SALT LAKE CITY — At the Pluralsight user conference Wednesday there was a palpable buzz underneath the visual flash and audio thunder that's become de rigueur for tech company conferences.
The Farmington-based technology learning platform has been on a quite a roll since its mega-successful initial public stock offering back in May, one that saw a 33 percent jump on its pre-market pricing of $15 a share on the first day of trading. Since then, the company's value has continued to climb and, as of the end of regular trading Wednesday, Pluralsight stock was at $33.60 a share, giving the company a market capitalization of just over $4.5 billion.
Pluralsight co-founder and CEO Aaron Skonnard told the 2,000 PluralsightLive attendees gathered at downtown's Grand America Hotel that keeping up with the pace of technology, and its attendant programming languages, has become a survival necessity for companies seeking success in the new world of business.
"We’re facing a massive challenge, and opportunity, as an industry," Skonnard said. "When I was a kid, there were only a couple programming languages and now today, there are over 250 … many of which get updated as many as eight times per year.
"The pace is daunting and in order to win, we must embrace those challenges, seize that opportunity and create a new future."
Pluralsight was launched by Skonnard and three others in 2004 offering in-person, classroom-based technology classes. After spending four years teaching at locations all over the world and building a reputation for a high-caliber curriculum, Skonnard and his team recognized that internet tools had finally evolved to the point where they could move their classes online. The digital reboot of the company launched in 2008 with a selection of its 10 most popular classes and has since evolved into an operation that offers almost 7,000 cloud-based courses.
It has also built a customer base of 14,000 business clients in 150 countries and, so far, capturing some 65 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
The business has also evolved beyond the tech courses, with new features that allow individuals to assess their own tech skills and identify their knowledge gaps. Pluralsight also announced a new assessment tool that takes the skills evaluation a step further, by determining if a person's set of skills matches appropriately with a tech role that a client is looking to fill. Skonnard said the RoleIQ product creates a way for companies to identify and address needs before they potentially lead to negative impacts.
"Technology has the power to drive progress, and technology skills are desperately needed in every business today to unlock those possibilities,” Skonnard said. "With the launch of Role IQ, we're expanding the capabilities of our platform and giving CIOs, CTOs and technology professionals what they've wanted for years — a way to accurately measure technology expertise in specific roles, as well as a clear path to continually develop that expertise.”
Skonnard and his team created a theme for the company's second annual users' conference, "Lense into the Future", and day two of the three-day event included presentations from numerous big-name tech companies. Those included Pluralsight partners Microsoft and Google, as well as an afternoon scheduled with breakout sessions focused on specific topics.
Target Vice President of Architecture Joel Crabb said his company's tech staff are utilizing Pluralsight training and the courses have become "the highest rated tool among our engineers." The company is in the midst of a $7 billion retooling of its business model, with store renovations, expanded online offerings, options to order online and pickup at a local outlet as well as same day delivery through gig economy delivery service, Shipt.
Skonnard riffed on the conference theme in his presentation, highlighting that a company's long-term survival, and prosperity, is tied intrinsically to its ability to adapt to technological advances.
"Just take a look at the Fortune 500 from back in 1955," Skonnard said. "Only 12 percent of those companies are still on that list 62 years later. Why? The ones that stayed on the list committed to technology and learned how to evolve and embrace it.
"The ones that dropped off the list, didn’t. But every company on that list had the opportunity. … They had the choice to take advantage of those technologies to change their futures. And the companies that win in the next 60 years will do the same thing."
Day three of the PluralsightLive event will feature Malala Yousafzai, who became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and has earned a global reputation for her work, and activism, on education issues for women and children.