August 5, 2020

How we use our learning & development stipend at Smartcar

Jackie Leary

People & Operations Associate

At Smartcar, a huge part of our culture involves supporting the continuous growth of our team members. We are dedicated to providing everyone the tools they need to achieve their personal and organizational goals. Back in January of this year, Smartcar introduced a learning and development program, which allows team members to participate in internal and external learning opportunities. Check out some of the ways in which we’re using our stipend!


I’m a product designer here at Smartcar. I chose to use my learning and development stipend to attend Config 2020—Figma’s first user conference, which took place on February 26 in San Francisco. Figma is our primary design tool. As a long-time user, I was incredibly excited to learn from other designers who use the product as well.

The day kicked off with several exciting product announcements, a couple of keynote talks about the intersection between design and other fields, and an interview with the musician Scott Hanson (known as Tycho). In the afternoon, there was a wide range of topics and different session formats to choose from. One of my favorite talks was by Marcin Wichary from Figma, who gave insight into the complexity of font weights and the challenges of building a tool that handles fonts. I also enjoyed a workshop on finding confidence in design decisions, which was led by Linda Eliasen from Help Scout. She talked about two ways to build confidence: gathering data and repeating the same experience. The conference closed with an inspiring talk by May-Li Khoe on “joyfully subverting the status quo” and creating things that empower communities.

Throughout the day, I also had a chance to meet a lot of new people and catch up with friends and past colleagues. Overall, I found the conference to be a valuable and inspiring experience, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend!


I’m a member of our People & Ops team, so I work on a wide variety of projects, from office operations to recruiting, event planning, ... you name it! In my day-to-day, I need to efficiently prepare and execute tasks in a timely fashion, no matter how complex the project is. The projects I work on have a lot of moving parts with tight deadlines, so I chose to spend my learning and development stipend on a Lean Project Management course on Udemy.

During the course, I learned about the Lean philosophy: to reduce waste and create a better workplace through continuous improvement. Lean principles can be applied to every project I work on. They have given me the tools to more efficiently execute on tasks while keeping various wastes (time, money, energy, etc.) in mind. In other words, I’m working smarter, not harder. I’ve even used Lean methods outside of work! I’ve been able to plan a vacation to Hawaii (for whenever we’ll be able to safely travel again, of course)!


I’m also part of Smartcar’s People & Ops team and I spent my learning and development stipend on a coding bootcamp preparation course by Hackbright Academy. The recruiting part of my job requires me to understand the work of different departments at Smartcar and to hire the best talent for each department. When it comes to engineering positions, I always felt like there was a gap between my own knowledge and the day-to-day work that our engineers are doing.

Hackbright’s 5-week course taught me the basics of Python and gave me a fundamental understanding of the principles of programming. What used to be an intimidating topic for me is now an area that I feel more positive and curious about. I just completed the course last week, so I look forward to applying my newly acquired skills during my job at Smartcar as well as during my freetime to create fun side projects!


What’s more, we don’t have to use our learning and development stipend for topics that are directly related to our roles. As long as we can apply the things we learn to our work and use them to make us a more well-rounded team, Smartcar is all for it!

Does your team have a learning and development program? Please email me to share your experience and exchange ideas!

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