ which means more people have access to lectures, seminars, competitions, demo days and other learning networks than ever before. The biggest advantage of a self-taught software engineer is the ability to save on time (strictly compared to a 4-year undergraduate program) and money.”

Although few developers today are completely self-taught (many still hold undergraduate university or college degrees, even if in unrelated subjects), it’s true that there’s growing demand for short, modular and flexible training programs designed to help professionals keep up with rapidly changing technologies. This means the old signifiers of achievement should be reconsidered alongside investments made in new forms of education throughout a person’s career. Learning how to appraise different educational pathways will take renewed focus and understanding on the part of CROs.

Think of those who might have started out as a sales rep, for instance, but who were inspired to launch themselves into a new career by learning to code or how to use programming to extract insights from big data sets. A candidate with direct experience in what it takes to convert a B2B buyer will obviously offer significant value in addition to her ability to program. Some people who work for a CRO today might be interested in the same thing, which may mean orienting themselves towards flexible learning opportunities.

Just as they are always on the lookout for opportunities to monetize and increase cash flow, the most successful CROs of the future are probably going to be spending more time thinking about the skill sets they need and where they’re going to come from — and that should increasingly include all walks (and educational backgrounds) of life.

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Robert Furtado is the founder of Course Compare, Canada’s first online marketplace for tech education. If you’re interested in learning a new tech skill, you can explore Canada’s leading coding bootcamps, digital marketing courses, UX/UI courses, product management courses and more at CourseCompare.ca.