Technical Skills Are More Than A Portfolio Builder With Danny Abdo of Skillable

Imagine a world where technologists are evaluated based on real-time skill performance, rather than static resumes. We’ve got Danny Abdo, CEO of Skillable, who dares to make this a reality. Danny introduces us to an innovative platform that’s revolutionizing the realm of technical skill testing. Skillable, through hands-on experiences, places tech-savvies in real-life scenarios providing immediate feedback. Also, danny opens a conversation around the concept of a skills portfolio and the importance of recognizing transferable skills, extending beyond the conventional tech sphere.

But, the plot thickens! We delve into the domain of skills-based hiring and career development. Danny shares the importance of understanding and evaluating individual physical, soft, and hard skills. We also shine light on the challenge of how to bridge the gap between hiring for new technical skills and the lack of experience in those skills. The idea of skills intelligence is probed as a potential game changer for organizations transitioning to a skills-centric approach. As we approach the end of our chat, we discuss the future of hiring and how technology can remove bias, make outcomes more measurable and contribute to strategic plans for upskilling and reskilling. Come join us on this journey that rethinks hiring, skills and career development.

Listening Time: 23 minutes

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Danny Abdo
COO Skillable

Mr. Abdo is a results driven consultant and executive that specializes in enterprise learning & talent management solutions. Mr. Abdo focuses on aligning strategy & technology with the needs of an organization for improved workforce and business performance.


Technical Skills Are More Than A Portfolio Builder With Danny Abdo of Skillable

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today we have Danny on from Skillable and our topic today is technical skills are more than a portfolio builder. I have not touched on this topic, so I’m actually really excited to get Danny’s take and his expertise. Danny, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Skillable?

Danny Abdo: Absolutely. My name’s Danny Abdo. I’m a COO at Skillable. I come from a [00:01:00] learning technology and skills background. I spent most of my career there. And at Skillable we’re taking to market a platform that allows people to develop and validate their skills mostly technical skills using real hands on experiences which, I’m sure we’ll dig into based on the topic of this this podcast.

William Tincup: Yeah, let’s start there with hands on. I’ve seen a movement. Skills testing’s been around. Technical skills testing’s been around for a while now. And one of the things I know about technologists is that they hate tests. Ha. Unless it’s something interesting, which is I think where you’re going is seeing how people put technologists in a specific environment with a specific task, give them real time feedback, all kinds of Kind of makes it, it makes it more of a game.

It makes it more fun. It’s not so much, okay, Java, here’s 12 questions. Okay. Stuff like that, which again, you got to know what you’re getting. So I, for recruiters and hiring managers it’s critical for them to understand the [00:02:00] kind of breadth and depth of the skills or even the potentiality or things that are out Tertiary or transferable etc.

Like that, all that’s critical. It’s okay, you’ve got an audience, especially in technologists that don’t necessarily like the old way of doing tests.

So how do you approach that with scalable, especially with a hands on kind of environment? How do you navigate the needs of the recruiters and hiring managers and all of those folks balance it out with the needs of the talent, the

Danny Abdo: technical talent? Yeah, no, it’s a great question and, our hope here is that it’s actually going to be better for everyone, right?

The technologists and and the recruiters and the organizations alike because, as you mentioned, I think the past 20 years, as long as I’ve been into learning, I’ll probably summarize a big portion of it have been this sort of train and test approach which which works really well enough, as we’ve been in this [00:03:00] information age and knowledge, we’ve often talked about knowledge being power and that sort of thing, and it was largely, did you, Were you able to, read this book about whether it’s this technology or whatever the topic is and pass this knowledge test?

And one, that’s really hard. Nobody wants to learn a complex topic by reading, a novel or, sitting in front of a computer for three hours. And then, the knowledge testing, what data does that really offer, an employer other than this person’s got a really good memory or they’re a really good test taker?

So I think, we’re evolving. I think technology’s caught up and able to help in this arena. And with a hands on approach, maybe to set the stage it’s a bit more of, Exactly that. If you’re, if you’re learning, if you’re learning or validating, something, why not use real examples, use the real technology, so put people into the environment that they’re trying to learn about, and, to cyber security, cyber security as an [00:04:00] example, we can look at how you learn in these environments versus I think it’s a little bit different when you think about validating. If somebody knows or has these skills, I should say, or can apply the knowledge, apply these skills and take like cyber, maybe we put them into an actual real environment and attack it with an actual real cyber threat and validate that they’re able to detect and, mitigate the threat in that environment and I think the idea is, for the individual, that’s Much more I think gratifying than, getting a list of questions and for the employer they’re actually validating not that somebody’s, able to pass the test, but that they’re actually going to be able to apply that on the job in a real scenario that they’re likely to encounter on that job is sort I love

William Tincup: that.

I absolutely, I think that’s the future of this type of testing is again, there’s something in it for them. So much of it is it’s been a one way thing a lot of things in, in, in the hiring pre hire process, background checks, drug [00:05:00] testing, et cetera. It’s it’s a way to screen in or screen out talent.

With skills tests, it’s been against, it’s specifically with. Technical talent. It’s just there’s never been, a kind of a what’s in it for them. And I love this approach. So congratulations to y’all. Cause I just think it’s a better way of getting the hiring managers and recruiters the data that they need, maybe insight that they need and also making it fun.

It doesn’t have to be boring. And and I get it one way. All right, let’s jump into this topic. Technical skills are more than a portfolio builder. So when you say, when you’re thinking portfolio builder, are we thinking okay, we learned Python comma. Okay. Now do we go deeper into Python comma or do we go into React?

Okay. We go into React. Do we learn Ajax? What is the portfolio of skills? Our skill builder, when we, when you’re thinking about it, you’re talking to folks about it, what does that mean? Yeah, you

Danny Abdo: know the portfolio skills portfolio we’re looking a lot about, [00:06:00] transferable skills, right?

Less, less about a checklist. Of skills. And so can we determine, if somebody does have a, a, has that portfolio, those specifics that you mentioned, that, that doesn’t really limit them per se to, this type of job or this. They can only do those types of things, and I think it’s, a lot of it is just thinking about, okay, looking at a set of skills and opening up the aperture, I think, a little bit wider in terms of what they can do with that, with those skills what are all the different types of jobs that, that those are transferable to in, in those types of things versus just looking at adjacencies or yeah, except, deep diving deeper into one and then the other and that sort of thing.

So it’s more just that, that sort of transferability and what that, portfolio skills really translates into in a real job or real world environment. We

William Tincup: thinking at this time or in the future, are we thinking hard skills and soft

Danny Abdo: skills?[00:07:00] Yes. I think absolutely. And even, as we think about this idea of like hands on experiences to validate different skills.

The idea is we’ve already started moving into like physical skills, even so practicing and validating physical skills through a technology medium, a technology interface, right? And I think AI is now making possibility, making it possible on the softer side of skills to understand how to back that, understand the level of proficiency in softer sides of skills and things of that nature. So I do think it’s the entire spectrum, today, at least my world is a little bit more focused in the sort of technical digital, realm.

But I think this is, it becomes more expansive than that. It sounds like it

William Tincup: also ties to some of your background in learning. Because if we learn more about the individual physical, soft hard skills, et cetera, and the transferable nature of those things, we, if they don’t have some of the skills that we want them to have, then we can potentially put them on,[00:08:00] career career pathing, training pathing, things like that, where we can upskill them.

That’s right. So some of this is we need to, we actually need to evaluate what they have and what they know. So the, not just on the, on, on the, okay, now we have insight, but it’s then also now we can plan to make them better.

Danny Abdo: Exactly. It gives a lot of transparency, this idea of understanding, a supply demand side equation, right?

Under, understanding that the skills that, you know, whether it’s at an individual level or a larger population and where’s the demand for skills and then trying to understand where those gaps are, because once you know those gaps, exactly that, you can be much more, strategic in, how you can cultivate and how you can build those.

That’s I think, a lot of the promise of a skill based organization, skill based hiring is to move beyond just, have they done, have they done this job before, right? Look at their resume. Do they have the experience? Because frankly, bringing it back to technical skills, as we look at the future, the vast majority of jobs that we’ll see in the next [00:09:00] 10 15 years, probably nobody does have experience in them, right?

They’re net new, and they’re net new technical skills, and so we’ve got to understand… The, how we bridge to, to hiring for skills and jobs that really there’s not too much of a blueprint around. So this sort of skills intelligence is going to help a lot with that.

William Tincup: I love this because again, it is the future, like we all see the same things.

It’s okay, we’re going to have more skills based hiring, which is great. That’s kept proliferating HR. So then it’s skills based promotions. And it, compensation, like all of this stuff should actually be based on skills. And you’ve touched on something really important that, if we’re hiring for people for something that, around the corner, we don’t know what it is.

We just need people agile enough that they can then develop the skills that are needed. In that scenario, which we all know is, pretty much right around the corner, if it’s not now what’s the harder battle? Is it the employers and getting them [00:10:00] to understand how to think about or rethink skills?

Or is it candidates, the talent, and how they should? Rethink skills.

Danny Abdo: Yeah I think I think there’s a little bit on, on both sides probably more, maybe on the employer. This is an interesting one. Let’s dig in this just for a second, right? Because… There is, I spent before I joined Skillable in my formal role, we spent a lot of time on this, this concept of, the world doesn’t care how you became an expert, just that you are and it’s a really powerful mindset.

It’s really linked to this idea of skills, and this speaks to the individual, there’s only been, very limited paths. Available for people as they think about their careers and jobs. Especially, traditional careers, you go to college, you do this.

And so this idea of, hey, what if your employer didn’t care how you became an expert, just that you are? Like, how would you, how do you have to showcase that? How can you showcase that, right? And that gets into the skills, the value of skills and getting, people to [00:11:00] understand and to think.

As skills, almost as a currency that they’re building and they’re collecting. So that’s a little bit on the employee’s side of it. But then on the employer’s side what I’m seeing a lot of is there’s definitely this move to, in, in this appetite for being, becoming a skills based organization.

But where the rubber meets the road is once it comes down to hiring somebody, based on skills, I think this is where, This is more of a sort of change management sort of cultural change approach, because still, even if you see skills on a resume, somebody today, I would argue, any, anybody interviewing or anybody, any, anybody that’s hiring someone’s going to look at two candidates, and the one that has that Already, versus the one that has those skills, but maybe not the experience.

They’re gonna always go with the person that has the experience. I think that has to change, right? That’s gotta change a little bit for this to really start happening. So it is a little bit on both, right? To bring this all together and, really getting this sort of skills based hiring.

William Tincup: Yeah, and I think the laundry [00:12:00] list of skills, the way that we’ve done it for the last 20 years, it’s just comma, and again, you don’t know what we’re doing for the audience sake we’re dealing with technical skills. And I remember again, a long time ago, Galaxy far away is thinking about the three dimensionality of a particular skill like HTML.

And I remember hiring my first HTML developer a hundred years ago. And and not knowing, first of all, not being a technologist, but not knowing, okay, how well do you know this? How, again, the breadth, how much experience do you have, or, what’s your ability to learn on the fly.

And even if you don’t know it, like that’s, I struggled as a hiring manager, I struggled with that. And I remember asking questions like, okay, this is the, this is what we need. This is what we need right now. I don’t, I have no idea what we’re going to need tomorrow or next week. Are you pliable?

Are you adaptable? I don’t even think I used the [00:13:00] word agile at the time, but I remember talking to people about ambiguity. I remember talking to technologists about ambiguity. And it’s like, how comfortable are you with ambiguity? Do you need things that are really not necessarily rigid, but planned out?

Cause if so. This isn’t a great environment for that. And so you got me to think about, do we need skills? Do we need people with skills that are just. They can adapt quickly, like how we if, can we, first of all, can we measure that? I have no idea. I’m not, I have no idea if we can or can’t, but it’s I’d like to know that, not just the breadth and depth of their Java development skills.

I would like to know that, of course, but I’d like to know like how they deal with

Danny Abdo: change. Yeah. And I think now it’s such a great point. It’s not, the skill point in time, do they have a check mark and like you said, a comma, a skilled writer. It’s, we know that this stuff’s evolving so fast so the skill agility in measuring a person’s, ability and mode of [00:14:00] intrinsic, ability to acquire new skills and adapt, but, this is an area I do think, I have a lot of hope for this concept of these What we call them still, what we call challenges, skilled challenges, right?

You think about what you were able, what we would be able to do is set up, say, let’s take the HTML example and kind of play that out, right? Today, point in time what would you expect somebody that’s going to step into the role you’re hiring for be able to do when they hit the job, right?

Let’s create a challenge around that, right? That’s the idea to automate a challenge where they can click a link. See what the challenge is, go build this using HTML, and then be able to watch, automatically watch this person go through that process and then extract data based on the skills to do it today.

And that might be a, 15 30 minute challenge, but then, the next challenge you know that you’re setting this up where it’s not just measuring X, it’s something different, it’s a pivot, it’s, there are these adjacent skills, and maybe you’re going to give them guidance on how to do this, right?

They’re going to actually. In this hands on [00:15:00] experience, instead of just validate that you can apply the skillets here’s some new information, here’s some new knowledge we’re going to give you for 20 minutes, and then take this and go see if you can go do this challenge, right? And now you’re starting to get into a little bit of what you’re talking about with this, their capability set.

So there are more, these tools are becoming available, I think, which is really promising for a lot of this. What

William Tincup: I love about the, you calling it challenges is what I, early in my career when I was dealing with a lot of technologists, I learned that, different from like marketing or different you could go into a marketing meeting and have the idea and just say, okay, I think I have the idea of everybody pressure tested it.

I think it’s this. But with technologists, I a, I couldn’t do that because , I didn’t have the skill. But what I found with dealing with that talent is like, , here’s the cha, here’s the challenge. I have no idea how to get there. , I can’t come into the room and say this is how we do it, but I know this is the challenge we need, let’s say it’s a website.

We need a website to load [00:16:00] faster. I have no idea how to do that. So interacting with technologists and just talking about challenges, it was a way for them to then unpack and go, okay there’s a, there’s a lot of different ways we could do that. Let’s do this first and see if that works.

And, it’s I learned from them. Basically, based on the challenge, because I learned, okay, I don’t need to have the answer, check and I just need to have the challenge, and then be able to articulate the challenge, and then get out of the way. And then, and technologists love, at least in my experience, they love challenges.

They’re like, challenge oriented. They love challenges. That’s

Danny Abdo: right. That’s right. And I think you hit on an important point there, too, is, sometimes how you got there, there matters, but oftentimes, sometimes, you’re looking for somebody to, can they solve this challenge?

And it doesn’t really matter that they followed this exact process to get there. But, were they able to use creativity and all these things to solve that challenge? And that’s the nature of these. You can go both ways. And the beauty, also what you mentioned, like technology what technology allows [00:17:00] us to do, it’s not as subjective as…

Like you mentioned marketing or sales where, it’s like, how good of an idea was that? If you ask five people, they’re going to rank it a little bit different. So how do you remove the bias out of stuff like that? Is it gets really sticky with technology it’s a little bit more binary, right?

It’s did they get to the end of that challenge, and get the outcome that we were looking for? It’s almost more of a yes or no. And so you remove some of that bias out of it and it just becomes a little bit more measurable. Then when you get onto the softer side of the equation that, relates to skills.

William Tincup: It reminds me of the Robert Frost, famous Robert Frost poem, The Road Less Path Less Traveled. It’s when most people, because they haven’t read the entire poem is the paths converge. Yeah. I took the path less traveled, yes, correct, but at one point they come back together. That’s the point and I love that about technologists that they give themselves the freedom of oh, there’s many paths, the outcome, okay, in that situation was speeding up a website making it faster, load [00:18:00] faster.

Okay. Being able to see how another technologist. It tackles that new user’s creativity, which I think is extremely important. It isn’t a yes no. It’s not a right wrong. It’s, again, the wrong could be that it does the website doesn’t load faster. Okay. That’s an output, but how they were getting there again it really doesn’t matter how they got there.

It does matter for hiring manager recruiter to be able to see their thinking process. That’s right. Which is really quite fascinating that it’s not just the output. That’s right. It’s the output. Check. Gotta do that. But it’s also looking inside their brain. And inside their experience, et cetera, and then looking at how they tackle those problems because if that’s what we’re looking at, not just the output, but how we’re, how they do it again, we can train, we can use that data.

We can use that information of saying, okay, I really liked what they were doing. Yeah. There’s a probably a quicker way. Fair enough. Bill Gates is famously I hire lazy software [00:19:00] engineers because they’re, they’ll get there faster. Cause, cause they’re lazy and I don’t know if, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

I just know he’s referred to it a couple of times and which I think is fascinating, but again, you can get, getting this back to skilling, reskilling, upskilling and training people. Okay. You did this, got to the output check, fine. However, here’s two other ways that you could have gotten there quicker.

If you’d have done these two things, now the technologist looks at that and goes, Oh, cool. And again, something’s in it for them. Which I absolutely love. So hiring managers, when they’re looking at, again, skills in a way that they’ve historically versus the way we want to look at them in the future, how do we get them to think about this the way we’ve just been talking about it?

Okay, looking at skills in a way that, again it’s less about, do they have the skill, maybe a bit more about, can they, [00:20:00] can we create the environment for them to earn or develop the skill? And are they willing to learn and develop that skill? So how do we change their mind? I’m like, I’m fascinated with hiring managers can be, we talked about candidates and employers, recruiters, but hiring managers can be the most rigid out of all these folks.

Danny Abdo: It’s a great point, and I think we’ll learn, there’s this idea of how much of it’s education versus awareness is pretty interesting too. Cause I think, there, there’s probably a large group of, it’s an awareness thing. And I think we just, we fall back onto what we know and what’s been used, which is, interview.

A typical, traditional assessments, referrals, all these typical data points. And it’s more of just, maybe it’s awareness that these other tools don’t exist. Don’t know that they exist and can be brought into this workflow and generate this type of rich data that would help better inform your decision.

So I think, maybe part of it’s, part of it’s awareness. [00:21:00] And then the education, right? Have they ever even thought this way, right? Have they ever really thought of a candidate in in, taking, the multidimensional, dimensions that go into this, behavior and all this, all these other aspects and taking it apart and saying, okay this is the best tool for this part of the hiring process, I just, I think there’s a bit of just, education and awareness which makes sense.

A lot of this is newer sort of tech and capability that we can now bring to the process.

William Tincup: And I think, this is going to hit home pretty hard for folks that at one point in the very near future, you’re going to be hiring for something for a hiring a person for something where you don’t know the outcome.

Yes. And that’s again, probably terrifying on some level for hiring managers. It’s you’re not going to be able to, if there’s no rubric, you don’t know what they’ll need to do because it’s not defined. Like I, I was. Talked to folks last week about AI and hiring AI software engineers. And I’m like, yeah, there isn’t enough of them on the planet.[00:22:00]

So it’s great that you have a job opening. Yeah. And so that, that’s where this is really important. It’s they don’t have that yet. Yeah. It’s how fast can they develop it is and fit the need. I think hiring managers and recruiters, they’re going to have to change like whether or not they like it or not.

They’re just going to have to change because hiring’s changed.

Danny Abdo: It is. Yeah. And you nailed it. You’re not going to be able to hire based on experience because nobody has experience. That’s right. For these jobs. You’re going to, you’re going to need other tools in the quiver to do this effectively.


William Tincup: the, that’s the soundbite. You’re not going to be able to hire based on experience because no one has the experience. That’s it. Denny this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out time for us. Absolutely. Really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure. Absolutely. Thanks to the audience for listening.

Until next time. Thanks. [00:23:00]

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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