As part of my series on strong female leaders I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Palmer who is on a mission to change the way the world learns. She is the co-author of the book The Expertise Economy: How the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed. A well-known thought leader on learning, business, and career development, she is currently on the executive team of Degreed and was formerly the chief learning officer of LinkedIn. Prior to LinkedIn, Kelly was vice president of learning at Yahoo! and held executive positions in learning, M&A, and product development at Sun Microsystems. She speaks regularly at companies and business conferences around the world, has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Financial Times, Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., Chief Learning Officer (CLO), and on Bloomberg Radio. Kelly has a Bachelor of Arts in English/communications and a Master of Science in adult learning and education technology. Kelly lives in San Francisco.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been in Silicon Valley my whole career. I spent many years in product development and corporate strategy, but I found myself at a mid-life career crisis about 12 years ago. Although I was successful, I didn’t feel what I was doing was having the kind of impact I wanted to have. I did some soul-searching and realized that learning and education was an area I was particularly passionate about. I thought about quitting tech completely and moving into non-profit, but realized that there was a way I could focus on education in the corporate world. So, I actually switched careers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

After leading corporate learning at both Sun Microsystems and Yahoo!, I was actually recruited through LinkedIn to work at LinkedIn! It was an amazing opportunity to start a learning organization from the ground up, so although I wasn’t looking for a new opportunity, it was just too great to pass up. I spent four years at LinkedIn creating an innovative and forward-thinking learning organization.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Learning is complicated and messy and it’s much more involved than people think. I made the mistake when I first started this career of oversimplifying everything. Funny though that the more I learned about learning the lesson that I took from it was that you can understand the complexities of learning, but ultimately you still have to keep it simple and practical. It’s one of the reasons we wrote the book “The Expertise Economy.”

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

Without a doubt, for evangelizing learning and thought leadership around learning, career transformation, and skills for the future, LinkedIn has been the platform most effective to increase visibility. When we launched the book, The Expertise Economy, LinkedIn was the platform that helped grow our network and continue to communicate to target audiences.

Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Build Your Industry Network — LinkedIn isn’t just for recruiting — in fact, in the past few years most of what I’ve used LinkedIn for is increasing my network and connecting with people who are in my field or people who are interested in sharing ideas about transforming the learning industry.
  2. Share your expertise — LinkedIn has evolved into a hub for business-related content and a place where industry thought leaders share their expertise. I’ve used LinkedIn to share my expertise by posting content or sharing articles that I’ve written for other publications. In this way I’ve been able to increase my visibility as an expert in my field, which has led to valuable introductions and lasting relationships to other professional leaders in the field.
  3. Join Groups — There are so many groups on LinkedIn. Think about joining groups that can really help you engage with the right people who are interested in what you are doing. It’s about quality groups not just joining every group out there. If I join a group, I engage and am part of a community.
  4. Discover top talent differently — When you are connecting with people in your field or reading articles they are sharing or posts they are writing, you can discover some of the best talent in an industry. I’ve used that as a way to identify talent, rather than just looking at their LinkedIn profile. And great talent is crucial for any business.
  5. Events — LinkedIn is a great way to tell people about the events that you are doing that can help drive business and get people interested in what you are doing. I also post pictures from these events and it gets a conversation going around what people are learning and ideas that are shared.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement that we are engaged in now is to change the way the world learns. Old models of learning just don’t work in a world that is going through so many changes in the workforce including automation, digitization, and acceleration. There are ways to get people excited, motivated, and engaged in learning to build skills for the future. This is so important to the success of both companies and individuals to stay relevant.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My dream has always been to meet Michelle Obama. I would love to spend time with her to talk about some of the world’s most pressing problems around education. It’s an area I know she is passionate about and I find her incredibly inspiring. It would be amazing to get her insights on the movement we are creating around changing the way the world learns.

Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn