We talk with our colleagues about their background in learning and development, the Xprtise projects that make them proud, and the biggest challenges in learning & development in the coming years. This time it is Global Helpdesk Manager Dave Groce. As a Global Helpdesk Manager, Dave gives (technical) customer support to both our US and Dutch clients and ensures he delivers high levels of customer service. Besides that, he works on several interesting projects. In his day-to-day, Dave tries to bring his own touch to what's usually, a very static IT working environment.

Who? Dave Groce.
What? Global Helpdesk Manager at Xprtise since October 2018.
Where? Xprtise US, Philadelphia.

Together with my three dogs, I live in a small house surrounded by nature in the Philadelphia area in the United States. I love to be surrounded by nature and to be outside. If I want, in ten minutes, I can drive to the woods and get lost there – forever. My background is in IT services. I like to listen to what clients have to say and provide the best way to accommodate their requests with the tools we have available. I know that, especially in the IT environment, things are almost robotic. You have a question; I have an answer - mostly with a lack of emotion. I try not to be that person. Instead, I aim for a personal connection. Keeping my clients happy keeps me balanced. As a helpdesk deals with people’s irritations regularly, it’s crucial to help in the right way. Most of the time, they want someone who will listen, not just someone to solve the problem.

I am a very hands-on person - never the fastest reader in the classroom; learning-by-doing is my motto. From the maintenance of my car to home repairs to preparing moss gardens outside my house, you name it.  I just read the (technical) manuals and do it. In my job, I sit at a desk for hours, watching screens and dancing pixels. Therefore, my daily meditation practice is essential. I always find 30 minutes to focus on myself; for me, it’s a great way to unwind.

What do you get most energy from? What is your passion?

That’s nature, for sure, and [laughing] milk chocolate! Nature gives me energy. When I was seventeen, I concluded that nature knows best. There is no rush, no frenzy, no confusion. Everything is in perfect working order. Trees give us oxygen; they grow to the sun; they flower to sustain themselves. There is no negative energy in there. Imagine if that balance existed within humanity! I love hiking and going to places where people don't often go. To see nature in its raw form is breathtaking. Nature is how I ground myself and get my energy back. So at least once a year, I go on a trip. I throw my dogs in my truck, disappear off to the Northern Atlantic coastline and live out of my truck for a week. I hike in different natural parks, visit new places and remember what it’s like to fully disconnect from the rat race - with just a 20-minute drive from town.

“I aim for a personal connection. Keeping my clients happy keeps me balanced.”

What makes the field of Learning & Development so interesting?

When I was young, I didn't have the best experiences when it comes to learning - in traditional schooling, or private tuition. To me, it was not about what I know or wanted to know, but what the person delivering the learning wanted me to know.

Besides that, I’ve always enjoyed training people, although I was never the conventional trainer. In early 2000, when working in an IT company, I flew to the Philippines to set up a new call center and train the people there. My training was: "this is what you need to know to do your job." I did not waste two weeks of training in specifications that are not relevant. In my opinion, they only needed the information to do their job and what they would use right away. It turned out to be an enriching experience for me as well as them. I saw them improve each day; they worked faster and with more focus.

The other thing that interests me in Learning & Development is how it has shifted from traditional education practices. Especially with the two technologies, we provide at Xprtise, for example. If I had had either one of these -Drillster or Askdelphi- or even the methodology The 5 Moments of Need®, I definitely would have been a better student. Knowing that this is a catalyst for change for so many people is just a beautiful thing!

What do you think makes Xprtise unique?

Unique to Xprtise is the overlapping of our two software - AskDelphi and Drillster. The fact that we can target Performance Support or target Adaptive Learning or use one with the other is a terrific option that people don’t necessarily have out there. What also makes us unique is that we are very much a small growing company that works with very large companies. We are very capable of handling their needs, but we also provide them that personal touch. And I think that is crucial. With the pandemic, what I witnessed was, what we offer went from a ‘luxury’ tool to a right-now necessity. At Xprtise, we have over 20 years of experience in L&D, workflow learning and also in The 5 Moments of Need® methodology. Our vision is not about jumping onto the next trend in learning; we provide a fundamental strategy about which the whole team is enormously passionate.

Which projects are you working on?

My main activity is running the Helpdesk in the USA, helping resolve Helpdesk tickets, and working closely with Marco Tiemersma supporting our clients also in Europe. But I also work on projects, and two particular ones are special for me: Colgate-Palmolive and Worldbook Inc.

At Colgate-Palmolive, I worked with several plants in the US, Colombia, Brazil, Poland, China, with more to come. Each plant has its own culture and its way of doing things. It is fascinating to be part of. I think I have grown tremendously in my training techniques each time. In every country, the work is different, which keeps me constantly challenged. To connect the one plant in Brazil to the plant in Poland and see them learn from each other makes me feel proud.

Then Worldbook. In the US, as a kid, anybody whose parents had extra money had a Worldbook encyclopedia set. And every school library had one. As one of those kids, I remember how excited I was when I talked my parents into getting the science set of Worldbook. Working on the Worldbook Wizard project now brings back such childhood memories. But it also allowed me to help provide a curriculum-aligned adaptive learning program that allows K-12 students to develop, maintain, and retain knowledge for the long term. That is so cool. I think I am helping offer something I lacked in my youth! Adaptive learning combines technology, data, and an intelligent algorithm, for a personalized experience that helps students to mastery. I love being part of this transition for our younger generations.

“At Xprtise, we are very capable of handling our customer needs, and with our team we also aim for that personal experience.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges in L&D in the coming years?

Honestly, I think the main challenge will be dealing with the ‘new normal' way of life due to the pandemic. There is never going to be a time where we have enough vaccinations, that the pandemic just goes away. A virus is mutating, so there’s always going to be something. In my opinion, we can’t go back, so we have to take action. L&D, in my experience, used to focus on new hires and targeted their training on ‘how to do your job kind of tasks.' Now we have to deal with questions such as “how do I teach someone how to work efficiently from home versus how do I teach them to do their job professionally?” I think that will become the ‘new normal’. Companies are not going to pay lots of money for big offices with few people in it anymore. So, they have to figure out how to target people from home; they have to open up a whole new realm of training and learning.

In the United States, we also have this huge pool of people who have all the experience and education but can’t get a job. Are they willing to get paid less, or are they willing to retrain? Or do we train someone fresh from college, who has less experience and is much cheaper? In addition, the new generation coming out of school has new ideals about collaboration and work ethics; that demands a new way of working on an organizational level and a personal level, also in terms of Learning & Development!