We will be regularly interviewing leaders in career development, education, skills assessments, human resources and other relevant industries here on the Skillset blog. We like interviews because they start a literal conversation, and they allow everyone to step back for a minute to talk about the bigger picture.
For our inaugural interview, it’s only appropriate that we interview Darren Dalasta, a founding member of the team here at Skillset.com. In this interview, Dalasta explains the story behind Skillset, how it impacts the training and professional certification climate, and where he sees education and career development a year from now.
What was the inspiration behind Skillset.com? Why did the Skillset team decide to create it?
Skillset exists because we heard the cry from IT professionals for more and better practice questions for their certification exams. There aren’t many places where you can get access to thousands of practice questions to see if you’re ready for the test. We want to provide free, exponential access to practice questions and tests.
The most-used options prior to this were to use downloaded, stolen exam questions and feel guilty about it, buy very expensive (and short) practice tests if you could find them somewhere, or use the same questions over and over again.
We had the experience to create something people wanted, and hopefully build an intelligent service on top of it that will eventually help them understand and learn how to expand their skills and skillsets to something far beyond practicing for a certification exam.
There are a lot of online education startups and venues out there, from eBooks and blogs to extensive online video learning networks like Lynda.com, what’s different about Skillset.com?
Online education is finally getting the attention it deserves–that’s the big news. Now that we have important things like music, hotels, taxis, and food delivery covered, we’re starting to see many smart companies finally set their sites on education 😉
We think great content and learning materials can come from anyone and in many forms–blogs, a grad student with web tutorials, a successful company like Lynda, or even the old tried & true paper book. In fact, that’s kind of the point–we’re all learning new things every day. Why are we not tracking and reporting that progress like we do anything else?
Skillset is starting from the very end of the learning process; professional development assessments and enrichment. Most people spend more time in their career than they do in a classroom. They should be able to prove what they’ve learned in that career just like they did with their time in college. We want to be the location where you can make sure you are current with your professional career.
We will help you identify what skills are presently needed, what certifications match up with your career path, and where your areas of strengths and weaknesses lie. In short, we are more interested in what people know than what they’ve been taught.
Right now, the tests and knowledge tracking on the site are very focused on specific professional certifications. How many professional certifications do you think will eventually be covered?
We want to align ourselves with the skills that are currently in demand by employers. IT certifications have really taken hold–they’re a staple of the industry on both the employer and employee side, and many new certifications are established every year. We’ve put our focus there first because that’s where we’re finding the most fervent audience for this kind of infinite test preparation, so to speak.
We do have a long way to go and enough to keep us busy for quite awhile. As long as employers keep valuing specific professional certifications, that will be a key focus for us. For an immediate outlook on what we’re adding, you’ll soon see more Cisco (CCNA), CompTIA (Network+, Security+, Project+), Microsoft, and ISACA certifications available on Skillset.
Tests based on individual skills taken one at a time is a novel way to think about studying for a broader certification. Each skill on the site is kind of like a micro-certification in itself. Are there any plans to expand this type of skill-based testing to areas beyond professional certifications?
Definitely. We want to accurately assess an IT professional’s ability in a given skill. Many certifying bodies do a fantastic job at this, so we will follow their lead where possible. But we still want to accurately assess abilities for areas where there is not yet an industry standard certification or for an area where a grouping of skills does not have an individual certification tied to it.
Similarly, there may be a niche skill that a group (or a specific employer) cares an awful lot about without including everything else that a certification covers. We want to be a solution for those situations where people want to focus on a specific skill or prove that they can handle the specific tasks an employer cares about.
It seems like the Skillset method is coming at education from a different angle than we traditionally think–it focuses on proof of knowledge rather than the training itself. Why is that?
I’ll let two brilliant people explain that better than I can.
“A dream would be to revolutionize self-assessment, so that in any area you could assess your skills and know what you may need to learn. The ideal there is creating a skills-based credential that is well trusted and well understood enough that employers view it as a true alternative to a degree. You could unbundle this idea of where did you get this knowledge, to what knowledge do you have? That would unleash unbelievable open innovation.”
– Bill Gates
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein
What do you think the future of education and training will be? What will be important 50 years from now?
There are some ideas that are important right now, and I believe they will continue to be important 50 years from now–the question will be how they are accomplished or delivered.
The first is great teachers–there is no replacing the value or learning that takes place with a mentor who focuses on you, and who you can focus on. But then there’s also this idea of personalized learning, which as important as it is right now, it has a lot of room to grow. How can we let 1-to-1 learning happen at scale?
Alignment is another concept that is growing in importance for education, at the university level or anywhere else–individuals, employers, and educators all care more than ever about making sure education is aligned to the marketplace–the job market–for that education. And marketplaces change more quickly now than they used to, so education has to keep up. As we’re talking about people’s jobs and their career development, we have to acknowledge that people change their careers along the way as well. So continual self-assessment is going to be a bigger and bigger piece of the puzzle. We have to keep enabling people to move beyond the idea that education is something that stopped in college.
What will the future of Skillset.com be?
We could go any one of a hundred directions, so we’ll refrain from speculation past year 1 right now. The near future is more certifications within IT and professional credentialing. If any visitors have suggestions for more certifications, skills, or skillsets to add, they can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.