Learning in Practice 2014: Trailblazer Award Division 1

From left: Tamar Elkeles, David DeFilippo, Suzanne Farmer


Tamar Elkeles

Vice President of Learning and Organization Development, Qualcomm Inc.

Technology is changing the way people work. In 2012, 50 percent of workers brought their own devices to work. Today, nearly 90 percent of companies allow employees to use personal devices at work. In October 2013, there were more than 7.5 billion mobile connections worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2017.

Qualcomm Inc.’s mission was twofold: to be at the forefront of mobile technology solutions and services, and to keep up with the fast-paced technological changes from the workforce perspective. To meet employees’ rapidly evolving needs, the company developed and executed the Qualcomm Mobile Learning Strategy to provide learning anytime and anywhere.

Risk-taking, creativity, technology leadership through learning and information comprise Qualcomm Learning Center’s approach to remain an industry technology leader and expand its range of products to address mobile market opportunities. The vital component for success is relaying the company’s internal knowledge and skill sets across the global enterprise.

Tamar Elkeles, vice president of learning and organization development at Qualcomm, led the charge to build a new learning framework under the mobile angle. The framework includes collaboration with internal stakeholders such as security and IT, an internal ecosystem for mobile information-sharing, publishing to the mobile Web, and an internal app store that can build, buy and recommend apps.

Other than the app store, mobile social platform Pathgather lets employees create custom learning paths to share and recommend. The Learning Center also developed WorkLearnMobile.org, a website dedicated to sharing practical knowledge about mobile learning.

Qualcomm’s mobile tools proved to be popular. About half of its 30,000 workforce use the internal AppStore, and there was a 40 percent increase in mobile app shares during the first half of 2013. In the 10 weeks post-launch, more than 30 percent of employees used Pathgather. 


David DeFilippo

Vice President and Chief Learning Officer, Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Improving learning and development is a challenge for many organizations, but the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. established BNY Mellon University to condense learning for employees under its decentralized operating model.

BNY assembled a committee to assess the current and future states of learning at the bank. An analysis found there were 24 separately funded learning and development teams globally, and the committee announced an internal search for the firm’s first chief learning officer, and DavidDeFilippo got the job.

DeFilippo initiated a series of global town-hall meetings to define milestones and get feedback from learning staff and employees. He followed that up with multiyear strategies to address five areas, such as structure and talent, infrastructure and metrics.

The infrastructure and a new learning management system resulted in asteady increase in the usage of the learning portal.


Suzanne Farmer

Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Vice President of Organizational Development and Training, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas

Amid the tumultuous changes in health care, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, traditionally a medical and research school, needed to focus on clinical enterprises and train its staff to operate closer to a hospital.

Under Suzanne Farmer’s leadership, the UT Southwestern Learning Council shifted its university-type approach and launched the Academy for Career Enrichment, an online service with certification courses, books, videos and assessment materials.

ACE increased learning and development activities by 315 percent. Last year, 6,705 learners voluntarily took courses, and going into the third quarter, it doubled to 12,434 participants. ACE also was able to reduce costs by decreasing fees from books and in-house development costs.