Meet a Dragon: Rory Sacks
Meet Rory Sacks: Senior Learning & Development Partner
Meet Rory Sacks, a Senior Learning and Development Partner at Komodo Health. Rory has worked at the intersection of education and technology for the past decade. Here, he tells us about his path to Learning and Development, the mission-driven passion for education that’s spanned his career, and the common misconception we have about how we learn.
You’re a Learning and Development leader: What is that, exactly?
As a learning and development leader, I assist with building, planning, and implementing organization-wide learning strategies. The importance of ongoing learning and development (L&D) has never been so critical as it is today. At Komodo, a big focus right now is developing and fostering a culture of learning. We are introducing new L&D programs to support changing strategic objectives, to anticipate (and eliminate) future skills gaps through incisive new L&D programming, and to facilitate the growth of new and current managers as well as the overall career development of all Dragons.
It looks like you’ve worked in learning and development with a lot of interesting teams, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to Investopedia. What led you down this path?
It was a series of unfortunate, or fortunate, events, depending on how you look at them. When I finished my undergraduate degree in 2007, I went straight into grad school to get my master's in secondary education. Things went from really great to really bad due to the financial crisis. The original game plan was to finish and be a high school history teacher but, by 2009, there was a nearly nationwide hiring freeze for teachers. Through my graduate work and student teaching, I developed a passion for the intersection between technology and education. One day I did a quick Google search for Education+Technology and found that EdTech and remote learning were poised to grow exponentially over the next decade. I wanted to be involved in introducing amazing tools to K-12 students, bettering the lives of teachers through tech, and the democratization of education through technology. Prior to developing training for employees within organizations like Komodo, I worked for a few startups in the K-12 space and developed courses for everyone through platforms like Coursera and EdX. In total, the courses I developed have had over 100K enrollments across the globe and it felt incredibly rewarding to know my work was making an impact.
That’s incredible! We’re excited to have you as Komodo’s very first L&D leader. Why did you choose Komodo and what is exciting or challenging about being the first to have this role here, especially at a time when we’re growing so fast?
It was important to me to work for a company I felt aligned with. Komodo’s mission of reducing the burden of disease resonates with me. I had enjoyed working with medical students at the Icahn School of Medicine and helping provide financial literacy at Investopedia, because it’s nice to be part of real change. The more I researched Komodo, the more I felt good thinking about being part of the mission to reduce the global burden of disease. Adding L&D didn’t seem like a "check the box" role. There seemed to be a real need and enthusiasm for what L&D can offer the organization amongst leadership. Plus, when you’re the first hire, you have a clean slate to be creative, think outside the box, and to borrow one of our values, "deliver wow."
Your job involves a lot of psychology and motivation. What are some of the key things you’ve learned about how we learn and how you can help people learn?
Oh, so many things. One thing that always stands out is that most people don’t know how we learn. It’s common to think that we are each one "type" of learner. Incorrect. This misconception can lead to people not engaging with training when it doesn’t match the idea of what their "type" is. For L&D, so much of what we have to do is build trust that the training we create for learners, and the way we create it, will be the right way for them to learn the material. The good news is this has allowed me to be creative in developing and using data regularly to iterate on the pieces of training we launch to make them as engaging and effective as possible.
You’ve also done a lot of work with training new managers, which is a big topic in tech right now. What are the top skills you think we need to focus on to foster strong managerial skills?
We focus on a number of capabilities that we believe will help our managers excel in three managerial domains: Leading the Organization, Leading People, and Leading Yourself. These days, a couple of things I think are really important for new managers to foster are: being present, being adaptable, and being vulnerable.
You live in NYC – what’s one of your favorite things to do that speaks to who you are?
Eat and go to the movies. It’s pretty much the only thing I do these days. I try to see a movie every Sunday and have a couple dinner reservations a week. I enjoy trying to find the next restaurant trend before it’s written about and then inevitably get annoyed when it becomes popular and I have trouble getting a reservation.
Our Dragons are a diverse bunch! Co-workers hail from places as far-flung as Belfast and Mumbai to the American heartland. The uniqueness and diversity reflected in our people makes Komodo a stronger team, and we are all united around one common mission: to reduce the global burden of disease. Interested in joining the Komodo Health team?