4 Chicago tech startups offering lifelong learning opportunities

by James Risley
November 10, 2016

In the tech industry, things are constantly changing. New standards, more efficient hardware and popularization of new software all help to push tech forward, but also require the people behind that tech to constantly learn new things.

We connected with four companies who make continued education a core part of their employees’ careers, offering everything from lunch-and-learn sessions to education credits for bootcamps and conferences.


Payroll and management software provider Paylocity doesn’t just offer learning opportunities as a perk — it looks for lifelong learners as part of the hiring process. Those employed at the company get an allowance for additional training and development, to be used on everything from certifications to conferences.

“Paylocity values technologists who have a natural curiosity and drive to learn,” said talent acquisition manager Laura Durfee. “Providing resources to encourage those characteristics isn’t just an employee benefit — it’s part of our culture. This leads to not only more engaged and cutting edge team members, but ultimately a better product for our clients.”

The program is often used to attend conferences, like DevIntersection in Orlando pictured above, and training sessions. In 2106, three Paylocity QA Engineers have already used their education allowance to pursue software engineering careers with online courses.


Staying in front of the competition is the name of the game for Trading Technologies, which offers high-performance trading software for derivatives traders. To keep employees on the cutting edge, they can receive 75 percent tuition reimbursement and other external professional development opportunities. The company’s internal training program also helps employees learn more about the trading and financial services industry. Future courses will include management training, stress management techniques and self-defense lessons.

“[Continuing education] has always been something that our employees talked about wanting, and we started by offering the tuition reimbursement program about four years ago,” said EVP of global HR Katie Burgoon. “While that was a huge addition to our benefits offering, it didn’t satisfy the desire for more practical, on-the-job learning — learning that stems outside a degree. The programs we developed, and continue to develop, aim to fill that gap and retain our team. Bright minds never want to stop learning, so we have to provide vehicles for that to happen here at TT."

“One of my favorite moments in developing our curriculum came from one of our employees, who immediately raised her hand and asked if she could take part in developing a curriculum in- house for our employees, and then teaching it on an ongoing basis. She does all of this on her own accord and has really tapped into our employees’ creativity and freedom, and is bridging communications across teams. This is a great example of someone who pitches in because they love something and they want to share it through teaching moments.”


Earlybird helps clients build software they can’t get elsewhere, and sometimes that requires building with something new. Employees learn from each other at lunch-and-learn sessions led by experts (like the one pictured above led by Earlybird senior developer Kris Kroski), in addition to reimbursement for online courses and training materials.

“As a service business, Earlybird is only as good as the skills of our team,” said Earlybird partner Eddie VanBogaert. “Investments in the knowledge and abilities of employees help create competitive advantages, expanding the types of projects we can accept and the quality of the services we deliver to clients. But beyond these immediate commercial benefits, we believe in the overall long-term value of fostering a learning-centered environment where everyone is driven by curiosity and self-improvement. It makes it so much easier to come to work each morning.”


Management consulting firm CapTech instills a culture of learning from day one. During the two-day new hire orientation, consultants are presented with information on how they can continue learning.

The company also offers 10 to 15 instructor-led training sessions every month, mentor-reviewed self-paced learning and a college hire boot camp (pictured above) to help recent grads keep on learning in a career at CapTech.

“Clients count on us to help them solve complex business challenges,” said training manager Ann Marie Petrucelli. “Our consultants consider learning critical to serving clients — when we understand their business, industry and the technology trends, we add value that goes beyond the ‘task-at-hand,’ we help clients improve for the short-term pain while developing a solution with a long-term fit. Our knowledge base builds trust with our clients as they make technology and business investments to drive their organizations forward.”


Images via listed companies

Got a tip for us? Shoot us an email or follow us on Twitter @BuiltInChicago.

Jobs from companies in this blog

Chicago startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
Women in Chicago Tech