Learn with the Expert finds a silver lining amid tech and media lay-offs

Learn with the Expert finds a silver lining amid tech and media lay-offs
Lepez is running Learn with the Expert's third session next month

Last year, tech and entertainment companies saw a significant reduction in jobs, with thousands laid off across Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Spotify and others. In the first few weeks of 2024, additional job cuts have occurred, including at Amazon, Google and Disney.

It is easy to ignore the negative news when such severe lay-offs occur due to strategic repositioning by businesses looking to become leaner, more efficient and altogether better for shareholders. But there is a human element behind every redundancy.

With thousands of highly skilled media and tech workers flooding the job market, many have reached out to executives looking for work. One such industry leader who has received a flock of messages is Jolt Digital founder and CEO Sebastien Lepez.

While the digital media agency was not in a position to hire more workers, Lepez was nevertheless driven to help out how he could, especially given that the vast majority of tech employees laid off were not targeted for poor performance.

“These people have a special expertise,” he tells The Media Leader. “I thought that coincides very well with what we do at Jolt, because one of the things that we put forward is knowledge transfer. We try to teach our clients what we know. So I thought it would be really amazing to leverage these people’s expertise so our clients could learn more about a specific topic.”

Enter Learn with the Expert, an initiative that looks to recruit individuals recently made redundant or otherwise in-between jobs to give webinars and tutorials on their area of expertise while they look for new work.

Not only is it an extra offering for Jolt’s clients — and anyone else who wishes to sign up to attend — but Lepez argues it’s a great opportunity for people looking for work to network with potential employers, fill a gap in their CV and take some control over their lives during a tumultuous period. As such, Jolt has partnered with recruitment company Ultimate Asset to assist in the effort.

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Held once a month, the online sessions last 30 minutes, with a 10-minute Q&A segment afterwards. They are on a variety of topics depending on the person’s skillset.

Jolt has so far held two Learn with the Expert sessions: the first, in November, focused on data privacy with an ex-Amazon Web Services employee; the second looked at first-party data and what brands should do in a post-cookie digital era. The next session will be on organic social on 1 February.

The initiative is also quickly growing its audience beyond Jolt’s own clients; while the first session was attended by 20 people, the second was attended by over 40 and the next one already has over 60 sign-ups.

Lepez hopes to continue Learn with the Expert in the months to follow and is considering expanding it to more than one session per month to meet increased demand.

Little knowledge transfer

According to Lepez, the high demand makes sense given the siloed nature and general opaqueness through which media is bought and sold. Having worked at Johnson & Johnson and now as a digital agency CEO, Lepez has seen both sides of the process and believes there is not enough communication about how things work.

“Agencies are passing little knowledge to clients,” he says. “I guess the obvious reason is because they want to keep it for themselves; they’re afraid if clients know too much, they’ll fire them and build their own in-house department.

“I believe differently. I believe that if clients know better, they will make better, more informed, faster decisions. They need to know what’s happening and not to close their eyes.”

Lepez argues that, beyond the past year’s lay-offs, media is at risk of losing talent long term because not enough opportunities are being afforded to younger workers stuck with vertical skillsets and demanding hours.

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“Young talent doesn’t want to go to agencies; they want to go to tech companies. With agencies, you work weekends, long hours. We have to change that because agencies are an amazing place to learn things.

“One of the issues we are seeing, especially at big network agencies, is that people are going into a vertical skill, for example working in SEM [search engine marketing], for three years. Do Gen Z people want to do that? No. They want to move into paid social or programmatic and the agency keeps saying: ‘Be patient.'”

Lepez wants to see the development of more “T-shaped” workers, with specialisms and general knowledge of other areas — something that would support employee upskilling and provide a greater sense of career progress. Learn with the Expert is one way to introduce new subjects of potential interest to younger employees to help start that journey, he says.

“People are what makes our industry alive,” Lepez adds. “Without people, [media] is not possible.”

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