In this episode, Eveline Oehrlich is joined by Jessica Lindl to share their expertise on the key steps to take when it comes to fostering creative innovation in today’s ever-changing business landscape. 👩💻
Jessica founded and scaled Unity Social Impact – enabling millions of future Unity creators to connect learning to earning 21st century jobs. Raised over $100m for Unity Charitable Fund investing in Unity Social Impact creators in sustainability, health and storytelling as well as corporate CSR (ESG, employee giving, and corporate sustainability)
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Jessica Lindl 0:16
Our systems don’t actually teach us how to rescale they kind of continue with this assumption that we’re gonna decide who we want to be when we grow up, and we all know that we are going to be many, many different things, but we don’t know how to continuously rescale.
Eveline Oehrlich 0:33
Welcome to the Humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m Eveline Oehrlich Chief Research Officer at DevOps Institute. Today we have with us Jessica Lindl . Hello, Jessica.
Jessica Lindl 0:47
Hi, Eveline. Thanks so much for having me.
Eveline Oehrlich 0:49
Yes, excited to have you with us today. I’ve been waiting for this quite a while now we’re since we talked. So before we get into our conversation, I want to make sure that our listeners get a small bio on you because I know you, you have lots and lots of stuff to tell about but I want to make sure that they know who you are. So Jessica is the Global Head of Social impact and Education at Unity Technologies, running both an internal business unit with a p&l and a corporate donor advised fund. She is head of and responsible of the Unities ESG and Sustainability, Social Impact Education and Upskilling Strategy and Teams. As an accomplished CEO and general manager, she she has raised both venture capital and philanthropic funds to launch new business ventures. She has over 15 years of experience running various business ventures and p&l S. over her career, she has focused on empowering millions of learners, building careers and businesses with technology. So anybody you can kind of know why I wanted to talk to her so urgently. In her work at Unity Technologies, Common Sense Media Glass Lab, and LRNG. She has worked to improve learning outcomes and earning potential for all learners worldwide by blending effectiveness with ground breaking engagement. Wow. I think the two of us got introduced via somebody else. So that was a great introduction. I am so excited that you are with us, Jessica. Again, thank you for being on our podcast.
Jessica Lindl 2:42
Thank you. Great to be here.
Eveline Oehrlich 2:44
So help me understand and our listeners what it means to work on social impact. What does that mean in terms of your daily work?
Jessica Lindl 2:56
Sure, so maybe I can start off by just providing an overview of what Unity is, which I hope many of you out there know us already. But for those of you who don’t, Unity is a software platform that creates real time 3d experiences. Many of you know those experiences as video games, we also have our customers using the platform to create film, digital twins, integrated with artificial intelligence for simulations, ad tech experiences, health and well being just a very broad variety of experiences. Our business model is primarily supporting our millions of creators around the world to increase the quality of their experiences, and then also help them to ensure that they’re successful. So whether that’s monetization or impact being able to measure and an impact their success. So to answer your question, what what is social impact mean? It really varies by company and by business model. And so I wanted to make sure there was a clear foundation of, of what unities business model is, before I explained my my day to day job. Really, it’s when we think about social impact, we want to design it in a way that drives the success of the business, not just the financial success, but the success we have with our stakeholders and the communities that we operate in. So we’ve designed social impact at Unity. So it fuels that growth. First, we focus on how do we exponentially grow both the number and the diversity of future creators that will use the platform to drive their their future success. So a lot of education that we do and high schools and universities around the world. But as importantly, most of us know that we are continuously rescaling throughout our careers so we also have a business that is full focused on how do we help adults rescale quickly into careers that drive both their their passion and purpose. And then finally, the social impact on a day to day basis is about how do we achieve our impact goals around carbon ESG, environment, social corporate governance, as well as employee giving and charitable fund donations. So it’s a really fascinating, fun opportunity day to day, you’ll oftentimes find me in meetings with either future creators themselves, really helping to understand how they made just such significant leaps into into this career, as well as you know, massive universities who are educating, you know, hundreds of 1000s of future creators at once, to investors who are curious about our ESG ratings and have further questions to unique employee giving and volunteering events. So it’s, it’s incredibly diverse on on what my days look like.
Eveline Oehrlich 6:05
Wow. I am, I am fascinated by everything you said. Particularly I love the term future creators. Tell me when you say that, maybe I have honestly never heard that term. Maybe others have, because I’ve stuck my head, my head stuck in DevOps and all these things help tell me what is the future creator?
Jessica Lindl 6:30
Well, actually, if we look at it from a DevOps perspective, think about how does somebody become, you know, a successful DevOps professional, you could also think of a DevOps professional as before they became like a potential future creator. So that a future creator is somebody who is learning the incredibly varied and diverse skills of creating with technology to shape the world that they want to see. And so we focus on not just the technical skills, like coding and scripting and 3d Digital Art rendering, but we also focus on collaboration, communication, how to think through a creative concept from, you know, a bate, blank slate all the way to launching it into the market and how you monetize it. So it’s, it’s a varied set of skills that we, we really bring together to empower these future creators. And then when they are in a place where they’ve actually brought their imagination into the world. They’re learning how to monetize it, that’s when we think of them as professional creators, either running their own companies or being employed by other larger companies where they’re bringing their skills to that mission.
Eveline Oehrlich 7:49
I love it, I’m going to adopt these terms. And if you are okay with it, I will actually introduce those terms. In the upskilling report, which we’re working on right now. I love them. All right. So, in a blog, you wrote in 2018, you mentioned and I quote, you, future jobs will demand an understanding of technology. And not just at a basic level. There’s more there, but then you say, our educational system, however, are often not structured to tackle the challenge of teaching children how to understand technology. So connecting that with your teaching and helping future creators enter into the professional creator. What do you think is the problem really today when we think about education systems, and I’m speaking a little bit out of my own country, which of course my accent gives away? I’m from Germany, we have a huge challenge on teachers. But back to the question, what is what is the problem?
Jessica Lindl 8:49
What, you know, I love being able to look at how much has shifted in the last four years. So I think, you know, we’ve come a long way, in the last four years, as everyone can imagine, driven by COVID. It was, you know, from a glass half full perspective. COVID really pushed us and our education systems to immediately adapt and adopt technology into the teaching and learning practices in a way that we just haven’t seen over the last couple of decades. It just moved so incredibly fast. So I actually want to answer this question from a 2023 perspective. My question, my answer would have been different in 2019 and 2023, what we see across the schools and universities that we work with around the world, is that we are now at a point where schools understand how to embed technology into a blended learning experience blended learning, meaning your your learning both digitally and in person. However, we are still not at the point where we’re empowering young people to To be creators, and not just consumers of that technology, there was a huge amount of consumption that happened during COVID. With with technology and just whether it was Ed Tech apps or different learning management systems that we had to stand up quickly to be able to still try and learn in such a different environment. Now we’re at the point where we need to focus on how do we empower young people to be the creators of of their own world and the world that they want to be able to shape? And how do they use technology to shape that world, not just use it as a consumption, opportunity to you know, ingest different types of content. And so just, you know, three, three key points here, and I think I really, you know, have picked this up from amazing universities, like Arizona State University, which is really like leading the way and empowering future creators is that they are not just focusing on what’s happening in the computer science discipline, but they’re integrating how they bring together computer science students, with medical students and being able to create new technology that is AR and VR driven for medical students. So we can really see an interdisciplinary approach where these students again are shaping the future that they want to see versus just using the technology to consume their instruction.
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Eveline Oehrlich 12:04
Interesting to mention something I was just looking into its business technologists today, versus the new, let’s call them the new business technologists in organizations today. The young ones who come out of these universities who have actually allowed and shaped these future creators in such a way are very, very different in how they actually go about leveraging technology within their own organizations as leaders. So set in stone already at an earlier time as we are now. These folks are very, very different from the folks I used to meet when I was coming out of the university in 1994. Going into a large company doing my job, so absolutely fantastic. And shout out to ASU, my daughter actually is a alumni in her masters, they are so funny that you mentioned that. Yes. Yeah.
Jessica Lindl 13:06
It’s the rated the most innovative university in the world. It’s Michael Crow is amazing.
Eveline Oehrlich 13:12
Oh, that’s fantastic. I have to tell her that she will love that. Okay, so as I mentioned, I’ve been working on this upskilling it 2023 report, which will be published soon. I find it extremely interesting that you were saying students today need a force R R for Rudolph rule of his gone, we’re almost with the Easter Bunny, right? Whereby the first or the first three are reading, writing and arithmetic. So what is the for fours? Are? It’s almost a tongue breaker, what is the fours are? And what would that do to our students? If they have that force are and if that has changed because pandemic and we’re now in 23? Happy to to have you go down that path as well.
Jessica Lindl 14:04
Yeah, that’s another one that I because I think this quote is from 2017. And an article that I was I was quoted on and at that point in time that quote was really focusing on rhythm from algorithm and just again, focusing on how do we equip young people to really embed and understand technology because it’ll be part of every single job that they move into. However, I would now answer this differently because I think we are underway with that Fourth R I would add a fifth R. And this is really an R that is not just for young people it is for all humans, which is about rescaling. We all know that these kind of three phases of life where you go to school, and then you work and then you retire are all mixed up and intermixed that work continuously. Learning rescaling moving into different roles throughout our career. And the concept of retirement has taken on a whole new meaning it’s, you know, what’s, what’s the next career that you want to eventually move into. And so when I think about rescaling, and you’ll hear a lot about this from me, because I do have this very strange background where I focus quite a bit on education and technology, but then also quite a bit on video games. And I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of gamers throughout my career. And I’ve realized that these gamers have an innate ability to rescale. And what is not happening is that our systems, not just our schools, but our culture, our caregiving systems, our communities that we come from, don’t actually teach us how to rescale they kind of continue with the assumption that we’re going to decide who we want to be when we grow up. And we all know that we actually are going to be many, many different things, but we don’t know how to continuously rescale into those new opportunities. And so I think that’s the the fifth our if I may, on, on, on what our institutions need to start teaching us.
Eveline Oehrlich 16:16
A recent report in Harvard Business Review, actually was talking about reskilling quite, quite interestingly, and there is some trends in some organizations, and I just had an interview with one of the leaders there about really shifting towards a skill based approach rather than, you know, a profession or a role. Like, for example, myself, I have always been an infrastructure and operations. That’s my home base. That’s where I feel comfortable. That’s what I’ve researched. And for me, that is just kind of like, okay, I know all these things there. But I also have skills in other places in other areas. I’m a strong communicator, I’m a good collaborator. I’m very creative. I could easily rescale myself, but in many organizations, there is a challenge to have that make that possible. So what would you give? What advice would you give to our listeners? If they are interested in reskilling? what’s what? What should they do as an individual? And then in terms of leadership? What would you give? What advice would you give to leaders who are potentially listening on our podcasts on what they should do?
Jessica Lindl 17:37
Well, I think this is this is where you’re gonna have to cut me off. Because I may, I may go on too long. And this is really coming from again, just just as a reminder for your listeners. Over a decade ago, I had an opportunity to run a gaming company that was focused on unlearning, and re skilling. And I hired, you know, obviously, a lot of tech talent, that tech talent, and we’re gamers and our active gamers, because they were drawn to this. And then of course, at Unity, where we have over 7000 employees, many of them are gamers, and I’ve sort of codified what is it that these what is the mindset and behavior that these gamers are bringing to their careers, that is just uniquely different, that I haven’t seen with with other type of employees and other types of talent. And so the first is when when you think about going into a game into a video game, you realize there’s not a set of rules that you have to read before you go into the game, you oftentimes don’t even exactly know what type of character you are, or what your purpose is there. So you have to kind of feel around within the game and the experiences, to be able to get clarity and signs and just to understand the nav and navigate the world you’re in. And that is very similar to entering into new careers, you don’t really understand, you know, what it? What are the skills that you need? How does this career operate? What’s the network that you need to build, but the ability to learn that and recognize the signals and communicate with agency is incredibly important. So this world building aspect of video games is just something naturally that gamers do but I think can be very much learned and understood by by non gamers that the second and most obvious thing is that there’s always a quest there’s there’s a huge amount of clarity on you know, what is it that I’m trying to achieve? How do I how do I bring that together? In my own mind, and then how do I actually set very achievable motivating goals on a daily or weekly basis to allow myself to reskill? So that could be anything from how do I take an online course in a specific year? I’m interested in to how do I just enter into a community or set of forums to be able to start learning from my, my broader community that I don’t own yet know yet? And that is, that’s another kind of key area is how do we quickly build up a network in this new skill or new domain that we don’t know a lot about. And so again, back to video games, you very much have your clan or your party, that you don’t know that you’re building relationships with online and starting to ask open questions and, you know, set up sort of one on ones or in in, in the career world that could be Hey, could I just ask you for, do an informational interview or get to know your your work better and understand what your path was? So that’s a third key area, it’s just being very clear about how to build how to build your network. And then one thing that I think we find in almost every industry and you know, kind of every every level that we’re in, in our careers, is just how do we build more agency and designing our path? And there’s always this kind of concept of imposter syndrome that, you know, I think there was a recent Harvard article out too, that really described almost everybody feels impostor syndrome, especially when you’re into entering into these new domains. You know, how do we think about ourselves, almost as our own avatar of our of our career, how do we, how do we set up? What is the identity that we’re leading with in this new career? And how do we design our own path. And so I just think there’s a significant amount that we can actually learn from video games and how we operate as gamers that can be applied to, to rescaling and upskilling throughout our career.
Eveline Oehrlich 21:50
Fascinating. So I heard you say, the first is not knowing what I’m actually getting into, in a game that’s very similar, like you said, then the network in the community, I just met a on this podcast and individual who has created a community of platform engineers, and he thrives in that community, with the community helping them all learn, of course, we had the DevOps Institute are doing the same. So that’s fantastic. And then that pass, we’re trying to help. And that, I think, is sometimes the challenge, because what is the right paths for an individual going down a particular area, but giving the confirmation that you potentially can go down another path, right, it’s this. It’s this furball, which I want to say, I know, that’s kind of gross, but it’s a bit of a furball. And many of young folks and colleagues and even myself, are sometimes struggling with that pass. But those are those are great, great ideas and combining that and looking at it from the gaming perspective. Wow. I have lots of friends and people in the family who do that, I have never done it, I need to go and do that as well. All right. So you already told us what Unity Technologies is you told us about what you’re doing? What else should I ask you? I haven’t asked because we’ve got a couple more minutes. What else would you let’s kind of put a little exclamation mark on Jessica lintels advice to those people who are right now out there saying, all right, I am not happy with my job, I want to do something else. What’s the first thing these folks should do? I mean, besides listening to our podcast, but what what else would you say?
Jessica Lindl 23:48
I think I think the key thing is to get very, very comfortable with failing forward. And I think we’ve probably all heard this term before, you know, really this growth mindset of how am I using a new opportunity that I have no, you know, expertise or skill set? And how am I making sure that I’m dedicating every part of my day to learning something and failing and iterating and trying again, because that is really the ambiguous as you said, furball path that leads us into new career opportunities, so that the Curiosity will motivate us and will get pushed back by the failure. And you know, obviously, our human instinct is to retreat and move in a different direction. And my advice is actually dive in there, learn from what didn’t go, well iterate and continue moving forward. And then for all of us out there, who are parents and managers or coaches ensure that the people we’re supporting and working with have that same fail forward mindset to be able to continuously row because we all know that half of the careers we have a decade from now haven’t even been defined yet. And this continuous rescaling, getting comfortable with what we don’t know. And continuously learning is what is going to not only propel our own personal success, but the success of our communities and the economic opportunity for all of us to be able to have the lives that we want to have.
Eveline Oehrlich 25:27
Excellent advice. You have me as a new fan. I’m in your fan club today. And I know many listeners will be as well. Jessica, this has been great. I have one more question has completely different. What do you do for fun?
Jessica Lindl 25:43
Well, I have a lot of fun. And so I would say if I categorize most of my fun, it’s always being in nature, whether it’s, you know, running or skiing, or just walks with friends and family. It’s being outside and connected to nature and connected to the relationships and friendships I have.
Eveline Oehrlich 26:06
Fantastic and I know you said you have so much fun at work that you don’t maybe need to go out to have fun. I need to that’s another coaching for myself. I need to get out more, and have fun in nature as well. This has been great. Jessica, thank you so much. Wonderful conversation, we have been talking to Jessica Lindl, VP and Global Head of Social Impact Education at Unity Technologies. Again, thank you for joining us today on Humans of DevOps Podcast.
Jessica Lindl 26:36
Thank you again, wonderful to be here.
Eveline Oehrlich 26:40
Humans of DevOps podcast is produced by DevOps Institute. Our audio production team includes Julia pape, Daniel Newman, Schultz and Brendan Lay. Shout out to my colleagues there. I’m the Humans of DevOps Podcast, Executive Producer Eveline Oehrlich. If you would like to join us on a podcast, please contact us at Humans of DevOps podcast at DevOpsInstitute.com oh my god, this is a mouthful. I’m Eveline Oehrlich, talk to you soon.
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