93 : Future of Learning (w/ Mike Yates)

Zach sits down with Guide co-founder Mike Yates to discuss the future of learning. Mike shares what he thinks are the top three things that are changing within the world of learning. He also lists a few ways he thinks organizations will need to adjust for future workforces.

Connect with Guide! We’ve got their website and socials: Twitter, IG, Facebook


Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach, and you’re listening to Living Corporate. And today we’re talking about the workforce of the future, okay? So you’ve heard some conversations that we’ve had with Tim Salau a few times about the future of work, and, you know, it’s just a really prominent topic because the workforce is changing, and the dynamics and the cultural makeup–not just from an ethnic perspective or sexual orientation, but from a generational perspective–is shifting, so we’re really excited to talk about the future of learning with Mike Yates. Mike taught in a traditional school setting for five years before entering his current role, where he designs curriculum, plans projects, and motivates students to break all of the rules. His passion is in change and finding the next set of large innovations to the classroom through the use of adaptive learning technology and artificial intelligence. The world is rapidly changing and innovating, and it is his belief that schools must follow that trend. So with that being said, Mike, welcome to the show, man. How are you doing?

Mike: Thank you so much. I’m really good. I’m excited to be here. I’m actually a pretty–I’m a regular listener, so I’m excited to be on this podcast.

Zach: Stop playing. You listen to Living Corporate?

Mike: Yeah. I’m a listener. I listen to it through Apple Podcasts, and I love the–I love the podcast. I actually saw stuff about Living Corporate via LinkedIn or Twitter. I cannot remember where I saw it first.

Zach: Okay.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, but I started listening a while ago. So, like, I’ve recently listened to the one–like, Ramadan at Work.

Zach: Whaaat? Stop playing.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. Respectability Politics, yeah.

Zach: That’s awesome. Okay, well, hey. First of all, we’re already–we’re honored, but definitely certainly flattered and happy about the fact that you enjoy the show. So look, we gave a little bit of an intro for you from the top. For those of us who don’t know you, what would you mind telling us about yourself?

Mike: Yeah, yeah. So one of the things–like, I just saw this meme on the internet that said, like, “I wish I loved somebody the way that people from Houston love being from Houston,” and I’m one of the people that makes that true. I love being from Houston. That’s where I’m from. So, you know, NBA Finals time I’m a little hurt, ’cause I thought the Rockets should have played better, but–

Zach: Yeah, man. It was tough, right?

Mike: Yeah, yeah. But I’m from Houston. I’m from a family of educators. My mom is a teacher. I basically grew up in school. I grew up in the classroom. I am married. I have four amazing children, an amazing wife.

Zach: Oh, man. Congratulations to that.

Mike: Thank you, yeah, yeah. Our house is nuts.

Zach: I’ll bet.

Mike: Yeah. [laughs] It is. But that’s one of my favorite parts about my life, the grind that I have for them. And so my passion is education. I have tried to avoid the career field for as long as I could, because when growing up I thought to myself “Oh, you know, educators don’t make any money,” but the gravitational pull of education was too strong for me. I became really curious about it after I graduated from college and I got into planning education programs for the United Way in-between Austin and San Antonio. Once I started doing that, I entered the classroom as a teacher and fell in love with the field. I’m also an educator that is convinced that everybody is lying when they tell you that you can’t make money in education, things like that. “You can’t be happy in education.” “You can’t have work-life balance in education.” I am seeking to create trends within education that show you that all of those things are possible.

Zach: Man, that’s incredible. And, you know, I really respect–first of all, you know, there’s articles–I feel like you see articles every other month about the importance of even having just black male teachers in the classroom, so shout-out to you, shout-out to educators. Shout-out to my wife who’s an educator, as well as my–

Mike: Your wife?

Zach: Yeah, man. My wife is in education. She’s been teaching for some years, and then my mother is a principal of an elementary school. She’s been in education for 32 years.

Mike: Wow, that’s great. That’s phenomenal.

Zach: Yeah, man. And then, you know, my in-laws, they come from a–there’s a deep family of educators there as well. So yeah, man, shout-out to educators. Shout-out to those who, like, reach back and are really trying to shape the future of the world. Like, it’s so undervalued and just underappreciated. So yeah, definitely a shout-out to you, and a shout-out to your family, man. That’s awesome. So look, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk a little bit about the future of learning. So in your profile, right, like, when people look you up, you know, you talk about the world changing and, by relation, learning methods along with it. So what would you say are the top three things changing within the world of learning?

Mike: So that’s a great question, and I think that the #1 thing is–the way I would describe it is the urgency. There is going to be a shift in the way that people attend school, and that’s what I mean when I say urgency. Like, how you get information and how quickly it comes to you. So right now, especially through K-12 education and even into college, education is sit and get, right? It’s like, you trust that this person has the content knowledge to teach you, and so you sit and listen to lectures and take notes, and hopefully you retain enough to prove that you should get a job later in the future. The future of learning is different. The future of learning is gonna be on-demand. Learning is going to come to the person. The execution that you can see today would be, like, a Western Governors University where all of their courses are online. You can take them at your own pace. You have one mentor that you interact with your entire time, whether you’re in undergrad or grad school, and you can get your college degree that way. The second thing that I think is changing in the world of learning is quite honestly students. One of the saddest things to think about in education is the idea that, like, education is the last frontier in the United States of America that remains without innovation. You walk into any public school, you will see desks in rows, you will see–you might even see chalkboards that have been there since the ’60s, ’70s, ’40s in some cases, right? It is a model that is antiquated and has not responded to the change in people, the change in interest, the change in, like, you cannot educate students the way that you used to, right? And then the last thing that I think is changing in the world of education is technology, technology in and outside of the field. You know, artificial intelligence, machine learning, like, we have figured out how to make machines and devices do more for us today than ever before. When we were in school–I don’t know if you remember this, but my teacher used to always tell me, “Mike, you have to show your work when you’re doing math, because you won’t always have a calculator with you.”

Zach: Yes. [laughs] Wow, wait a minute. Pause right there. Yo, that was a lie. Like [inaudible]–

Mike: Right?

Zach: The teacher definitely said you’re not always gonna have–they’d be like, “What are you gonna do if you don’t have a calculator with you?” Like, there’s nowhere–you always have a calculator with you now. You have a phone.

Mike: Always, yeah. I have a calculator, a media company, a personal assistant. I have [inaudible].

Zach: Everything, yes.

Mike: Everything, right? And that’s what’s so beautiful about the future of learning, right? Because up until now teachers tried to prepare students for the existing work world, but now you have a movement of educators and a movement of schools that are trying to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet, right? And the calculator–you know, the iPhone is the perfect example. Like, no teacher in 1995 would ever believe you if you would have told them there’s gonna be a flat glass device that you’re gonna touch, and you can call, it can talk to you, it can be a calculator, right? They would never believe that. So I am fortunate to have been raised by an educator, you know, being my mom, who would tell me, like, “We don’t know what the world’s gonna look like when you go to work, so you have to be in your head. You have to imagine. You have to always look forward.” And my mother very much so made me a futurist, so all I do is think about “What’s the world gonna be like 10, 15 years in the future?” And that’s why I think technology is so exciting, and it’s–you know, if I’m talking about, you know, the last major change, you know, adaptive learning technology is going to do more for students than the best teacher ever could, and I–you know, adaptive learning tech is–if you don’t know, it’s technology that–like, let’s say I’m in a math application. If I’m in 6th grade, it will give me a set of questions that are at a 6th grade difficulty. If I do well on those questions and prove to the app that I know 6th grade content, it will automatically move me up to 7th grade math. If I don’t know a 6th grade concept, it will move me down to 5th grade until I master that concept, it’d move me back up to 6th grade and let me keep mastering and moving up. That is so much more efficient than even your best math teacher that it will change–in the future, that will change the role of the adult in the room. All of a sudden, you no longer have to disseminate information, but you have to create projects to help students use that information. You have to create real world connections and learning experience. And honestly, it helps teachers get to the part of their job that they love and away from the part of their job that they hate, which is lesson planning and lectures.

Zach: Yeah. Man, that’s incredible. That’s incredible, and it’s just so interesting because–so my father also–he also taught math for a little while as well, and, you know, he was on Living Corporate last season, and he talked a lot about the various jobs that he had, and one of the jobs he had was actually–he was a teacher’s assistant, and he also taught high school math, and he was talking–he’s a bit of a futurist himself. He was talking about, like–this was back in, like, ’90. Like, ’89, ’90, and he’s talking to these kids, and he’s like, “Y’all, one day you’re gonna have machines that are gonna be doing–a lot of these manual processes that we’re doing, one day machines are gonna be taking over. They’re gonna do these things.” And, like, at the time all of his students were like, “What are you talking about?” “No, that’s, like, way, way later in the future.” And he’s like, “I’m telling y’all.” And, like, he was just talking about it, but he was just kind of, like, waxing poetic. He wasn’t, like, really trying to, like–you know, he was just talking, but he wholeheartedly meant it. You know, it’s rare though to have folks who can see, right? So yeah, that’s definitely a blessing to have, folks in your life who can talk to you about those things. You know, so what would you say your top three predictions are for how organizations will need to adapt to future workforces in light of–you know, in light of what you’re sharing about the future of learning, what ways do you think that organizations, like, you know, professional organizations in any industry–in oil and gas, in technology, in healthcare–how do you feel like these organizations are gonna have to adjust for future workforces?

Mike: Yeah. So I think that they’re gonna have to be comfortable with remote workers. That’s my first big prediction is, like, they’re gonna have be comfortable with remote workers, because today’s internet allows you to do so much more than ever before. You know, like, now you have IT companies that no longer have to be in the building with you and can take over your desktop or your laptop and y’all are not even on the same Wi-Fi network. Like, that’s how advanced we are. So if that’s possible, then, you know, oil and gas companies or software companies or even, like, the National Basketball Association, who could be playing a game in Toronto and reviewing replay footage in live-time in Secaucus, New Jersey, right? So I think that they’re gonna have to be comfortable with remote. The next big prediction that I have, and this is a really, really big one, is that in the future of work, the college degree will lose value. And I don’t mean it will be completely worthless, but I do think because we came up in this generation where everybody sort of forced us to go to college, and I do think that there’s somewhat of an oversaturation of bachelor’s degrees in the marketplace right now, but what I think is because of things like lambda school and because of things like University for the People, Western Governors, there will be a pressure on any university that is outside of the top 20. If you’re not in the Ivy League or if you’re not a top 20 school that produces the best doctors and lawyers, you know, all of those positions that require advanced college degrees, then you are going to struggle to get students to sign up for your school after the next economic collapse. Like, things have been going financially, economically in this country pretty well for the last nine years, and my big prediction is in the next five to ten years there will be–economic collapse is the wrong turn, but there will be an economic recession, and when that recession hits–like, my alma mater, Texas State University, I don’t know if students will enroll there and take on debt when they could go to a lambda school for free, or they could go to University of the People and get a bachelor’s degree for $2,000. Like, you know? So I think that the college degree requirements are gonna have to change, and my last big prediction about what the future needs to adapt to is–it’s the scary one. It’s not [inaudible]–

Zach: [laughs] I hear you hesitating. Go ahead.

Mike: Yeah, [laughs] it’s robots. Like, it’s–there is a robot that can open doors. Like, there are companies, like [Boston?] Dynamics, that are designing robots that can deliver packages, right? And so I think we’re gonna have to get used to–and this may be, you know, 20 to 30 years down the line, but there may be a robot that walks up to you and greets you and drops a package off at your door, right? And I think that, you know, direct-to-consumer business is gonna change. I think, like, Amazon–we’ll see Amazon finally have to compete with, like, Old Navy and other brands, because everybody’s gonna be able to use drone delivery and robot delivery to drop packages off at your door within the hour. So I think that, you know, that big artificial intelligence in that sense, like robots, drones, those are gonna be really, really important in the future of work, and companies are gonna have to start bending and altering the way that they operate.

Zach: So, you know, first of all, everything you’re talking about–like, Mike–and I’m not trying to poo-poo you–I don’t really hear anything crazy in your predictions. Like, I think they’re all very realistic. Like, so first of all–especially when you start talking about schools, because we’re already seeing that today, right? Like, we’re already seeing it, like, in MBA programs. If it’s not a top 20, top–lowkey top, like, five, ten to five, you’re not gonna get–you know, ’cause some folks think that, you know, you get an MBA–and we talked about this, we talked about this–this was early in season 1. There’s a misconception that if you go and you get a graduate degree, then that automatically lines you up for paper, and it’s like, “Eh, not necessarily,” and it’s because–it’s because of the economic demand. It’s also because of perception, but, like, there’s no reason to–there’s no reason to not assume that the trend that we’re seeing within grad schools, we won’t just start seeing that in, like, universities, and we do see that in universities already, right? Like, we already know that there some undergraduate degrees that are worth more than others, right? Like, we know that already, but, like, it hasn’t been, like, super stark yet, but it will be one day.

Mike: Yeah, it will be. Absolutely.

Zach: Man, that’s incredible. So, you know, I think this really, like, leads well into your current role as the chief operating officer of Guide. So, like, what can you talk to us about when it comes to Guide? Like, what can you share?

Mike: Man, Guide–Guide is amazing. So Guide came together because a couple of people online were all having the same conversation about education. I was–you know, about two months ago, I sort of–you know, this is my first year outside of the traditional school system. I work for–my day job is at a school called Alpha, which is a school that uses adaptive learning technology in place of direct instruction, so we don’t have any lecture. There’s no classrooms. Our school looks like an open co-working space. It looks a WeWork for kids, right? And once I got out of the traditional school system, I had this opportunity to pick my head up and sort of look around, and I saw, like, there was all this stuff that I was missing. I saw that I was misusing LinkedIn and that I didn’t know how powerful it could be. I didn’t really know how to build community. So two months ago I started doing that. I went hardcore on LinkedIn. I went all in on, you know, Twitter and community building, and Tim Salau and I sort of started crossing paths because we were both posting about the future of learning, the future of work, sort of interacting with each other on LinkedIn, until one day Tim reached out and was like, “Hey, man, we’ve got to talk about this thing I’m working on.” So Tim, myself, and our third co-founder Taban got on a call and talked about what has now turned into Guide, and Guide is a social learning app that is tailored towards high school students specifically to teach them life skills. We’re going to create a new media called Snapshots, which are 30-second courses where a creator, any content creator, can come to our platform and break down transferable life skills into 30-second segments so that students can digest them and so they can remember the steps, go back and rewatch, and start to learn skills that are gonna benefit them in the future of work. So LinkedIn Learning is sort of, like, the adult version of this, but, you know, to get a certificate in LinkedIn Learning you may have to spend 12-15 hours doing that. Students [inaudible]–yeah, students don’t have the capacity to think that way.

Zach: No, nah-uh. We don’t have the capacity to think that way. [laughs]

Mike: Right, yeah, so imagine being able to build a course where a student could spend 15 minutes and get the same amount of material, the same amount of value? And now you have high school students, community college students, early college students, that are starting to build up this connection between skill building and the future of work, because–so I think the official number is, like, 65% of all, like, elementary school kids are going to fill jobs that currently don’t exist. With that being the future, you have to build up this sort of tool-belt of skills that you can use in multiple ways. Ones like public speaking, ones like community building, ones like adaptability, ones like creativity, that are not as easily taught in skills. So that’s what we’re doing with Guide, and my role specifically with Guide is obviously managing the personnel that we have. We’re sort of–we’re in startup mode, so we sort of do it all, but I specifically create teacher content. I manage all of the curriculum on the app. I do strategic partnerships. And so our founders team works really, really close together. You know, Tim is doing most of the UX and user experience design. Taban is our CTO, and he’s actually code–like, hard-coding the app and everything like that, so we have a phenomenal team that’s ready to do some phenomenal work. So I’m super excited about Guide, and I’m glad you asked me about it.

Zach: Man, that’s awesome. No, no, no. I’m glad that you guys are working on it, and I’m really excited for what it’s gonna be. Where can people learn more about Guide today?

Mike: So you can learn more about Guide at guideapp.co. That’s our website right now. We have sort of, like, a “Coming Soon” page. Our website is currently under construction. Our communications lead and our content team is working really, really hard to get the website up in the next couple of weeks. You can also follow myself on LinkedIn. You can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter. My Twitter handle is @justmikeyates, like j-u-s-t Mike Yates. You can also follow and connect with Tim. We are constantly posting about Guide. We’re posting resources in the–for all the educators out there, in the coming weeks we will be posting some teacher toolkits and some quick-start guides so that you can use Guide and our Snapshots in your classroom, and we’ll sort of, like, break down what a school day would look like with Guide to where you don’t have to abandon all of your curriculums trying to teach life skills. You can do it within the course of your math class or your history class or your English class.

Zach: Oh, I love this, man. It’s so disruptive, but, like, for all the right reasons. It’s not like guys from California trying to disrupt, like, your local bodega. This is, like, something that we need. This is awesome. Well, look, man, you know I could keep on going, but let’s go ahead and wrap up, man. I want to give you a second though. Do you have any words, any shout-outs for us?

Mike: Yeah. So one of the things that–sort of my goal in terms of online communication, the goal that I had set for myself for online communication has been to tell educators out there this very simple message, and that’s that you need to be building a personal brand. You need to be on LinkedIn, active, and interacting with other business professionals and other fields as well as professionals in education, because #1 there’s a larger conversation being had about disruptive education technology, about the future of learning and the way that that’s gonna look. I want you to be a part of that. I want you to be a part of shaping what school looks like in this country forever. The other thing is that school districts all across the country quite frankly are running out of money and teachers are getting laid off. It doesn’t pay enough for you to put all of the time and the passion and the heart that you do into your classroom on a day-to-day, so you should have a plan B, and that plan B can be your personal brand, because everybody’s looking for expertise that comes from the classroom, it seems like at this point. So I want teachers to know that. And in terms of shout-outs, I want to shout-out my wife, Alex. She holds it down like no other. My wife a stay-at-home mom and we have four kids, so she is–she’s working a lot harder than I am. So shout-outs to her and my kids and the whole Guide team. Shout-out to Tim, Taban, Monale, Jonathan. We are doing some phenomenal work.

Zach: Man, that’s awesome, man. Well, look, that’s gonna do it for us, y’all. Thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. This has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Mike Yates, learning futurist and COO of Guide. Peace.

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