Never stop learning: How 4 Chicago tech companies foster professional development

by Alton Zenon III
August 15, 2018

For companies looking to stay ahead of the curve, providing professional development opportunities for employees is key. We spoke to senior leaders at four companies about what resources or incentives they offer staff to help them advance their skills sets and, ultimately, their careers. 

 

PEAK6 team having meeting in office
image via PEAK6 investments

PEAK6 Investments is an investment firm that uses proprietary trading and risk management software to help consumers and businesses manage their assets. Judi Hart, chief people officer, said the company offers professional development services geared toward creating pathways to help the leaders and traders of the future succeed.

We are helping our employees live our core values by giving them opportunities to learn and grow.”

 

Why is professional development so important to you as a company?

At PEAK6, one of our core values is, “approach every day with curiosity.” We are helping our employees live our core values by giving them opportunities to learn and grow. Besides offering the traditional professional development tools of tuition reimbursement, job training and conferences, we are also are innovating new ways for our teams to collaborate and learn.

 

How does your company help employees grow professionally?

We host an ongoing speaker series that invites celebrated authors like Jeremy Gutsche, Angela Duckworth, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner to share insights in an informal and interactive setting in our office. Additionally, managers can participate in a leadership roundtable led by senior leaders where they read a designated business-themed book and engage in a group discussion.

This summer, we launched our uniquely-focused professional development initiative, the all-female Trading Experience and Technology Experience internship program. This initiative is helping to create a pipeline for launching and growing the careers of the next generation of leaders at PEAK6.

 

Braviant Holdings team taking group photo
image via braviant holdings

Braviant Holdings makes lending smoother by using technology and analytics to assess the creditworthiness of consumers, which in turn helps them find better credit options. Ramona Stefan, head of talent development, said employees have full agency in deciding what resources would best help them evolve professionally.

It’s especially important for us to foster an environment where employees are encouraged to stretch their abilities.”

 

How does your company help employees grow professionally?

We hire curious and smart people, and we encourage them to take advantage of external opportunities such as conferences and workshops to help them broaden their current skill sets, network and bring back new ideas to their teams. In fact, Braviant sponsors up to $4,500 per employee per year to support individuals who want to participate in relevant events or programs to accelerate their professional development — whether offered online, down the street or across the country.

We also recently rolled out a new internal leadership program designed to equip and empower managers with the tools and resources they need to become exceptional people leaders.

 

Why is professional development so important to you as a company?

We are a results-oriented organization, and, as we grow, we want to enable employees at all levels and in all roles at Braviant to take initiative across a variety of high-impact projects, contribute actionable results and feel successful. As our business evolves and expands over time, our philosophy is always to look internally first to see if we can create broader roles for existing talent and promote from within. To support this philosophy, it’s especially important for us to foster an environment where employees are encouraged to stretch their abilities and think about new ways to add value.

 

Target Data team posing near office logo
image via target data

Target Data helps companies create targeted, cross-channel marketing campaigns that focus on individual people, not audiences or segments. Chief Operations Officer Marshall Gibbs said responsibility is key when it comes to pushing employees to develop new skills.

Employees are given responsibility early in their careers.”

 

How does your company help employees grow professionally?

At Target Data, employees are given responsibility early in their careers. Our employees are often responsible for managing projects and teams, engaging clients, and delivering campaigns and analytics much earlier than is typical for larger organizations. Of course, these responsibilities come with training and mentorship. Target Data also strongly supports employee development through conferences, classes and tuition reimbursement.

 

Why is professional development important to you as a company?

It’s simple: We always want to deliver the best for our clients, and that means having the best and most knowledgeable and professional team members. We invest in our team members in order to deliver the very best to our clients, and, at a very high level, to provide our team members with valuable work experience they’ll take with them throughout their careers.

 

Bento team posing and having fun
image via bento for business

Bento for Business supplies small and mid-size businesses with financial resources that promote efficiency, particularly through their employer-controlled employee expense cards. Senior Software Engineer Peter Szczepanski said maintaining an open-door and open-mind policy is vital to making employee growth possible.

The leadership at Bento has an open and caring attitude toward every employee, regardless of position or tenure.”

 

How does your company help employees grow professionally?

Our everyday work and career paths are not tied to a certain job title or team, and that flexibility helps me build a diverse skill set that’s necessary for professional growth. Working with such a tight-knit group of colleagues, collaboration comes naturally and that’s where the learning opportunity lies for me.

Our open approach to learning led us to create lunch sessions in the Chicago office, where we exchange knowledge and new ideas in a casual, all-questions-welcome kind of environment. If I’m wondering how a certain marketing strategy works, how our predictions are forecasted or the benefits of working with a new DevOps tools, I have colleagues who are eager to share what they have learned.

 

Why is professional development so important to you as a company?

We’re a very team-oriented company and every team member’s growth has a noticeable impact on our growth as a company. The leadership at Bento has an open and caring attitude toward every employee, regardless of position or tenure. I find it easy to seek advice from my seniors at any time. In a fast-paced startup environment, this has really helped me hone my technical and soft skills, which are all important in advancing my career. As a result, I feel comfortable applying everything I learn to improve Bento’s platform and see firsthand how the new changes help our company and, of course, our customers. It’s a win win.

 

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