Enterprise technology learning platform company Pluralsight used its ‘Live’ 2018 user, partner and customer conference this month to detail a set of new products and host what is now its second coming together of goodly (and perhaps godly) geek minds.
Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of Pluralsight kicked off the day one keynote by welcoming the audience and setting the scene for the sessions ahead.
Skonnard is famously (perhaps infamously) on the record saying that the average software developer has to replace about half of what they know every two years — as such, his firm is now working to provide what it calls ‘science-driven assessments’ of individuals combined with real time analytics to assess competencies for any given technical role.
“Today there are over 250 programming languages and frameworks. The average software developer has to master around nine of these to be proficient today. It’s tough to know which way to go at the crossroads of skills today,” said Skonnard. “The companies that win on the road ahead are those that are committed to the future place of technology in their business.”
Looking back at Pluralsight history, Skonnard detailed how the company used to focus on teaching in the physical classroom before then subsequently moving on to focus on the virtual classroom. Using more data-driven teaching techniques, Pluralsight how now transitioned to become completely cloud-based platform and delivers all its training via online channels.
“Pluralsight is a tech company, disguised as a learning business,” said Skonnard, in reference to the transition and the journey that his firm has been on.
Skonnard bemoaned the fact that (according to a survey), only 26% of CEOs questioned ranked their technology skills as above average. Not a high figure really (whether this is a contrived survey or not), given that software runs the world, data runs the world and (following the logic of that argument through), IT skills must play a fairly important role in running the world.
New product highlights
In terms of new product announcements, the star of this year’s show is Role IQ.
Driven by Pluralsight’s machine learning algorithms in its Iris product, this is the follow up to the company’s existing product Skill IQ, a tool which exists to benchmark technology skills.
Based on the results of the Role IQ skill assessments, the developer receives a proficiency level ranking as Beginner, Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.
With more than 120 skill assessments available across a variety of technologies, the company says that CIOs and CTOs can determine the role proficiency of each person in their organisation by designing custom roles.
“With the launch of Role IQ, we’re expanding the capabilities of our platform and giving CIOs, CTOs and technology professionals what they’ve wanted for years: a way to accurately measure technology expertise in specific roles, as well as a clear path to continually develop that expertise,” said Skonnard.
Guest speakers at this event’s keynote general session included Microsoft GM of cloud + AI developer relations, Jeff Sandquist. Explaining just how much Microsoft has changed over the last few years (a development that none of us actually argue against), Sandquist explained why Microsoft has partnered with Pluralsight on Role IQ in a tech market that is being so massively impacted by cloud computing.
Let learning happen
Pluralsight CXO Nate Walkingshaw also got some general session presentation time. Looking at the difference between what he called ‘laggards & leaders’, Walkingshaw said that leading companies are the ones that are, today, inputting more to open source software development frameworks because they are vibrant, because they are productive and because they are forward looking.
“These companies are leading and growing and they are doing it with people… and they way I would put it is to say that they let learning happen with people, not to people,” said Walkingshaw.
Looking at how broad we need to be when we think about technology skills development, before running a full live product demo, Walkingshaw reminded us that some people are slow learners, some people are fast learners, some people are just-in-time learners.
Other product launches included Pluralsight’s new Interactive Courses & Projects offering — this is described as a ‘fully immersive’ developer environment, presented in the browser.
This full development environment prompts users with in-browser coding challenges to test their knowledge. Projects are designed to mimic real-world scenarios and they are built to allow users to test their skills in a local environment to validate for accuracy before applying those skills at work.
The keynote for this event itself was longer than summarised here… extended discussions featured speakers explaining how their firm’s business models have had to reinvent themselves in the cloud, apps, AI and online era that we obviously find ourselves in today.
The litmus test for any technology conference is: an attendee should end two or three days with any given vendor and come out feeling like they’ve ‘drunk the Kool-Aid’.
Go to a Splunk event and you should leave wondering why everyone isn’t raving about log file analytics; go to an IBM event and you should leave wondering why everyone isn’t going nuts for enterprise AI (we mean IBM Watson, clearly), go to an SAP event and you should leave wondering why everyone isn’t just bananas for transactional & analytical data analytics platforms… go to a Pluralsight conference and you do actually leave wondering why everyone isn’t spending a whole lot more time assessing technical skills and how roles apply to actual developer workshops and the business projects they are tasked with serving.
Pass the tech skills Kool-Aid please, orange & pink flavour.