Hidden gems for October

Hidden GemsIt’s time to take another dive into the Udemy library to unearth some of our lesser-known courses and topics you should be learning about! We present herewith the work of several instructors who want to help you relax, save on travel, look sharp, be a better parent, and make your own timepiece.

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-17-58-pmLearn Watchmaking, the King of All Crafts
In today’s hyper-digitized world there’s something refreshing about wanting to understand the intricate mechanics behind watchmaking. Even if you don’t plan to go ahead and try building your own, you’ll be fascinated to see how master craftspeople work with tiny tools to create accurate timepieces. Instructor Christian Lass, a certified Swiss watchmaker, is eager to share his specialized knowledge.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-20-11-pmDress to Kill: A Men’s Primer on Style and Fashion
If wearing a hoodie is your idea of impeccable style, instructor Pablo Rosario is here to clean up your act. In his course, you’ll learn how to dress in a way that gives you confidence, so you can command “attention, respect, and admiration” every time you walk in a room. Rosario doesn’t just look sharp—he delivers his style tips in a down-to-earth tone that’s like getting advice from a trusted friend, not the fashion police.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-22-20-pmThe Manual Labor of Zen Meditation
When you’re browsing courses on meditation, you expect tranquil nature scenes, maybe someone seated in the lotus position with their eyes closed. Instructor Gordon Greene, on the other hand, confronts you with a man splitting lumber, hardly a vision of peace and serenity. As Greene, head priest at Spring Green Dojo, explains, it’s hard work to train your body for zen meditation, but his gentle manner is supportive and his message is inspiring.

funny-girl-sticking-out-tongue-720x340Positive Parenting
Notice the URL of this page, and you’ll get a taste of what instructor Debbie Godfrey, a certified parent educator, covers in her course. She uses fun, entertaining videos to help students understand the power struggles that can arise between parents and children and what can be done to minimize tantrums and tears. As she breaks down examples of patience-testing behaviors, Godfrey keeps a huge smile on her face so you’ll stay motivated and even have some laughs while learning effective parenting techniques.

travel-hackHow to Fly for Free: Master the Points Game & Travel Cheap
Booking travel has gotten so confusing, with different fares listed on different websites and airlines hiding fees til it’s checkout time. Instructor Daniel Stanford says he’s “obsessed with bargain hunting, saving, and investing.” In this course, he shares his travel-hacking secrets for redeeming frequent flier miles and getting the most out of credit cards that offer airline points.

Delving into DevOps with instructor Ward Viaene

wardRounding out our Q&A series with tech instructors, today we’re introducing you to Ward Viaene, who teaches “Learn Devops: Continuously Deliver Better Software.” It’s one of three courses available from Ward in the Udemy marketplace. Read on for Ward’s thoughts on getting into DevOps and what professionals in the field need to know.

How long have you been working in DevOps?
I started my career as a very technical system engineer 10 years ago and slowly progressed into a more general IT specialist focussing on DevOps, cloud, and distributed computing. The term DevOps has only been used for a few years, and people practicing it can be from any background. I come from an operations background but have taken many roles in companies to be able understand the needs of different teams and departments.

How did you become a DevOps expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
The idea of DevOps is to foster a culture where dev and ops collaborate to work smarter and more efficiently, reduce the delivery cycle, and deliver better software. I became more and more involved in the full process of delivering software; I was not just doing development (dev) or operations (ops). By understanding the full lifecycle, getting involved with different teams, and finding ways to optimize software delivery, you can become a DevOps expert.

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as DevOps engineers?
A less technical, more business-oriented approach really helps in this field. At minimum, you need to understand what happens in software development and operations (often system and network administration) — the fundamentals of how software is written, is maintained, and runs on servers and in the cloud. To stand out, you have to understand the whole development lifecycle: how software is delivered, who’s involved, and what role everyone plays.

What’s the hardest part of learning DevOps? Any advice for getting past this?
It’s difficult to get different teams to work together. Companies are not set up this way, and traditionally, the development and operations teams barely communicate with each other. The hardest part is not implementing a new tool; it’s working together to optimize your work and then implementing tools to make this happen.

What are the main things someone needs to know about DevOps to get a job in the field? What, if anything, do they need to be learning outside your course?
This is not the kind of job where you can just sit behind your desk and work on something in isolation. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues around the organization.

To convince a hiring manager you’re right for the job, you need to show how your technology capabilities will translate into value for the company. An example: Is the company using a cloud service, such as Amazon AWS, but is everything set up manually so nothing can be reproduced? A DevOps approach might be to automate the way cloud is used, make the environment more flexible, and, in the long run, reduce costs. Showing how your contributions would deliver these benefits is the best way to establish yourself in the DevOps field.

Where do you see DevOps growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
One of the drivers for adoption of DevOps is definitely cloud technology. The cloud enables companies to be much more flexible, which translates into adoption of DevOps methods to achieve better delivery of software. DevOps professionals will need to know all the offerings of the major cloud providers to be able to implement the correct technologies and not waste time doing something like managing your own database when the cloud provider already offers it as a service.

Distributed computing and big data are growing in adoption, and DevOps professionals will need to learn about that too. Developers will write applications to handle big data, which need to be deployed and maintained the same way as normal applications. Currently that’s a challenge, and there aren’t a lot of people out there with the full skill set.

 

 

Instructor Jason Cannon on what it takes to be a Linux pro

jason-cannon-background-smoothed

Last week, we shared thoughts from instructor Chris Bryant on earning Cisco certification. Today, we’ve got Jason Cannon, the instructor behind “Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level Up Your Career,” which boasts nearly 29,000 students. Jason’s 10 other courses explore various aspects of Linux programming in his same helpful style. He shared more tips for building a Linux career in our email Q&A.

How did you become a Linux expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
I’ve used Linux on my personal computers since as early as 1995 or 1996 and started working with Linux professionally in 1999. I was immediately drawn to Linux. It was love at first sight for me. The Linux design and philosophy made total sense to me, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I started using Linux daily and set out to get a job using Linux. Since then I’ve used Linux in almost every type of situation imaginable: at large well-known corporations, at small privately owned companies, at a startup, at a security firm, at an airline, and at a university supporting researchers. I’ve run Linux on hardware, in virtual machines, in containers, and in the cloud. I’ve done so many things with Linux it’s hard to list them all. Along the way I’ve written a few books and taught a few courses on the subject. Do that for 17+ years, and you’re called an “expert.” :)

My advice to those who are starting out is to use your time wisely. I see so many people wasting precious time searching for free videos and reading random blog posts trying to cobble together their own Linux curriculum. The result is usually hours, days, or even months spent learning unrelated bits and pieces with no clear structure and no real progress to show for their work. I highly recommend taking a course that uses a logical and systematic approach so you learn things in an order that makes sense. This way you can build upon your knowledge.

Another common mistake is spending a lot of time trying to find the “perfect” Linux distribution and worrying about the choice. It’s way more important that you just start learning Linux. Linux is Linux at the core, and the concepts you learn when starting out apply to every Linux distribution. Pick one and get started!

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as Linux professionals?
In order to be successful as a Linux professional you have to be very good with details. Forgetting to use a comma or misplacing a colon in a configuration file can render a Linux system unusable. I don’t say that to scare anyone but just to highlight how import attention to detail is when you’re working with Linux.

Another trait of a good Linux professional is having the ability to troubleshoot problems, which takes logic and critical thinking skills. Many times you’ll be playing the role of technology detective. Troubleshooting also goes hand-in-hand with attention to detail. When a system experiences a problem, you’ll need to comb through logs and look at configuration files, sometimes one character at a time, until you spot the issue.

What’s the hardest part of learning Linux? Any advice for getting past this?
Letting go of preconceived notions and expecting Linux to act like Windows or Mac.

Where do you see this field growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
I don’t see the growth of Linux slowing any time soon. Its adoption has been steadily increasing, and it’s practically the de facto standard OS for new enterprise and web-based applications. My advice to professionals is to pick an aspect or use of Linux that interests them the most and make that their specialty. Just a few examples include cloud computing, containerization, networking, security, monitoring, automation, configuration management, scripting, programmable infrastructure, and DevOps.

Talking Cisco certification with instructor Chris Bryant

chris-bryant-photo

Instructor Chris Bryant has published 11 courses on Udemy focused on helping students earn Cisco and CompTIA certifications. More than 4,700 people are enrolled in his “CCNA 2016 200-125 Video Boot Camp” alone! We did an email Q&A with Chris to find out what it takes to succeed as a networking tech and where these skills can take your career.

How did you become a Cisco/networking expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
I began as a junior network admin for a local school system here in Central Virginia roughly 20 years ago. No one in this business starts at the top. I didn’t even get to touch a Cisco router or switch in my first admin job. That was for the senior admins! The real key to success with Cisco technologies–or any technology for that matter–is to master the fundamentals of networking and then just work your way up from there. It’s not an easy path to success, but it is a simple one.

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as network admins?
The great network admins I’ve worked with have the ability to stay calm under pressure, both pressure from people and time pressure. Additionally, the network admins who do the best for themselves in the long term are those who understand they’re getting into a field that requires lifetime study. You can’t just earn a certification or two and then sit back for 20 years. You’ve got to keep up with an ever-changing field.

What’s the hardest part of learning networking? Any advice for getting past this?
To me, the hardest part is learning the theory that most networking courses hit you with at the very beginning. Networking theory isn’t always the most exciting material around, and it can be dry, but it is important. Every student will ask themselves at some point, “Do I really need to know this?” When it comes to network fundamentals like the OSI model, the answer is, yes, it is that important!

What are the main things someone needs to know about networking to get a job in the field?
It’s a good idea to be well-rounded; don’t just learn about Cisco routers and switches. The broader your education, the better off you are. Learning IPv6 above and beyond my course is an excellent idea (although I’ll teach you enough to get started!)

Where do you see network admin growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
Anyone who tells you they know where networking will be in five years is lying. This is an ever-changing field, and it’s your responsibility to keep up with it. It’s great to have a specialty, whether that be security, voice, video, or something else, but whatever you do, you must stay current with this field or you’ll be left behind.

Student’s first app bought by global game developer

Back in July we introduced you to Nick Di Vona, a newcomer to app development who took Mark Price’s “iOS 9 and Swift 2: From Beginner to Paid Professional” course. At the time, we celebrated his Poke Radar app reaching #2 in Apple’s App Store. It turns out that was just the beginning of big things for Nick and his partner, Braydon Batungbacal.

Now comes the exciting news that Poke Radar was purchased for $500,000 by Glu Mobile, a leading global developer and publisher of free-to-play games for smartphone and tablet devices. As Mark put it, “This goes to show that opportunities are endless in the world of programming and app development, so don’t give up!” It also demonstrates the impact of dedicated, involved teachers who give students the confidence they need to dream big.

Congratulations, Nick! Thanks for being such a great example of what’s possible when people never stop learning.

Photo credit: Matt McDonald/Equal Motion

Photo credit: Matt McDonald/Equal Motion

Udemy course helps instructor win award and get a job

udemyWe were thrilled to read recently that instructor Ahmed Alkabary was awarded a scholarship from the Linux Foundation—and his Udemy course played a role in his achievement. We got in touch to find out more about Ahmed, whose course, “Linux Command Line Basics,” has more than 49,000 students!

 

How did you hear about Udemy and why did you choose our platform for hosting your course?
I started using Udemy in 2013 when I was searching for online courses on Java programming. I was really fascinated by the ease-of-use and the unique nature of Udemy. It’s very simple, and Udemy offers a wide array of courses for many subjects. Some courses are free, which is really nice, and also the paid courses are not very expensive. The idea that you don’t need a subscription is really what I think makes Udemy very popular. I don’t like the idea of paying a yearly (or monthly) subscription to access just one course that I like. Also, all the courses are reviewed, which is a good way to know which course to purchase. The interface itself is very friendly, easy to navigate and to view videos. It’s very natural.

(When asked to share Udemy courses he particularly liked, Ahmed mentioned “Java Tutorial for Complete Beginners” by instructor John Purcell and “Git Started with GitHub” by instructor Jason Taylor.)

What was your goal for creating your Linux course? What were your expectations when you started out?
After I’ve completed my first course on Udemy (John Purcell’s Java course), I realized the benefits I got from the course. At that time there were barely any Linux courses on Udemy. I think I have great Linux skills so I asked myself, why not create a course that teaches the Linux command line? I also liked the idea that anyone could contribute to Udemy and, frankly speaking, it was just an experiment for me when I started. I had no idea I would attract all the students that I have now. It turned out to be a great experiment!

What did you do to prepare yourself to be a teacher instead of a student? Did you have any offline teaching experience?
I was a teaching assistant at the University of Regina for several computer science and mathematics courses. That’s where I developed a passion for teaching. So, I did a lot of research on what topics I should cover in my Udemy course and then revisited these topics myself to make sure I was ready to present it to my students. I also learned a lot about how to teach from the online courses I took on Udemy and elsewhere. They all kind of follow a pattern.

Any comments on the course creation process?
It wasn’t a very hard process to create the course on Udemy. It was actually very smooth. All I needed was screencasting software (I used Kazam on Linux). I also got a Blue Snowball microphone and used Sparkol VideoScribe to add animation to my course that would make it more engaging and interesting. The hardest part was actually finding time to do the video production.

What is your goal for students in your course? Have you had any notable interactions with students?
My number one goal is to break the fear that newbies have towards Linux. I notice that many people are afraid to use Linux just because they know that they have to use the command line at some point. I try to motivate the students with simple examples of why we need to use the Linux command line and the benefits of doing so in terms of performance, saving time, and opening up career opportunities.

I receive a lot of good reviews on a daily basis and messages from students telling me to create more courses. I occasionally receive messages from students thanking me for creating the course and telling me how this course helped them with their studies, certifications, and work. I’ve even received requests to publish my same course on other platforms, but I didn’t like that idea; I like to stay at Udemy.

In the Linux.com interview, you said you got your current job because of the Udemy course. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, so basically Robertson College teaches online Linux courses, and they posted a job for a Linux instructor. I applied for the job and got hired just because of my Udemy course. I didn’t even have a technical interview. In effect, Udemy served as a skill verifier. So Udemy is not just a place where people can learn and teach, but it’s also a place where you can verify your skills and build an online portfolio. It’s brilliant in this way. Like, for example, if you like to develop mobile apps as a hobby, you can make a course on Udemy and chances are you will get hired!

Do you think you’ll create any additional courses?
I want to create more Linux-related courses in the future and also update my existing course and polish it to make it the go-to course for Linux newbies on the web. I think I can achieve that, but again the real challenge here is to find time and space!

Do you consider yourself the kind of person who’s self-motivated to learn new things, in general?
Definitely, I like learning new technologies and I like learning new skills. Learning is an everlasting and continuing process. I am a fast learner, too, which makes it easier for me to adopt new skills. I would say that life is not that interesting without learning new skills!

What do you like to do when you’re not working on a Linux project or teaching?
In my spare time I enjoy reading technology blogs to learn about any new changes or trends in the market. On a personal note, I like reading philosophy books and watching scientific documentaries. I also go for a swim at least twice a week.

Anything else to add we haven’t covered?
I do recommend Udemy to almost everyone I meet. Like, whenever someone asks me which online resources to use to learn a new language, programming, arts, etc., I always say Udemy.

Introducing Udemy’s Learning Advisory Board

Not actually our LAB! This is the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam. Photo credit: @sunemilysun

Not actually our LAB! This is the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam. Photo credit:
@sunemilysun

By Jessica Ashraf, Teaching and Learning Specialist, Udemy

In my last blog post, I described how Udemy is using learning science to develop new product features and instructor resources. Now, I’m excited to share the launch of our Learning Advisory Board (LAB), which will take those initiatives further.

What does the LAB do?
The LAB is a group of experts and pioneers in education who are helping Udemy deliver the best learning experiences for our students. They’ll be collaborating and consulting with us on many fronts, from giving feedback on product features and prototypes, to educating Udemy instructors and employees about how students learn online and sharing best practices for teaching online and building a great learning environment.

Why do we think it’s important to have a LAB?
We believe external partners help us see beyond our own office walls and incorporate fresh, innovative thinking from diverse niches of education. Online learning is still a fairly new and quickly evolving field, and it’s important to stay on top of current developments and discussions. Gaining a deep understanding of how people learn and teach most effectively allows us to make better informed decisions about Udemy’s product and growth initiatives, which, in turn, helps ensure students get what they need and want when they come to Udemy to learn.

Who are our learning advisors?
We are fortunate to have assembled a stellar group of highly knowledgeable and widely respected experts in the field. Each brings their own particular expertise and will be working with us in varying capacities.

EDITED_SMALL_ab_photo_2016Abbie Brown
The idea for the LAB was already floating around our office as I was listening to “Trends and Issues,” an edtech-themed podcast co-hosted by Abbie Brown. I liked their thinking and felt they had a lot of relevant knowledge to offer Udemy. Abbie is an award-winning educator and scholar who has written numerous books on teaching strategies and instructional design. He’s also an experienced university and K-12 classroom teacher, online educator, and instructional media producer, making him a rich source of expertise for Udemy.

GIGeorge Ingersoll
George has built multiple online education programs from scratch and is currently associate dean of hybrid learning at UCLA Anderson School of Management. One of his main areas of focus is instructional strategies for online teaching, which is obviously a crucial area for Udemy’s instructors too. George strives to teach in ways that will make his material much more accessible to the student than the approaches usually followed by college textbooks and courses.

headshot of larryLarry Louie
Udemy didn’t have to find Larry—he got in touch with us first. Larry is so passionate about education and has so much wisdom to share, he offered to help before he even knew about the LAB. Formerly the dean of Hult International Business School in San Francisco, Larry now serves as a global professor there, teaching courses in finance, accounting, and entrepreneurship. He never tires of experimenting with innovative teaching strategies and thinking about the best ways to use new media to teach students. Larry’s extensive expertise in designing course curricula and developing teacher training materials will be a huge asset to Udemy.

AnniePaulAnnie Murphy Paul
I had subscribed to Annie’s newsletter “The Brilliant Report” a long time ago and am always beyond excited to read her latest articles. One of her posts on “technological ignorance” prompted me to approach her about joining Udemy’s LAB. Annie is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. She writes a weekly column about learning for Time.com and also blogs about learning at CNN.com. We’re looking forward to sharing some of Annie’s brilliance right here on the Udemy blog too!

The Learning Advisory Board is a huge opportunity for Udemy, and we’re honored to work with these amazing people who really care about creating the best possible learning experience for students.

Udemy student takes course for beginners, creates technical documentation tool

Kyle-WisdomWe were excited when the blog editor for Newegg, the hugely popular e-commerce site for tech enthusiasts, shared a story about a Seattle-area sysadmin who learned C# on Udemy in order to improve how his employer manages technical documentation. Not only does Kyle Wisdom have an awesome name, he has a great love of learning. Creating his WiseNotes tool is just one example of how he takes a proactive approach to problem-solving. Rather than go with an off-the-shelf product from a big vendor, Kyle supports open source software, and he’s made WiseNotes available for free.

We followed up with Kyle to find out what led him to Udemy, how he applied his new knowledge to make WiseNotes, and what else he’s learning and working on.

Udemy: What was your goal or motivation for seeking out online learning resources?
Kyle: Ever since I started learning the ins and outs of computers as a young kid, I wanted to be a computer programmer. I had picked up books here and there, but nothing ever clicked. The books were dry and didn’t have any practical lessons that sparked the right creativity in my brain to jump on something. I wanted something that was interactive where I could see a real example and then grow it from there, making something my own. So, I chose to purchase my first Udemy course and give it a try.

Udemy: Which course did you take to help you build WiseNotes?
Kyle: The first course I signed up for was “Programming for Complete Beginners in C#” by Eric Wise (another appropriate name). This course was great. It was all command line/terminal type programs based on text (no graphical interfaces), but we learned the basics of strings, ints, counters, if/while statements, etc. We were able to make some games like a coin toss, hangman, rock-paper-scissors, and, more. I quickly took the things I learned in the course and decided to see if I could make them work in a C# Winform program with a graphical user interface. And I did! I made a rock-paper-scissors game using a random-number generator and assigning the numbers to a specific picture and string (rock, paper, scissors). When I clicked one of the three images, it would fire off an RNG for the computer player to pick rock, paper, or scissors. I then did the same with the coin toss, made a tic-tac-toe game, and more.

Meanwhile, my boss at work kept mentioning how he wanted to get a wiki but never took the time to research it or take the time to migrate the mounds of notes we had over to a wiki. I went and downloaded a few free ones, but they just didn’t fit our needs. So, I dove in head first and started coding. Over the next couple of weeks, I worked hard on my first version of what is now known as WiseNotes. This version was certainly rough around the edges. It wasn’t very streamlined, and it required a lot of manual work on the database side as well as having to edit the source code and recompile every time I added a note (I was still new, give me a break, haha! ;D), but it worked! I started importing our notes into the database, and slowly but surely they were all there–viewable and searchable.

However, it wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted something that anyone could sit down and use, but it wasn’t user friendly at all unless someone had a knowledge of the internal setup on the code side, Visual Studio installed, and an understanding of updating things on the MySQL side. I really wanted this to be a positive experience and tool that could be used by our entire IT department. I got to work on version 2.0, and this is pretty much what you see today.

So, on the C# side, I really only had this Udemy beginner course under my belt when I hit the ground running, and it has served me well! It’s a great course to get someone prepared and ready to code!

Udemy: What did you think of the course instructor?
Kyle: Eric was a great instructor. He was clear and easy to follow, and the practical applications we developed really helped me understand how to use the objects in C# to make a complete program. He did what any great teacher does: gave me a nugget of knowledge that sparked my desire to continue to discipline myself and learn more.

Eric was also very accessible, and he was great about replying to questions in the Udemy course. I remember having a problem with the hangman game, and he looked through my code and found the problem. His guidance helped me understand my mistake so I wouldn’t repeat it in the future.

Udemy: You said you’d tried learning from books before but didn’t find that helpful. What was it like learning from online videos on Udemy?
Kyle: I love it. It’s easy to do in small chunks or in big strides. I would watch, pause, code, rewind, pause, and code some more during each video so I could test out what was going on in each specific lesson and completely grasp each concept along the way.

Udemy: What’s next for you to learn on Udemy, for fun or for work? Do you consider yourself the kind of person who’s motivated to learn new things, in general?
Kyle: I am sure I will; my only problem is deciding which courses! I am part-way through an intermediate C# course, and I’ve also been interested in courses on Python, Ruby on Rails, etc. I would also eventually like to get into advanced C#, as I would like to be an intermediate on the way to expert programmer someday, but for now, the knowledge I have serves me well in the applications I need to develop both on a professional level as well as a personal level.

I definitely consider myself self-motivated to learn new things. I am constantly wanting to  challenge myself and rise up in the moment of need. When something doesn’t work, I want to figure out why it doesn’t work and how to fix it. As a result, programming has been really fun for me, as I will learn something, take it to the next level, learn more, and then hit something that challenges me that I have to dig deeper in order to learn, conquer that, and continue to move on to the next challenge. This is what spurs me on!

Thanks to Newegg blogger Adam Lovinus for bringing Kyle to our attention and helping us demonstrate the power of online learning.

How to Hire & Train Marketing All-Stars

How inbound recruiting and consumerized learning can turn good marketers into marketing all-stars

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.22.17 PMFinding and training well-rounded marketing candidates is a challenge for organizations of all sizes. Like other disciplines, marketing is a key business function that’s changing rapidly, thanks to big data, automation, and other technology tools. In a study conducted by Bullhorn, 64% of recruiters reported a shortage of skilled candidates for available marketing roles.

So how can companies attract and retain candidates with experience that’s broad enough to encompass the wide variety of marketing functions and also deep enough to make meaningful contributions on a regular basis?

Some guidance can be found in a new ebook Udemy for Business created in partnership with HubSpot Academy. In “How to Hire & Train Marketing All-Stars,” you’ll learn how to spot top-notch marketers and connect with your ideal candidates and set your new marketing hires up for success once they’re on board.

Download your copy of  “How to Hire & Train Marketing All-Stars.”

How A Group Mission Pushes Individuals To Raise Their Game

olympic postI’m a big tennis fan, so I was especially interested to follow what happened on the Olympic courts. Tennis is different from other Olympic events, being an individual sport that’s popular around the world at the professional level too; these aren’t athletes who have to wait four years for a brief moment in the sun.

This got me thinking—what motivates a rich and famous superstar like Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal to participate in an event that takes them away from the professional tour, doesn’t help their rankings, and doesn’t give out prize money? In both cases, these individual performers embraced the opportunity to compete for something bigger than themselves: the chance to represent their country and belong to a national team.

Nadal is still recovering from wrist surgery, and he’s gone on record saying he wouldn’t have even played if this weren’t the Olympic Games. Serena has also talked about why the Olympics have special meaning for her, despite all of her Grand Slam championships. “When I held my first gold medal, it was a feeling I never expected. I had a chance to enjoy my gold medal trophy more than my other trophies,” she told the media.

This seems to align perfectly with studies showing today’s employees, especially millennials, want to work for mission-driven companies where they’re contributing toward a greater good. Employers are also realizing the motivating power of business goals that transcend revenue alone. I talk to all of our new hires—bright, talented people who could probably get interviews at lots of other hot companies in Silicon Valley besides us. One of the primary reasons they choose to work at Udemy is because of our mission to help people around the world build the lives they imagine through access to online learning. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear from instructors and students who are expanding their knowledge and finding personal enrichment as part of the Udemy community.

When you’re in the online learning space, it’s not a stretch to have an inspiring company mission. But companies in less obvious industries can connect themselves to worthy missions and give employee contributions a higher meaning too.

I was bowled over by this campaign by 3M for Post-it notes, which positions the ubiquitous stickies as a tool for helping young people fulfill their goals. Backed by research, the campaign associates Post-its with academic success and transforms them from office supplies to empowerment tools. Which characterization do you think is more inspiring to 3M’s employees?

Having an inspiring mission isn’t just a gimmick to make employees feel good; it’s actually a key factor in retaining them and driving overall business performance.

I think it’s terrific that millennials are prompting companies to reexamine what they stand for and how they benefit society, not just investors. The Olympics reminds us every four years that it’s possible to be fiercely competitive as an individual and also fight for an outcome that’s larger than any one contributor.

After her disappointing third-round loss, Serena said playing in the Olympics, “…was a great opportunity. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. But at least I was able to make it to Rio. That was one of my goals.” And she’s already itching for another shot at the opponent who defeated her. Rafa came away empty-handed too, but he shares Serena’s attitude, regardless of his results. They’re fired up and hungry to win again.

Companies would love for their employees to be just as intent on achieving success, but they have to give them a reason to keep at it. Compensation and benefits may bring new talent in the door, but looking at a pay statement isn’t going to motivate someone on an emotional level every single day. Having a powerful mission actually can have that effect.

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.