With talent markets tight as ever, upskilling is increasingly becoming an IT imperative, and Discover Financial Services is among those companies sharpening staff capabilities by investing in their IT training strategies.\n\nThe company, which has a culture of \u201cempowering [employees] to work better together in modern ways,\u201d says Angel Diaz, vice president of technology capabilities and innovation (pictured), is keenly aware of the latest \u201ctechnology-fueled renaissance\u201d that sees employees increasingly embracing \u201cdemocratized\u201d technology to \u201cdeliver better outcomes for customers at faster speeds.\u201d\n\nThat renaissance has led Discover to develop the Discover Technology Academy (DTA), a unique one-stop platform for employees to \u201ccome together as a community and define how we work, how we think about the marketplace, and how to deliver on products,\u201d Diaz says.\n\nThe DTA platform offers employees access to learning modules, content from subject matter experts (SMEs), trainings, networking opportunities, and other avenues for upskilling, reskilling, and continued learning. It\u2019s all about \u201ccontinuous learning and continuous improvement,\u201d he says.\n\nBuilt in-house by teams at Discover, DTA benefits greatly from being developed by employees for employees. Having the insight of team members working on building the DTA platform has proved crucial in creating a tool that employees actually use and integrate into their daily workflow.\n\nMegan Kostick, an expert application engineer at Discover, and member of the DTA build team, helped \u201cbuild out the content processor that takes the content submitted to GitHub, processes it, and posts it to the backend API to serve up the frontend,\u201d she says, adding that she\u2019s also a \u201cregular customer and content contributor on the DTA platform.\u201d\n\nWhat Kostick loves most about the DTA is how easy it is to \u201csearch, share, connect, and find the information\u201d that she\u2019s looking for in one place. She notes that the asset types offered on the platform are \u201cdiverse and allow users to digest the information in a way that works best for their learning style.\u201d\n\nAutonomy for employees\n\nThe DTA is a big part of how engineers at Discover start their days. They can look at their backlog of activities in the morning and then utilize the DTA to identify the best approach to an unfamiliar project, or to brush up on skills they haven\u2019t used in a while. They can also read articles related to their daily tasks or connect with other SMEs to ask questions and get guidance on a variety of topics.\n\n\u201cMost of our engineers, the first thing they do [each day] is they go to the academy to look at, learn, or bring something new into their day-to-day work,\u201d says Diaz.\n\nThe platform gives employees more autonomy in their daily work and prevents them from being slowed down or held back by potential knowledge or skills gaps, Diaz says. Anything they need to know or learn can be found on the DTA, and if they can\u2019t find it, they can contribute it themselves.\n\nThe Academy is open to everyone, but there are guilds and groups within the academy where employees can have discussions and technical debates to help \u201cdrive some of those more advanced technological discussions,\u201d Diaz says.\n\n\u201cDTA is the first place I go to whenever I am looking for an answer to the problem I am trying to solve because there is a good chance someone else has already solved that problem,\u201d says Praveen Erode Mohanasundaram, an expert application engineer at Discover. He finds DTA to be a convenient, centralized place to \u201cshare and locate content about standards, best practices, tutorials, and products.\u201d\n\nThe power of the training platform, Diaz adds, is that it is \u201cembedded in the way we work \u2014 it\u2019s not a separate entity. It\u2019s not something that\u2019s on the side; it\u2019s the main course.\u201d\n\nBuilding community through learning\n\nThe DTA not only gives employees access to learning materials, it\u2019s also a convenient platform for networking within the organization. There are opportunities to chat, ask questions, and connect with peers in other departments or business units that employees might not typically interact with.\n\nIt\u2019s akin to a \u201cdigital watering hole,\u201d says Diaz, where people \u201cshare what they do, share feedback, how they\u2019re learning, how they\u2019re improving their process in the company, and who can be doing similar work in other areas.\u201d\n\nThe DTA also enables employees to share their expertise. John Coyne, an expert application engineer at Discover, remembers when there was an \u201cinitial challenge from subject matter experts to create content\u201d on the platform. Coyne stepped up and contributed more than 15 pieces of content, including tutorials, code patterns, articles, and blogs.\n\n\u201cDTA is undoubtedly part of my daily workflow. When I find myself in need of an answer to a question or solution to a problem, the first place I turn to search is on the DTA,\u201d he says. \u201cI look forward to the daily e-mail\u2019s from DTA that provide some featured articles and upcoming events, such as lightning talks. I\u2019ll often answer a question from a colleague by linking to a DTA tutorial or article.\u201d\n\nThe community aspect of DTA is what \u201cmakes it extremely useful in solving actual problems you\u2019re facing or developing solutions that can be implemented in your environment,\u201d says Coyne. In regular training exercises, he notes that the projects you work on don\u2019t always translate to real life and may not represent what you do in your daily work. But the DTA allows for hands-on learning, with examples that are true to Discover and its internal culture, all while building community.\n\nKostick agrees. \u201cDTA has connected me with different product teams and SMEs across the company. It gave me a home and I feel connected to the greater company, with an overall sense of community,\u201d she says. \u201cDTA allows me to find and solve issues while increasing my personal knowledge to be a key contributor to the Discover technical community.\u201d\n\nBeyond IT skills, just the act of contributing to DTA offers employees opportunities to hone valuable skills.\n\nSoumya Raju, a senior manager of product-immersive learning journeys, says that she utilizes DTA to create product-owner immersive learning paths for the company and to organize community events for the product teams. The opportunity to contribute her knowledge to the platform by uploading articles she\u2019s written has helped improve her writing and communication skills, she says, adding that as an all-in-one platform, DTA is vital for helping her succeed in her career \u2014 and she doesn\u2019t have to jump around through various tools or platforms to find the content she\u2019s looking for.\n\nCoyne has had a similar experience in contributing to the platform. \u201cDTA has helped me to become a better technical writer,\u201d he says.\n\nBy empowering employees to learn new skills, connect with colleagues and SMEs, and share their own expertise on an easy-to-use platform, Discover has reaped significant benefits from DTA. Beyond having a workforce that is up to date on the latest tech skills, through the platform the company is fostering a commitment to continuous learning, giving employees the ability to upskill on their own terms while fostering community across the organization.