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The lynda.com Story: Founders and key executives share accounts of learning, teaching, and building their company.
Company cofounders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman, with CEO Eric Robison and other top executives, present the early roots, current landscape, and future vision of lynda.com. This short-form documentary covers how Lynda and Bruce's careers, relationship, and company started and evolved, and how their vision and high standards have shaped the lynda.com mission to help others.
(music playing) Lynda Weinman: Well, my mom always describes me as a precocious kid, and I loved school and I loved learning and I was a straight-A student. I did very, very well in school until my parents got divorced, and I just kind of slipped into apathy and probably a little depression, and suddenly school didn't resonate for me at all and I just stopped caring.
By the time I was in high school, I was very disenchanted and disengaged, and I happened to stumble upon a book called Summerhill, which is out of print today, but it described a type of school that was very different from the public school I had been to. And the premise was that you would offer a lot of great classes and allow students to pick what subjects they wanted to take, rather than having prerequisites. And I was so enamored with this idea that I found a school like this, and my parents couldn't afford to send me to private school.
So I actually worked at a hot dog stand, and I convinced the schoolmaster to let me go to school on my hot dog stand income, which was about $80 a month. Anyway, I was really kind of reborn at this school. I thought this type of education would work for me, and it did. And I found myself becoming curious again, becoming interested again, and I think it instilled this passion for lifelong learning. And one of the premises behind this idea is that if you can choose what it is that you want to learn and you are passionate about the subject, that you'll become better at it than you might be if you were being forced to learn something.
And I think this type of education really influenced lynda.com in that we believe so strongly in the power of a library, the power that, you know, you offer the great learning materials, and it's not for you to presume where people should start and end, that if somebody is already expert they can skip ahead to the advanced section, if somebody is new, they can study it over and over again. And I think that what I feel so fortunate about my early education is that it encouraged me to find my passion and to pursue it, and I feel so lucky that what I do as my profession is what I love to do. It would be my hobby.
When people say, "What is your hobby?" I can't really say anything different than what I already do. And I wish that for more people, that I see so many people who seem to not feel that they have the option to follow their dreams and follow their passion. So I would love to believe that lynda.com is maybe a steppingstone for others to find their passion. When I graduated from college, I had a friend who is an animator, and he invited me to come be his assistant, and that was how I learned animation.
And I ended up working in the film industry for a number of years, and that was when I first discovered the computer. And when I started to teach myself computer and computer graphics, I was also interested in animation. So I was actually at the forefront of animation on personal computers, just sort of by following my own interests and my passion and the industry that I was already working in. And I got invited to give a lecture at a college on some of the work that I had been doing on personal computer with animation, and I just realized that I was born to teach.
I mean, it wasn't a profession I had ever considered, but I gave this lecture and a day later I got a phone call asking if I would come teach permanently at this college, which was Art Center College of Design. When I was teaching at Art Center, I discovered the Internet for the first time and I just sort of was thunderstruck by it and I knew that it was going to have this huge impact on the world. And I realized that I had the exact right skill sets to teach people how to use it in that I had already been a teacher, I had already written curriculum, I had written magazine articles, I knew how to research a subject that I knew nothing about, and I just took it upon myself to get this book into the world.
I just felt this incredible pressure that so many people needed to know how to create websites and that it was such an important thing. So when I did end up writing the book and it became way more successful than I could have ever imagined, it was sort of addictive. I realized being able to touch that many people, all of these hundreds of thousands of people that were buying this book was, to me, a little bit more gratifying than reaching maybe the 80 students that I was reaching a year at Art Center.
And so I made the really tough decision to leave the school, because I loved teaching there, and then when Bruce and I started our school and the company and we started writing other books and making videos and eventually launching the online video version of the library today, I just don't think that it could have ever been imagined to have the kind of reach that a single person could have before the Internet age.
Tanya Staples: What I love about Lynda is that at her heart she is a teacher and she is an educator and that manifests itself throughout the entire organization. Of course, in our training she has the set the pedagogical vision and the educational standard for our content. But because she's focused so much of her career on how to make complex things simple, that leads into so many other areas of our business. Whether it be marketing, whether it be customer service, whether it be sales, that, that need to make things simple and easy for people to understand and that heart of a teacher is what comes through in everything that Lynda does.
Ramey McCullough: Lynda is an amazing person. She is warm, friendly, caring, giving, and she loves education. She wants to educate people. I think she's the heart of lynda.com. Lynda: It's not only me. I realize that the website bears my name and that I may get far too much credit for it, because it's now a team of people, hundreds of people, hundreds of other contributors, authors, and millions of members who are making up lynda.com, and it's really become a life force that's so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and so much bigger than me.
But it is my pride and joy, and I love being a part of it. Eric Robison: I felt like I've known Lynda for years. I've only known her for five years. I feel like I've known her for 20 years. She has that type of warmth, that type of interaction with people that really has her passion permeate everything that we do. Lynda: A lot of people always ask me, "Isn't it hard to work with your husband?" and, "Do you bring work home with you?" And we do bring work home with us.
We live, breathe, sleep, dream lynda.com, but I feel so fortunate. There aren't very many married couples who get to build something like this together, and it's actually a real joy to work together. Bruce Heavin: Lynda, the thing that drives Lynda, she's passionate, and she's in love, and she is stubborn when it comes to education and technology. She knows exactly what she wants, she knows exactly where she wants it to go, and I believe she wants it so badly that she is wanting to push everything to the sides and she just opens everything up and I think that is one of the biggest driving forces in her that gets things done and why she does so well and what drives lynda.com today.
Lynda: I believe so deeply in what we do, and I think for so many people they are afraid. They are afraid that they're not relevant, they are afraid that they can't learn new things, they're afraid that the world is passing them by and they can't keep up with it, and to create a resource that can give people confidence and give them the tools that they need to succeed, I can't really think of anything bigger in life to have accomplished. There's just no amount of gratitude that I can express at how it feels to have stumbled on this idea, been present in this revolutionary time that we all live in and be in a position to help so many people, and it's very addictive and very hard to imagine doing anything else.
It's definitely my passion, it's definitely my love, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
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