Taking the Fork in the Road

Written By: Chris Boyack

Why I chose to work in Ed Tech at WGU.

Some time ago I faced the daunting prospect of leaving an organization I had the good fortune of working with for the past 15 years, due to life circumstances that required a relocation. It was a pivotal time in my life that meant initiating a job search from scratch. My hope is that I can share a few things I did and learned along the way that might help anyone in a similar situation, or anyone considering a role in Ed Tech at WGU.

As I thought about the items I would value most when deciding whether to join an organization, I came up with a list of three main areas:

1. Mission — my previous experience with mission-oriented entities made me value that type of work and search for an opportunity with a compelling mission

2. People — it is difficult to get an accurate sense for the people side of an organization before you join, but it was something I felt I needed try and lean into

3. Technology Stack — as a technologist I enjoy working on systems that are relevant and delivering value, while being able to contribute to the success of a team

While I was out for a run during my onboarding process with WGU I literally encountered a fork in the road. It was a fitting symbol of the job change and move I was about to make.

WGU Ed Tech report card

Now that I have worked in Ed Tech at WGU for a year and a half, how would I assess my experience as it pertains to the items on my list?

1. Mission

The mission gets an A+. Serving an active population of over 130,000 full-time students, the majority of whom would be classified in one or more categories of under-served populations is a tremendous honor and privilege. We work very hard to ensure we have highly available and cost-effective systems in place to literally change lives for the better by providing a higher education pathway to opportunity.

2. People

The people rate an A++. Dedicated, diverse and passionate are the words that immediately spring to mind. We have conflict and challenges just like any large team but being aligned from top to bottom on our core mission is a game-changing advantage in how we interact with each other.

3. Technology Stack

Technology was more difficult to gauge initially. My interest wasn’t in only working with a company that had the cleanest code or the most cutting-edge systems. We have plenty of both in Ed Tech, but my goal was centered around the spectrum of opportunity to learn and grow my skill set.

From the powerhouse core enterprise database and server systems down to the ephemeral microservices, SaaS, IaaS, SDN, IaC, TDD, platforms, pipelines, greenfields, brownfields, proprietary vendor software, open-source products, physical systems, virtual systems, on-prem, and cloud there is nearly infinite potential to learn and grow as a technologist in Ed Tech. A+.

Takeaways and an invitation

Do we have problems to solve, tradeoffs to make, and prioritization and delivery challenges? Yes, yes and yes!! But here is what really matters to me… Our challenges are the right challenges to have because they stem from our past success and future vision. Scaling and sustaining an enterprise technology stack that is a disruptor in the education space and is continuing to grow rapidly and provide opportunity to tens of thousands of students is extremely difficult, but it is a GREAT problem to have. Instead of lamenting the fact that things aren’t perfect right here right now, I prefer working to make our vision a reality.

This is the mindset we need to succeed and is why I chose, and still choose, to work in Ed Tech at WGU.

If you would like to work in a space with a compelling mission, great people and incredible growth and learning opportunities then come join us!

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