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A Day in the Life: Director of Learning and Development Strategy Nadja Shaw

Written by Molly Forman on Feb 12, 2020

Related content: Curriculum Development

This story is a part of our ‘A Day in the Life’ series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout February we’re celebrating Black History Month and featuring members of one of our Business Resource Networks: the Black Engagement Network.

Nadja Shaw self-identifies as an education vagabond.

Growing up in Harlem in the ‘90s, Nadja dreamt of receiving a meaningful and purposeful high school education, but access to resources that would place her on a path toward success was limited. She made the difficult decision to leave her community to expand her academic opportunities. A Better Chance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people of color access high-achieving schools within the United States, was the next step in her educational journey.

Through A Better Chance, Nadja applied and was accepted to the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, nearly four hours away from home. Through this experience, Nadja was able to explore education from both a domestic and international lens. She traveled during her formative years, pushing the boundaries of traditional education by completing her senior year abroad in Zaragoza, Spain. Nadja then returned to the states and attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

While Nadja embraced this educational journey, she recognized the sacrifice it required: leaving behind the community that nurtured and cultivated her. Her academic aspirations and wish to secure a better future created a stark dichotomy between the life she knew in Harlem and the privileges afforded to her through A Better Chance. What this dual perspective gave her was the insight into the reality that underserved communities face as well as what scholars could aspire to with adequate academic support. She has since dedicated her life to education so that people from under-resourced communities don’t feel compelled to leave to achieve their goals.

Joining Teach for America was the first way she gave back. It gave her the opportunity to provide students who came from strong but under-resourced communities like her own with teachers who were invested in their long-term growth and whom students could identify with. Being in the classroom, Nadja was able to see firsthand how students grow and experience the various ways that people learn.

Nadja knew that she could impact even more students by supporting the growth of teachers' knowledge and skills, so she transitioned to educational leadership. She joined Achievement First, a charter school network, as a first-grade teacher so she could impact students on an individual level. She then became its founding dean of students so she could impact students on a group level. After nearly three years at Achievement First, she returned to Teach for America New York, this time as a staff member, leading as director of program design. She founded the region’s local teacher training program so she could impact students on a systems level. Now, she’s the director of learning and development strategy at Trilogy, a 2U, Inc. brand, where she continues her efforts to support instructors with the technical and educational skills they need to be successful in the classroom.

How did an education nomad like Nadja find her way to Trilogy and in what ways has she applied her personal education experience to her role? Read on for a day in the life of Nadja Shaw.

Why did you join Trilogy? What is it about the company that sparked your interest? I am passionate about ending educational inequity through a fierce commitment to closing the digital skills gap. Trilogy caught my eye because it was a pathway for individuals to transform their lives. Trilogy was making a promise to students that if they committed to the learning offered through boot camps then they could gain access to this tech world. I wanted to be a part of ensuring their boot camp instructors had the technical knowledge and pedagogy to deliver on that promise.

How would you describe your role as director of learning and development strategy? I work on a cross-functional team to determine the vision, set parameters, measures of success, and workflow for programmatic initiatives for instructional staff learning and development. This involves designing and implementing the learning and development strategy for 3,500 instruction staff employees across all boot camp verticals. I manage three functions—diagnostics and evaluation, instructional design, and implementation—which are all geared toward accomplishing one goal: ensuring that instructional staff are set up for success in facilitating transformative student outcomes.

What’s your favorite part about working at 2U? My favorite part about working at 2U is being able to continue to work as a leader in a mission-driven organization that strives to put students and instructors first. It’s also a privilege to be a part of a work environment that strives to be a great place to work. Building a culture that supports its employees allows us to focus on working towards our shared mission.

Why did you join the Black Engagement Network (BNet)? I decided to join BNet because any significant historical movement or everyday social interaction could probably be traced to the actions of people who share a common experience and passion. I wanted to be a part of a group within 2U aligned with my black identity. I see BNet as a place to build community, identify issues, share successes, promote ideas for actions, engage in dialogue, and provide opportunities for affirmation and celebration.

Black History Month started last week. What does BHM mean to you? For me, Black History Month is a moment to reflect and celebrate the resilience, beauty, pride, power, and intersectionality of blackness. It’s a practice that must go beyond the month of February but allows for us to be intentional in honoring and uplifting the stories of black people across the diaspora that are habitually missing from history books.

You have always worked in education in some capacity. What keeps you inspired? My life’s purpose is to build leadership capacity and create equitable spaces. Education is a conduit for this purpose. I am able to facilitate the learning that will build instructional staff knowledge, skills, and mindsets to produce transformational student outcomes. As long as I am able to do that, the people I support will inspire me.

What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U? When you’re just starting out, it’s important to build your self-awareness and set a clear vision and goals for what success will look like by the end of the year and/or quarter. Be sure to share those with your manager, mentors, and teammates. Ask yourself and document the answers to the following questions:

- What are my core role responsibilities?

- How does my work help the team make an impact? Are there collective goals that I’m particularly able to support and influence in my role?

- What specifically will success look like for me this year, given what I’m responsible for?

- How will I know success day-to-day when I see it? What, concretely, am I looking to see at the end of the year?

- What are my personal core values? How do I aspire to lead with my core values? Which do I lead with quite automatically? Which do I expect will be particularly important for me to lead with given my core responsibilities?

- What one to two area(s) of my leadership practice will I focus on strengthening now, to elevate my impact? Why does that matter to me? What actions will I take to practice and grow?

Interested in learning more about job opportunities at 2U? Check out our Careers page.