If you think it’s only the big Silicon Valley giants who are looking for skills in digital transformation, Jason Field has news for you.
The founder and CEO of Brainstation, which launched in Vancouver three years ago and opened a new campus this past October, says the demand for his organization’s mix of user experience (UX) design, data science and product management courses has accelerated as more organizations seek to generate value from all the digital tools available to them. While the exact definition of what “digital transformation” (DX) means might vary from one firm to another, there’s little doubt that Canadian companies are working hard to ensure they have the necessary talent in place.
“It’s not necessarily only the ‘innovative’ companies. Every company is a technology company at this point,” he says, adding that Brainstation’s typical students today are “individuals with a previous background in some other sort of discipline – law, construction, consumer packaged goods” who want to arm themselves with the education necessary to work on DX projects in their company, or even find a new job elsewhere.
The Educational Experience At Brainstation
It begins at Quantum Coffee, a sister company Brainstation owns which sits close to its educational facilities (like the corner of trendy Spadina and King St. in Toronto). From there, students may go upstairs to three floors of classroom space that seat about 32 to 36 student in an intimate setting.
Later, they might go back downstairs to take part in industry talks or networking events at one of Brainstation’s signature event spaces. The real hallmark of the organization, however, is an emphasis on discovering the right path for those seeking the right software or coding classes.
“It’s hard, because there’s no real defining experience — it’s a bunch of smaller wins and micro-moments,” he says. “Our admissions process is all about having great learning advisor conversations. It’s an amazing layer of customer experience that you don’t tend to get at traditional schools, where it’s more e-commerce-based or self-serve. We’ll work with you based on your goals, whether the right solution turns out to be Brainstation or not.”
Brainstation, which recently added the 50,000th person to its alumni network, has seen graduates go on to work for some of the most innovative organizations in the technology industry ecosystem, including Shopify, Wattpad and Facebook. Field says the school wants to try and maintain a low student-to-teacher ratio as much as possible. “That way, it almost becomes a sort of mentorship time,” he says.
And just as it arms students to create outstanding technology experiences, Brainstation has been focusing on its own, specifically a custom learning management system (LMS) and dedicated learning portal for students.
“Everything we build, we build from scratch for the purpose of serving the students,” Field says. “The content within it is all Brainstation institutional IP.”
What Leads Students To Brainstation
Though the median age of the students at Brainstation in 2017 was 32, Field says the backgrounds can be varied. This includes those who have already gotten an undergrad or even a master’s degree along with significant work experience who see new horizons in DX.
“Then there is the student that isn’t necessarily looking to change companies, but they’re working for one of the big banks and they see that they’ve gone down a path with a commerce degree from Queen’s and they’re now a specialist,” he says. “They want to be on the digital team and don’t have classical training in digital design. We’re allowing these students to level up.”
Brainstation has also recently launched an online learning component that is broadening its reach. Field says e-learners have recently graduated from Ottawa, Montreal, Houston and Pittsburgh.