Episode 58 – It’s Not All About You with Adda Birnir

 In Podcasts

Adda Birnir is founder and CEO of Skillcrush, an online tech education company that helps students make a career change into tech. Prior to founding Skillcrush, Adda worked as a developer, building web applications for companies such as the New York Times and ProPublica.

In this episode Adda Birnir tells us why we must always be thinking about our customer’s problems and how we can solve them. Adda also talks about her transition into a tech career from a liberal arts degree and how it inspired her to start her company, Skillcrush.


Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:52) – Phil introduces Adda Birnir

(01:20) – Adda tells us that she graduated college with a liberal arts degree and her only involvement in I.T. was using Adobe Photoshop

(01:41) – Adda landed a job as a photo editor for an online magazine which introduced her to the tech world

(02:00) – After being laid off Adda learnt to code and began working as a developer, finding the transition not as difficult as she had expected

(02:30) – Being able to learn to code and developing new skills inspired Adda to start Skillcrush in 2012


(03:24) – Unique Career Tip: Adda says that when you’re looking for a job or for clients you need to remember that it’s about what you can offer the other person

(04:25) – Adda says that all of her success as an employee, a freelancer and a business owner comes from thinking about who the customer is, what their problems are and how she can help to solve them

(04:52) – Adda provides an example of interviewing a candidate for a role with her company and why she didn’t hire that person

(05:53) – Phil and Adda discuss why there has to be an exchange of values so that both parties benefit from the arrangement

(06:01) – When applying for a job focus on what the employer is looking for rather than on yourself


(07:22) – Worst Career Moment: Adda says that bad I.T. experiences happen all the time which is part and parcel of most I.T. careers

(08:00) – However Adda describes a time when working as a photo editor, selecting and curating photos for the cover of an email newsletter sent to about half-a-million people

(08:37) – Adda picked a photo in honour of gay pride which the CEO of the company asked to be taken down after the newsletter had been released

(09:02) – Adda’s manager took the photo down but didn’t replace it, leaving a broken image in the newsletter

(09:14) – Add thought she was going to get fired for the mistake but one of the developers replaced the image and fixed the issue


(10:24) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: Adda says that every year running Skillcrush becomes a new highlight

(10:49) – Adda talks about the mission of Skillcrush to empower women with technical skills in order to enter high earning careers

(11:00) – Adda wants her company to embody its own mission, with a diverse staff, good pay and good benefits

(11:51) – Adda talks about creating salary tiers and ensuring appropriate and industry competitive compensation amounts

(12:40) – Adda found the process of doing this very edifying


(13:25) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? Adda says that she believes that working in tech is the most creative and exciting thing to do

(13:49) – Creating something from nothing that will improve people’s lives

(14:03) – Adda thinks that there are endless possibilities and loves the iterative feedback and improvement process

(14:29) – Adda also believes that as the entry barrier into tech continues to lower it will provide opportunities to other social groups

(15:01) – Phil and Adda discuss the changes in technology that are enabling these opportunities


(16:03) – The Reveal

(16:07) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “It seemed clear to me that tech was where all the fun stuff was happening”

(16:37) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “If you’re out of work and looking for work, don’t spend your whole day looking for jobs.”

(17:16) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? – ”I would go at it full steam without worrying so much”

(17:59) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “I’m really trying to work on my management skills”

(18:51) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “Focus on the customer”


(19:46) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: Adda says that your career is always work in progress

(20:10) – Adda suggests treating your career as a project

(20:26) – Take small steps towards your goal making adjustments along the way


3 Key Points:     

  1. Transitioning into I.T. from a non-technical background is not as difficult as you may think
  2. Bad I.T. experiences happen all the time which is part and parcel of most I.T. careers
  3. Always keep in mind who your customer is, what problems they have and how you can solve them


Resources Mentioned:

  • skillcrush.com– Adda Birnir’s website
  • LinkedIn – Adda Birnir’s LinkedIn profile
  • @skillcrush – Adda Birnir’s Twitter handle
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