Affecting Change In Students Quest For Experience 1 Project At A Time w/Byron Giles founder of CertificationPoint
Today, at University of West London, I have the opportunity to interview a leader in the EdTech, Byron Giles, CEO and founder of CertificationPoint.
We get an opportunity to hear his interesting story and journey to building a collaborative environment of over 1 million college/trade school students and service buyers, along with in-the-trenches insights from a growing company.
- Johnson: Hi Byron, CertificationPoint has been getting considerable attention. What’s new with CertificationPoint?
B Giles: Hey Sara. Yes, the attention has really ramped up considerably in the past several year or o. I’m not sure if it’s primarily due to the ongoing pandemic or the significant increase in educational technology. At this point in time we are working to expand on the AI within our lessons learned database.
- Johnson: Sounds very interesting. So, before we really get moving with this interview please let the audience know a little more about you.
B Giles: Sure. My story? Well, I’ve had a nice winding road that’s for sure coming from a military family background and having the opportunity to move around alot. I wasn’t always so tuned into to tech as a career of choice. My first choice was basketball and like many kids had visions of a perfect predestined path to the NBA. I think a higher power may have had different plans for me. It began my junior year at a new high school following my father retirement from the US Air Force and moved our family from Grand Forks, ND to Las Vegas, NV. Well I got cut from the team my junior year and then again my senior year. After going through so many years playing on different teams and never getting cut and then to get cut in the most important years tore me up but made me very determined at that point to prove to myself I could play. I probably attend 3-4 of the team’s games my senior year after that I stopped watching because it was like an open wound. I sent a lot of time at a separate area 2 part of Nellis AFB where I had the gym totally to myself to work on my game lift weights and think. Well the school year ends and I graduate and decided to go to a college in Kansas close to where my father’s family was from. I ended up making the team as a walk-on and even received a little scholarship money. Well the team I played on reached a number 1 ranking in NCAA Division 2. Well like I said a higher power may have other plans as I was not as focused as I should have been and flunked out. I returned back home to Vegas to work on my grades and completing my major of computer science. During this time met a friend who played at UNLV and we got the chance to get signed to play basketball professionally in Mexico. This was a great experience but was not the route I envision to the NBA. I again had a lot of time to think. During one of our road trips, I remember sitting on the bus thinking about my future and what was next. It was at this point I started thinking it was time to find a career and put pro basketball on the shelf. I returned home and about 6months later I enlisted in the US Air Force. I believe it was an easy choice since I knew a little of what to expect. It was during this time that I found my love of development, but more so trying to come up with solutions. I enjoyed coming up with useful tools that could make my co-workers jobs easy. Towards the end of my career I came up with CertificationPoint while reminiscing on my military career from the learning aspects to also getting my degree but more so being able to learn on the job with awesome mentors while completing my degree.
- Johnson: Excellent stuff and it interesting how you made changes within reflection periods. What has been the best this about running your own business?
B Giles: You know? A lot comes to mind but mostly having an idea come into my mind and then start the process of running towards it while taking into account the day-to-day aspects. The term founder can be glamourized, but in-the-trenches it is a different world. It has as many or more of the highs and lows of an athlete’s career. You definitely will want to be involved with something you really love and have a passion for because like I said it can get tough. Being a founder really tests your motivation, faith in yourself, and the belief in your idea.
- Johnson: There’s always a challenge to get through for a growing business. What has been the most difficult part of your entrepreneurial journey?
B Giles: Learning to sell: Every founder has those certain areas or hurdles they must cross or become more knowledgeable on. For me it was selling an idea, I am not a salesman by trade, so getting out there and letting the world know about this great idea for me was difficult. First, because I’m not very outspoken and I am like many of the other million developers in the world in that we’d like to sit in front of our computers and create rather engage in public speaking opportunities.
The up’s and down’s: Wow…the ups and downs. Just looking back there are so many, but when I look back, I am like we sure have come a long way. Then I look ahead at how far we can still go and what we can still achieve. Serving in the military, especially in training environments has its high’s and low’s but this is the reason you are put into teams…so you can work through an obstacle together. You are much stronger together.
- Johnson: Can you remember back to where the idea for the company came from?
B Giles: Sure. As I mentioned earlier, the idea came to mind in 2011 at the later end of my military career. I’d just finished my master’s degree and most people who know me will say he’s always thinking of something to build…sometimes useful and sometimes not so useful. Well I look at how new recruits in the military obtain training and little bit by bit their able to implement what they’ve learned in a real environment with some of the best mentors. The difference with me is I chose to finish college during the same timeframe. I would hear how valuable the experience we were getting was and also seeing how easily veterans were able to find employment whether they had served 4 years or 24 years. I started to think if young military recruits can do it why can’t we apply it college and trade school students in a project-based learning environment. So, I initially did a ton of online research for any competitors and then started mapping out an overall process and began building. When I didn’t see any direct competitors, initially I thought jackpot but also that since a platform such as CertificationPoint would be really new cutting out a path would be needed. As it began to grow, I began to see similar spin-off ideas, but also a couple that were on a track close to CertificationPoint.
- Johnson: Achieving “market-product fit” is essential for the success of any business. When did you realize had achieved this?
B Giles: Most definitely, achieving a market-product fit is very essential. I believe when we understood the pain-points and then being were able to make the associated pivots to ease the areas of concern. The when? I believe when we go out to talk to a university’s students…you know when they really get it and then seeing their eyes light up and began telling you their stories. For the service-buyer or businesses, I believe since we have a unique concept I believe providing case studies, ensuring they could and mentors to a project if needed, but I think letting them see examples of how the moving parts fit together in the project-based learning workflow.
- Johnson: Making an impact is very important in education. How do you measure yours?
B Giles: Awesome question. With CertificationPoint being an in-the-trenches platform, the data to measure impact is provided daily. Student learn to sell service buyers on their skill level to date, but also get to collaborate with students across the nation which helps students to maximize their collaborative skillset with respect to what students are learning at other colleges. Also, with having a lesson’s learned database we get to measure to how often its being used and get to see its overall effectiveness. Looking at the types of bid content provided by students as they become more comfortable the growth and confidence is on display right front of you.
- Johnson: If you had to pass on 1 piece of advice for aspiring or current entrepreneurs, what would they be?
B Giles: Keep pressing forward with your idea. It was given to you for a reason. As the student keep learning its important to stay current and abreast of what is new and the latest concerns. Certain things you do will make sense as you grow and certain things may not make as much sense as you and your team grow but you will understand its importance as a hurdle crossed easily versus a ton of headaches. Most importantly…you have to believe.
- Johnson: What do you envision on the horizon for CertificationPoint?
B Giles: To be the go-to place for world-wide students seeking to build work experience their college years…tying together any learning gaps the may have so they are able to hit the ground running within their chosen career.
- Johnson: We’ve been trying to get you in for an interview for some time. Thanks for being available for us.
B Giles: Not a problem Sara. Thanks for having me.
Byron Giles Bio: Founder of CertificationPoint and retired US Air Force veteran. He’s the published author of the book entitled “Unleashing Your Harnessed Potential”.