Eskewlab’s Success: Upskilling the World So No Talent is Left Behind

6 lessons to be learned from Eskwelab’s success in upskilling data professionals

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“We are here to upskill the world,” reads Eskwelab’s mission statement. They believe talent exists in all of us, and no one should be left behind in the digital revolution that’s helping individuals and institutions alike level up.

Started in 2019, Eskwelabs – which will soon be rebranded to Co-Learn Labs – set out on their mission to equip people for the future of work. 

Eskwelabs mainly focuses on data skills, as their inaugural product was a data science fellowship for individuals wanting to pivot into tech, and they’ve added bootcamps in data literacy and analytics, too. But, in recent years, they’ve shifted into servicing at the team level, including organizations, government institutions, as well as colleges and universities.

The Disco team sat down with Eskwelabs Chief of Staff Francine “Fran” Tan to learn more about her philosophies on learning and teaching, as well as how Eskwelab’s rebrand to Co-Learn Labs will better convey their commitment to collaborative innovation.

Creating a future where work is meaningful: 6 lessons to be learned from Eskwelab’s success in upskilling data professionals

Share gratitude openly with your teammates

Anywhere between 50-200 students joining each of Eskwelab’s cohorts, and yet their core team is still relatively small.

“We're 27,” says Fran. “And I would still say it's a very small team for the operations that we're running. I think that's one of my favorite things about working in this company – it's really the people. Just a quick share: We have one of our favorite traditions, which we call a gratitude circle. We host it every Friday, and we just give things to the team members that helped us that week. It’s the healthiest work environment I've ever been in in my working life so far.”

Opening up space for the Eskwelab’s team members to connect over their gratitude and vulnerability has made them a tight-knit team that’s able to manage the size of their student body.

Invest in your alum’s professional and personal journeys

Knowing how alumni are faring once they’re out in the real world, using all of the knowledge they’ve consumed during their training, is critical. It helps you shape and mold your learning experiences for future cohorts.

“First, we track which of our alumni already have jobs, whether it's in their existing companies, if they just got promoted, or if they've shifted careers or industries totally.. If they're still unemployed, we also track that as well. That data is super important for us to know if our learning experiences are effective and if the content is helpful for their own personal and professional development,” says Fran.

Another way Eskwelabs remains in contact with their alumni is by putting together what they call The Resume Book.

“Fran says “We ask our alumni to send over their resumes and we compile them into this booklet that we can send to our company partners. Eskwelabs has a network of 80-100+ company partners so they can hire our talent.” 

This booklet gives alumni direct access to these company partners and often lands them, at least, a first interview.

“Another thing that we offer is technical coaching,” Fran says. “So imagine you've graduated from the program, and you just want to book a career consultation. Angela, our CEO handles a lot of that, and offers her time for students to gather her wisdom right after the bootcamp. That's free for all our alumni.”

Finally, Eskwelabs hosts their Career Hub on the Disco platform. Inside of the Career Hub lives all of their learning materials for building your LinkedIn presence, creating a stellar resume, interview tips, and job openings at partner companies and companies that the Eswelabs teams have vetted.

Investing in their alumni gives Eskwelabs an uncapped reservoir of referrals as well as a case study into the effectiveness of their programs.

Know where your audience is and be present there

Targeting prospective members and marketing their course in the Philippines led the Eskwelabs team to one place: Facebook.

“[At first], we relied on paid ads, but we also went into different interest groups on Facebook. Filipinos are very heavy social media users – if you check reports all over the world, we're one of the heaviest users,” says Fran. “So we went into these different Facebook groups and tried to understand what they were looking for. There were many data science and data analytics groups in the Philippines that were hungry for learning opportunities like Eskwelabs, so we're able to share our bootcamp advertisements in those groups and bring people in to apply.”

Eventually, they were able to turn off a lot of the reliance on ads and switch to more of an organic approach and lower their customer acquisition costs without spending more on advertising. Alumni referrals are an additional acquisition strategy for them – with around 20% of each cohort coming from alumni referrals alone – so we dug more into their referral engine and how it functions.

Turn alumni referrals into program ambassadors

We’ve seen from other learning communities like d.MBA and Victory Lap how important it is to incentivize your alumni referral engine, but it’s also important that they’re doing it for the reason.

Fran explains "it’s not actually about just getting something monetarily, right? You get a commission if a learner enrolls and graduates, but we also frame it in a way that [the referee] is an ambassador of the company.” 

In order to accomplish this, the Eskwelabs team has calls with each referee to discuss the company and the vision to ensure the people they refer align with their mission.

“Whenever you invite someone to learn with us, you're welcoming them into this community. So we'd want you to understand the essence of the company as well,” Fran says. 

This ties back to Eskwelab’s earlier objective of investing in alumni relationships – when you involve former members in the process of growing your community of new, prospective members, you can remain an active participant in their professional and personal journeys.

Continue galvanizing your community offline

Your synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences are where the most transformation happens, but it’s important to carry that magic beyond the “classroom,” even digital ones.

Eskwelabs achieves this in different ways:

  • Plan ahead: “We plan ahead, before the program even begins, for those moments when it's not live and in real time,” Fran says. 
  • Send encouraging messages: “We have very specific communication that goes out to learners. These aren't the boring emails – they are very encouraging. That's something we've been noted for by alumni over the years, that after they've graduated from the program, they miss receiving our emails because they felt so encouraged.”
  • Host other experiences: “We actually have what we call socials. They aren't always during the classes; there might be times outside class where we gather learners to have bonding activities online and we can insert announcements like ‘Hey, have you answered that question on Disco? Or have you watched the recordings?’ We try to make it as natural to the process as possible.”

Think about internal growth as a catalyst to external growth

Despite upskilling hundreds of tech professionals in the Philippines since opening their virtual doors in 2019, Eskwelabs hasn’t scaled their own internal team to match demand. 

“It's not just about adding team members and that will automatically equal growth. We actually invest in our learning experiences and our team as if the team are the learners themselves,” says Fran. 

In an effort to grow internally – not by sheer numbers, but by skill level – the Eskwelabs team participates in what they call learning circles. 

Fran continues “these learning circles vary from talking about really fun, not-so-serious topics and then topics that are really meant for the team's upskilling.”

This includes mini bootcamps of their own, like a generative AI sprint that has increased overall team productivity (including slashing Fran’s writing time by 50% and 2-3x output).

“So imagine that for every team member,” says Fran. “That's how we approach growth as a team, because there are different ways to approach increasing profit. It's either you play with the costs or you play with the price of a program. We're always more on the conservative side, instead of just adding team members expecting to scale exponentially right away.” 

Fran goes on to say that they’ve watched the layoff crisis happening in big tech and, being a small startup, everyone’s role is incredibly valuable to making the learning experience of Eskwelabs function. “We cannot let go of anyone, so we're going to upskill internally. And, through that upskilling, it's going to look like we're a 50-person team even if we're just 27.”

By focusing on internal skill growth, it makes every team member at Eskwelabs more capable of performing their role at a higher level – which only benefits their members.

Another way the Eskwelabs team is approaching scaling their business is by addressing the tools in their tech stack. In an effort to create operational excellence within their small team and manage their much larger community, they turned to Disco.

Kindred Spirits: Why Disco’s Partnership With Eskwelabs Works So Well

The Eskwelabs team was at an inflection point in 2022 as they were trying to build the perfect tech stack for hosting their distinct learning experiences. Disco was on the short list of options.

“We checked Disco’s mission statement to get the essence of the company. Automatically, we see kindred spirits in Disco. Another thing we had to prioritize was how user-friendly this is for our learners. One of our values is to be human-centric. If Disco were to be our choice, we'd want our learners to experience learning in a seamless way – and in a fun way,” Fran says.

The last must-have for the Eskwelabs team was a tool that was aesthetically pleasing. Instead of looking at a system or a tool that might be clunky, or that isn't visually exciting, they were greeted by an interface that they were able to customize with Eskwelabs branding that was very user-friendly. They now host all of their bootcamps on Disco, built more like several learning sprints of varying lengths built on top of one another. 

Quote from Eskwelabs Chief of Staff, Francine Tan

There are a number of Disco features the Eskwelabs team uses to successfully run these learning sprints, including:

  • Module blocks and apps for building unique community pages with elements including videos, images, and embeds, to Google Suite tools like forms, which the Eskwelabs team uses to collect learner feedback.
  • Content library so you can organize your content and resources in one central location.
  • Customizable templates so you don’t have to start from scratch when building distinct learning experiences.
  • Events pages, which Eskwelabs didn’t have in their previous tool, so they can remind learners about upcoming live classes and other synchronous experiences.
  • Onboarding to seamlessly get learners into their learning experience and up to speed with a checklist of activities and resources to dig into before starting their journey.

Disco doesn’t just look great to learners and function well for the Eskwelabs team – it’s made them more efficient.

“I would guesstimate we’ve saved 20-30% of our operational time,” says Fran. “Our operations work consists of putting files together, putting together the different modules that we need, sharing copies of the recordings of classes, and sending out feedback forms. So the fact that we can embed and share recordings inside Disco itself? That's so much easier for us.” 

By saving upwards of 30% of that operational time, the Eskwelabs team gets to focus on the part they enjoy most: engaging with learners and helping them reach their goals.

Join the Learning Revolution with Disco

Every day, we talk with people like Fran at organizations like Eskwelabs. We’re continuously in awe of the life-changing work these learning communities are doing and how they’re helping to shape a better, more meaningful future for all.

If you want to join Disco’s Learning Revolution and enact real change, learn more about us here and, when you’re ready, start a free trial for 14 days to see why communities like Eskwelabs are loving both the Disco platform and our mission.

Quote from Eskwelabs Chief of Staff, Francine Tan
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