Who We Are
Skillz Academy is an 8- week, intensive, training program that is designed to recruit, train and place individuals in business oriented roles in technology companies. Our program targets individuals that are traditionally underrepresented in the technology industry including women, minorities, and people from low income communities.
Our first program is a Software Sales Training program that trains individuals for entry level positions in sales, customer success, and customer support. In doing so, we will also address the lack of racial, economic and gender diversity in the tech industry which remains one of the least racially or economically diverse industries in the United States. As a technology industry continues to grow, there is an ever increasing need for business- oriented technology roles to support the sale and distribution of technology products and services. Unfortunately, many of the women and minorities that would be great candidates for these jobs often lack the training to compete for jobs in high growth industries like tech. Since our existing educational infrastructure is ill-equipped to fulfill this growing demand, our goal at Skillz Academy is to fill this gap by providing employers with a group of well trained and diverse candidates who are excited to launch a career in tech.
hospitality and retail jobs lost during COVID-19
% of tech workforce - Black/Latinx
# of sales jobs in tech - next 8 years
A number of trends in the U.S economy suggest that many jobs in the hospitality, travel, and retail industries are going to disappear over the next several years and economists predict that a majority of these often low-paying jobs will not return. At the same time, jobs in technology and technology driven industries have grown and will continue to grow, even during the current pandemic. In particular, in-demand jobs in sales, business development and customer success are expected to expand to accommodate the growth in tech companies.
The founders and advisors of Skillz Academy are seasoned sales professionals with over 50 years of combined sales experience in media and technology. We believe that a large number of the people that have lost their jobs due to the pandemic can be re-trained for sales and customer success roles using modern, data-driven, and academically sound sales techniques, methods and models. We have deployed many of these methods in our own companies and are excited to bring our passion for sales to Skillz Academy.
Courtney is a seasoned executive with a passion for education, technology and workforce development. In addition to his role at Skillz Academy, Courtney is also the founder and CEO of Torsh Inc., an education technology company and the Founder and CEO of Upriver Solutions Corp. Over a career spanning more than 25 years, Courtney has held senior roles at AOL, Time Warner, and Interactive One. He is an active member of his community, serving on a number of Boards including YouthForce NOLA and Krewe De Nieux. He also serves as a member of the Johns Hopkins School of Education National Advisory Council and is a 2010 CUP Fellow, a fellowship awarded to executives with an interest in public service. Courtney is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Oberlin College.
In 2014, Jacob moved to NOLA to launch his career in tech sales. He spent four years learning to sell at two NOLA-based startups. In 2018, he moved back to his hometown, Columbus, Ohio. He wanted to find a way to apply his sales skills to a cause and joined Venture For America (VFA) as a recruiter. VFA is a non-profit that helps recent graduates launch their careers in tech and startup businesses. In 2020, Jacob, who is also a VFA alumnus, recruited VFA’s largest and most diverse class ever. He is excited to return to New Orleans to launch Skillz Academy and teach New Orleanians how sales can be a life changing career. He is a mentor with Son of a Saint and a graduate of Duke University.
Shakari, a New Orleans native, started her career in education serving as a tutor, teacher and then leader of College and Career Readiness at ReNEW Schools. Shakari then spent 4 years working at Tulane’s Cowen Institute serving in various roles within the Earn and Learn Career Pathway Program. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and Southern University at New Orleans. Shakari is excited to bring her experience in program development and recruitment to Skillz Academy. She looks forward to cultivating a pipeline of talent for business partners and advancing career opportunities within the New Orleans community.
As Corporate SVP & General Manager of MarketCast Sports, Live Events & Brands, Lyndon is tasked with expanding MarketCast’s fan research and analytics practice with existing sports clients and top lifestyle brands, as well as guiding the development and rollout of new advanced analytics products and services aimed at growing and nurturing fandom. With over 20 years of sales and business development experience, working across both Fortune 500 and early stage companies, he has achieved a proven track record of success. Prior to joining MarketCast, Lyndon served in a leadership role at Nielsen Sports for more than a decade as SVP, Head of Leagues & Rights Holders. Before his time at Nielsen, Lyndon served in business development roles at AOL, Cablevision and Dynasty Global Holdings.
Evan Chrapko is an entrepreneur who specializes in disrupting big, old industries. Evan is the Founder and CEO of an ESG-oriented company, Trust Science ®. His mission is to help deserving people get what they deserve, regardless of nationality/citizenship, race, creed, gender, marital status or age. Initially, the company is delivering its predictive power about people’s behavior (trustworthiness) via its globally-patented, Fintech SaaS known as Credit Bureau 2.0 ®. Trust Science’s credit scores harness alt.data and AI/ML to help enlightened lenders score financially-stressed or under-banked borrowers in a fair and ethical way. Evan is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and was named to the Real Leaders Global 100 (alongside Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, et al.).
Leslie Jacobs is a native New Orleanean who has been engaged in education reform for more than 35 years. She is considered the architect of Louisiana’s accountability reform policies and was instrumental in creating the Recovery School District. Leslie has served as Chairman of GNO Inc, Vice-Chairman of the New Orleans Business Council and CEO and co-founder of the New Orleans Startup Fund. She is also the founder of 504ward, an initiative focused on retaining young talent in New Orleans, Chairman and co-founder of YouthForce NOLA and co-founder of Belltower. Leslie has received numerous honors including co-New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit magazine, a Top 100 Female Insurance Executive by Business Insurance and one of the “Twenty People Who Influenced Louisiana 1981-2001,” by Louisiana Life magazine.
Mark is a Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is a highly regarded expert in education policy and reform. He has more than 20 years of experience in education and workforce development having worked as a researcher, policy analyst and grant maker. During his time at the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Dr. Rigdon was instrumental in implementing a number of workforce development initiatives for the Bank. As advisor to Skillz Academy, Dr. Rigdon provides strategic guidance as well as subject matter expertise in the education and workforce development. Dr. Rigdon holds an MBA from Northwestern University, a PhD in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a BA from Oberlin College.
Charles Warner teaches in the graduate Media Management Program in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York City. He was a Vice President of AOL Interactive Marketing from 1998 through 2002. He taught at the Missouri School of Journalism from 1988 to 1998 and is the author of the widely used textbook now in its fifth edition: Media Selling: Digital, Television, Print, Audio, and Cross Platform. In his role as Advisor to Skillz Academy, Charlie has been hugely influential in developing our proprietary sales curriculum and will continue to advise us as we develop additional content and courses for other tech roles and functions.
Tim Williamson is the founder of the LOA Group, LLC, an organization that works with entrepreneurs to launch new ideas into the world by providing consulting, capital and coaching. Tim is a transformational executive with over 30 years of experience in all aspects of business formation, operation, finance, and management. He is a visionary product developer with a solid record of managing projects from concept to completion and coaching individuals to success. From 2000 through 2016,Tim founded and ran The Idea Village, a critical component of New Orleans’ burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem and was President of NOLA Media Group, the owners of the Times Picayune, from 2016 to 2018. Tim is a graduate of the Stanford University Executive Program and holds a B.S.M. in Finance from Tulane University.