Bre McDaniel: Upskilling Your Career with Chegg Skills

Breana McDaniel, Senior Growth Manager at Chegg Skills. PHOTO: COURTESY BREANA MCDANIEL

Breana McDaniel is the Senior Growth Manager at Chegg Skills, a role that positions her at the forefront of driving the company's expansion and impact.

Chegg Skills is dedicated to offering students and professionals valuable resources for upskilling and transitioning into new careers. By providing accessible, career-oriented education, Chegg Skills empowers individuals to succeed in today's competitive job market. 

In an exclusive interview with Fetti, Bre shares her insights into how students and new grads can succeed in today's competitive job market. She delves into strategies, tips, and advice drawn from her own experiences and expertise. 

Could you share with us your journey and how your experiences have led you to your current role at Chegg Skills?

I joined Chegg Skills in September 2022 and have been with it for about a year and a half. But my career really started in the realm of finance and accounting. That's what I studied in school. I knew that I loved to understand how businesses work through finance, but didn't like the work environment. So I decided to go into sales and leverage what I knew about businesses. I actually worked in sales and operations for Target. That was where my initial career took off. I worked on store strategy and operations. And that led me into a position where I started to really understand the macroeconomic environment. At that time, tech was pretty much everything, which is when I jumped over to Compass and ultimately was a strategic growth manager for them—launching new markets and growing their revenue in a pre-IPO state—and then was with them to the IPO. So I got to think a lot about revenue, what markets needed, and how to really put a new brand in a new place and make it successful. Ultimately, that led me to Chegg, which was really unique. 

I don't have an education or tech background, but I have this firm belief that education deserves to be accessible and I ended up coming over to work on Chegg Skills because I knew how to do growth, and I knew what it took to drive revenue. I really aligned myself with the mission of this business, which is to provide students with more value. In Chegg Skills, our values really anchor on putting students first and that there's no better way to put students first than to offer them an accessible education versus other options that are really expensive and don't always set folks up for success. 

What is Chegg Skills? How is it different from other bootcamps? 

Your readers will obviously be really familiar with the Chegg Study pack, which helps so many millions of college students every single year be more successful in college. Chegg Skills was actually an acquisition called Thinkful. It was a legacy boot camp that came onto the market as a coding boot camp. The goal of Thinkful was to provide more value in a boot camp education with actually a job guarantee at the end of it. And our businesses obviously evolved greatly since the genesis of that partnership. 

Breana McDaniel, Professional Headshot from Senior Year of College. PHOTO: COURTESY BREANA MCDANIEL

There are two things that make our boot camps different from others. The first thing is how we prepare our curriculum and the standards that we hold ourselves to. That’s why it's so important for us to have full ownership of the content that we're creating. Secondly, not to flak on any other boot camp, but I would say that we care more about students than anybody else. We obsess over the students and their ability to be in a career in the future. We obsess over what they need to be successful. And I don't think that anybody could care even a little bit more about a student than we do because it is our focus on every single thing we do around here.

What motivated you to join Chegg Skills, and which aspects of the company's mission and culture resonate with you?

I came to Chegg Skills, because I was really sold on the value and the mission—to be able to provide and save students money by getting them an education that would be worthwhile. A mentor told me very early on in my career, that the best thing I could do for myself was get good at something worth getting good at. And that really aligned with Chegg Skills’ missions and values. They were teaching the most in-demand skills, skills that they knew could transpire into a career path. 

How does Chegg Skills support students and new grads in their journey toward career success, and what resources or programs do you recommend they take advantage of to maximize their learning and growth potential?

The first piece is that it starts within our curriculum. We have an in-house instructional design team, which is very unique for a school—to be producing as much of their own content as we do. We don't outsource, we create that in-house. Our curriculum is designed to focus on the skills that are going to be applicable on the job. So, for example, if you're in our coding program, you're going to be looking at content that ladders directly up to what's going to make you successful in interviews. Along with that, we offer industry-specific mentorship. So if you get stuck in your curriculum, or you fall a little bit behind, we align our students with coaches to help them get ahead. 

This is additional to helping students with interview prep, with resume review. [We teach you] how to translate what you learned into what employers are looking for. Our content really exists in timeframes. We know these programs can take anywhere from six to nine months, but they are part-time so [you can do them] at your own pace, so that students can take full advantage of it. 

Can you share any personal anecdotes or examples of individuals who have successfully transitioned into new careers or industries with the help of Chegg Skills’ programs or resources?

Chegg Skills is littered with success stories and different pieces like that. One thing to note too, as far as our testimonials go, is that we use a lot of them on LinkedIn. So if anybody's ever curious, LinkedIn is a perfect spot to be able to see just how frequently our students are posting about their graduation from our programs and getting into a job that our careers team helped find them. Recently, we had a student who completed our data analytics program. Initially, he worked for DoorDash. And now he's saying the data analytics program really gave him a strong foundation to be able to get into the data fields and find his specialization. He ended up going with data engineering, which was awesome. He actually found that he was able to take an industry that he was in and take his new skill to translate into a new career for him. And we hear these students' stories all the time. We have this really great alumni who was actually featured with us a while back. She took our digital marketing program and that was actually her step in the right direction to getting on her feet and launching a really successful career. 

The thing I personally love about boot camps and specifically, I love Chegg Skills, is that we are really background agnostic. Not everybody has the same story. Not everybody has the same pathway but it was a lever and an opportunity for our students to be able to be successful. And that's what employers like about boot camp grads.

What advice would you offer to students and recent graduates who are navigating their career paths in today's job market?

The first would be that success isn't linear. I'm so grateful that my career progression has not always been linear, because it's always led me to an opportunity where I learned more about myself. I found what I was passionate about, and I was able to make greater impacts [because of it]. And then the second piece, that Gen Z does the best job at, is don't be afraid to have boundaries in your work and to be able to say yes to things that are worth saying yes to and say no to things that you aren't aligned to. This is something that I learned the hard way early on in my career where I would just put my nose down and say yes to everything that my managers asked and in some ways it did get me further along. But I think when I looked back, I forgot to always pay attention to what was worth saying yes to versus what I was just actually trying to get people to like me. However, as I've gotten older and specifically as I've become a mom, I've had to really mind my boundaries and protect my own.

In your opinion, what are some common pitfalls or misconceptions that students and new grads should be mindful of as they embark on their career journeys, and how can they avoid or overcome them?

The biggest pitfall that I see happening with new grads is that they don't take enough time to really understand the landscape of either corporate America or wherever they're going in their job. It's important to give yourself enough ramp time to learn what you're doing, learn how to do it really well, understand how this organization does it, and truly learn the ins and outs.

Sometimes, we may think that if we're the best at the skills needed to execute the tangible aspects of this job, our performance will be recognized. But historically, we know that's not true. So it's really important that you spend time anchoring yourself into the organization. What are the goals the business is trying to meet, or what are the overall OKRs of the entire company? How is the work that you're doing translating to those goals, and how can you articulate your success in that context? That's the number one pitfall that I see from new grads is not being able to translate your work back to the bigger themes of what the business is trying to accomplish. And it slows people down, especially women when they're looking to get into leadership.

Could you share any practical tips or strategies for students and new grads to stand out in a competitive job market and secure meaningful employment opportunities?

Network like your life depends on it. I saw some crazy stat that said that over 75% of job openings right now are actually being filled by networks. Learn how to leverage the people that you're talking to. Next, I would say that durable skills are really important. Durable would be what we'd consider those soft skills. The most important thing that anybody can do right now is learn how to take the technical skills that you have and pair those with soft skills to be able to talk about why you would be a really great advantage to the company, and then send LinkedIn messages to folks who work at the company to ask for a referral. Don't always just wait. Find somebody in the same position, ask them how they like it, and figure out who's successful and how they're being successful. And then when you enter into that job as well. You'll already have an internal network built out for you.

Learn more about Breana McDaniel and her journey on her LinkedIn

If you are looking to stand out in today's hyper-competitive job market, check out Chegg Skills to sharpen your skill set, receive live 1:1 mentorship, and professional career coaching: here

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