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Elliott Masie’s 30 Under Thirty: Interview with Khoa Lam

Ninth in our series of 30 Under Thirty interviews is Khoa Lam, Senior Learning Tech Specialist with Qualcomm.

Maestro: Tell me a little bit about your company and your role within it.

Khoa: Qualcomm is a global leader in developing digital wireless communications solutions. From the way we communicate with people, to the way we interact with the things around us, mobile changes everything. Qualcomm helps shape this new, connected world by:

  • Engineering mobile chipsets, such as the Snapdragon processor found in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One
  • Developing enabling technologies, such as context awareness and augmented reality (more on this later)
  • Creating solutions to tackle the growing demand for mobile data

Qualcomm’s mission is to continually push the boundaries of what’s possible in technology, and my role in the Learning Center is to do the same with regards to mobile learning. We’re coming up with ways to use mobile to simplify work and learning; building apps to make work life easier, serving up mobile content from anywhere, and enabling support when employees need it most. We evangelize mobile learning and productivity not only within Qualcomm, but outwards via our website

Maestro: Tell me about some of the things you are doing to stay current in the world of learning.

Khoa: Helping run the WorkLearnMobile website has been a great way for me to stay up to date since we’re constantly looking for case studies, insights and resources for the benefit of everyone in the industry. Twitter is also great for trends because of its immense prevalence, and being a dashboard geek, I use a web tool called TweetDeck to curate multiple timelines of Tweets based on popularity and a variety of search terms.

Maestro: What challenges do you see for the next generation of learning leaders - people like you?

Khoa: For understandable reasons, a significant percentage of baby boomers are extending their working careers even though they’re eligible for retirement. It’s clear that younger generations joining the workforce have different communication styles, work habits, and attitudes about technology than the older demographic. One of our challenges is to bridge the generation gap and meet the learning/communication needs across the widening spectrum.

Companies are also having a tougher time retaining the younger generation of employees. Increased turnover means we need to focus on making onboarding (and all learning solutions for that matter) as effective, efficient, and engaging as possible not just for the sake of ramping up new employees, but to help keep existing ones around.

Maestro: What excites you about the future of learning?

Khoa: We’re at a point where we can do amazing things to put learning in context. All the required pieces are falling into place; smartphones are abundant (outselling PCs and now basic feature phones), Wi-Fi is everywhere, and location-aware technologies are gaining steam. We all know and love just-in-time learning, so adding a contextual layer that helps you pinpoint related information depending on where you are or what you’re looking at just brings learning to a whole new level.

Qualcomm develops several contextual technologies, so naturally our team experiments with them in our own apps. Gimbal provides a context awareness framework for geofencing and proximity-related actions, and Vuforia is a platform to create augmented reality experiences. You can read more about one of our Gimbal projects here.

Maestro: What advice do you have for companies struggling to keep up with the changing landscape of learning?

Khoa: There will always be a hot new learning tool or methodology that claims to solve all your problems, and you could lose focus exploring the many options out there, but at the end of the day you have to remember that it’s all about your learners. It always has been. Make an effort to talk to as many of your learners as you can, and figure out their needs. Keep an eye on what’s new in the industry, but don’t dive too deep until you have a good sense that it’s a fit for your audience. If you’re changing things up, be sure to adopt a model where you’re collecting feedback early and often while continuously making improvements.

Interested in learning more about Khoa?

Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn

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