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Let's Get Coffee with Donna Scarola

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Dave Wilkin
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
November 23, 2019

Growing in your role = 30% formal training + 70% informal experiences. Great insights from Donna Scarola on why we need to apply knowledge to real-life situations. 

Adjunct Professor San Francisco State University, Fellow Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa), Alumni of Seton Hall University, Masters Graduate Georgetown University, Head of Performance, Johnson & Johnson

Why should someone share a coffee (or tea) with someone new - a colleague from a different team or department - in their company? ​ 

I believe the more diverse or different our connections are, the more innovation we can fuel. There is a reason in tech that scrum teams aren't all engineering, but rather Product, Design etc. Diversity in perspective can drive innovation in a way that homogeneity can't. 

If you could only ask just one question to spark a conversation, what would it be? 

Tell me about the last book you hated and why. I find asking people about ideas they don't like gives me a more interesting perspective than what they enjoy. It's easy to bond over things that are well liked, but understanding why something doesn't resonate with them - that's interesting to me! 

Can "coffee" be in person, via skype, or both?

It can absolutely be both, I have some of the best career conversations via both phone and Facetime/Skype. I think that location is becoming less relevant for the strength of a connection. 

Who is one person that helped you in your career and what was the ah-ha moment you had with them? 

Early in my career, Clint Kofford helped me realize how my experience in technology was not only valuable, but needed in HR. He helped me to see that skills are transferable and important for different environments. 

What is advice you'd share with other professionals about the importance of meeting new people? 

I've learned that by meeting new people, you are constantly re-framing your mindset, work and the world around you. It can also change the trajectory of your career. 

Compare: the job your "18-year old self" thought you'd have vs. the job you have today? 

My 18 year old self thought I would be a doctor, so it's quite interesting to be where I am now. However, all the things that made me want to be a doctor (innovation, technology, helping people, creating purpose) are core to what I do in my career now and I think the fit is perfect. 

In general for others wanting to grow into a career like yours, how much of it is formal training vs. informal experiences? 

I would say it's 30% formal training and 70% informal experiences and how you apply the formal in real life situations. I know many people who read a lot, but aren't so good at applying it. However, I know people who are able to observe others and learning quickly, make connections and truly thrive.

Ten Thousand Coffees is an enterprise talent development platform for informal learning. We help companies scale and measure informal development by enabling colleagues to learn from each other. Whether it’s for career development, culture transformations, or learning programs - our data-driven smart matching technology connects colleagues based on their goals, interests, and role. The Future of Work is transforming organizations: informal development between colleagues is where talent mobility and culture sticks.

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