Rachel Gertz, Director of Growth & Training: Teaching People in Digital Agencies, Teams, and Product Studios How To Be More Profitable, Sustainable, and Democratic

March 20, 2022

Louder Than Ten teaches people in digital agencies, teams, and product studios how to be more profitable, sustainable, and democratic through digital project management and operations training.

These systems and practices that have the biggest impact on the health of an organization, its people, and surrounding community, and yet most are based on extractive, command-and-control structures of the first industrial revolution and periods of slavery.

We’re here to reset the structures by restoring power to the people who run your projects so they can help your company run more ethically and sustainably.

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve always loved education. I have a degree in teaching and worked in different roles as a content strategist, program coordinator, administrator, project manager, and writer. I started my career doing freelance work and we launched our company 13 years ago.

This led us to transition our design and development studio into a specialized digital project management training company. Now most of my time is spent coaching, consulting, and doing custom training for companies who need PM and Ops tune-ups and support. Most recently, we’re applying this concept of worker democracy and converting our business into a worker owned cooperative.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Get therapy. There’s going to be a pandemic. Haha. But in all seriousness, I’d tell myself to focus on strategic partnerships sooner so that we could test out some new course offerings. We bootstrapped and a capital investment could have helped us reach a broader market a bit sooner.

What problem does your business solve?

We help underemployed, misrepresented people get better paying digital project management jobs in tech. We also up-skill existing PMs so they can think like mini COOs and help smooth out cashflow while keeping project teams happy.

The subtext here is that we actively teach workers how to create more democratic collaborative processes so they have the voice and power to get their work done in an equitable environment.

Companies who trust and pay their people to improve their systems and tie projects back to bigger company goals keep their workers. And retention is worth 250% of your mid-level’s salary.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

You ever heard this one? “Project management is like air quality. If you can see it, it’s probably killing you.” That came from agency industry veteran Nancy Lyons. And she was right. Great project management is invisible. It enables people to work together flawlessly and with less oversight.

It makes psychological safety a priority, it favours open, transparent workflows. Great PM means knowing how revenue works, how risks translate, and how opportunities are nurtured by strong, supportive communication.

We train folks in invisible PM. And we work with small to medium sized digital studios, departments, and creative teams because their owners and leaders often don’t truly understand the function of PM. And when they do, it’s like the lid gets ripped off and they can let the wheel go knowing the team will take care of things.

What is your magic sauce?

We’ll teach your PMs how money works, how to be better at spotting opportunities for positive risk, and how to set their boundaries so they know how to talk to teams, execs, and clients.

Typical project management training tells PMs to stay in the lines of time, scope, and budget, but our belief is these folks have the capacity to create new revenue streams, reduce inefficiency, and create solid team trust.

When you’re a small business, you need everyone to wear multiple hats because you can’t just hire willy nilly. We train the people who lead your digital projects how to make huge changes inside your organization.

So our training is just as much about organizational design as it is getting the work done. And we are designed for digital from the ground up. Not managing construction or forestry or brick and mortar. That’s what makes us different. That’s what sets us apart.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We’re actively converting into a worker owned cooperative which means we’re going to be focusing on a few very big initiatives in the next five years.

Training folks who are marginalized, racialized, underemployed, or underrepresented to connect them with higher paying permanent positions.
Working to help companies become more ethical in their project management and operations systems.
Creating an ecosystem where these small business continuously support the hiring and up-skilling of junior talent.

Our goal is to train 10,000 digital PMs in the next five years so we can help solve this incredibly serious hiring challenge that small digital companies are experiencing.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

People ask us every day: hey, do you have a trained PM for us? But 99% of our students are employed already and actively in training. We want to make sure our students have stable employment and want companies to cover that training fee as a sign of their investment in the person. It’s a company’s responsibility to take care of its workers. Then the workers take care of the revenue.

These companies who reach out demanding trained PMs are essentially asking the student to take on the financial burden of training themselves and expecting us or the student to subsidize the their hiring needs, which is bananas.

We’re asking for training partners: companies who are actively invested in their new hires and the time it takes to get these PMs up to speed. On average it takes 1–3 months to properly hire, train, and onboard a new PM. Our courses only take 3 mos (or up to 8 if you want project director level training).

It takes longer to hire a senior level PM and it costs more than if you invest in someone with less experience and have us train them up—but it takes about the same amount of time to get them rolling. Not to mention your ROI as that individual stops project bleed and improves the value of your existing accounts. It’s just good business sense.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

If you’re a digital agency, product studio, design firm, or creative department and you want a PM or a more democratic work environment, we’d love to connect and find out where your biggest ops and pm challenges are happening. Get in touch via our website and let’s train your project leaders to run a better digital or creative business so you can finally go on that vacation to Ibiza.

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