Liz O'Brien Ed Tech Blog

CEO and Military Spouse, Elizabeth O’Brien, Solidifies Organization as a Trusted Solutions-based Learning and Development Partner

November 30, 2021

Freedom Learning Group (FLG) is proud to have an active duty Military Spouse as CEO leading the company and our global remote workforce. Today, we are glad to shine a spotlight on our CEO – Elizabeth O’Brien.  

The beginning of Elizabeth’s career emerged from her passion for sports as a collegiate level basketball coach. Later, fueled by her own experience as a working mother and Military Spouse, including moving seven times in eight years to support her husband’s career, Elizabeth’s passion took a turn as she began advocating and working to improve economic opportunities for Military Spouses and Veterans. 

FLG’s talent community consists of 65% Military Spouses and Veterans and 73% women spanning across 40 states and ten countries. On a daily basis, the remote and global workforce are inspired by Elizabeth’s own motivation to deliver top-quality educational courseware content for clients.

Elizabeth is a driven solution-finder. In her first year and a half as CEO, Elizabeth has created innovative solutions for the EdTech industry through FLG while leading company growth. In parallel, she is jointly thriving in her relentless pursuit of FLG’s social mission. Elizabeth has validated that FLG, a small business, can be a key piece to creating a path to economic opportunity. 

According to a McKinsey report, only 40% of companies say that their learning strategy is aligned with their business goals. How do you position FLG as a leader in the Ed Tech space? Why is this the right industry for disruption and innovation?

We are a solutions-based instructional design partner for clients in the education, publishing, and corporate industries. Over the past year, accessible education has proved critical to meeting America’s learning needs. FLG is a high-growth instructional design and online courseware provider due to our unique talent advantage. By identifying and upskilling high-caliber, underemployed subject matter experts and instructional designers, we are filling roles that are vital to meet the skyrocketing demand for online education.

One of the largest hurdles companies experience in creating technical, specific, and high-quality courseware is the access to subject matter experts, especially Instructional Designers. 

FLG’s workforce consists of hundreds of subject matter expert scientists, engineers, accountants, IT professionals, marketing, MBAs, CPAs, Cyber experts and STEM experts around the world are ready to support our client’s most important content needs. 

FLG delivers extraordinary outcomes that empower learners or employees to develop a deeper sense of our clients’ content and boost performance. Our modern approach to education and learning creates products supporting our clients’ needs bringing them into the future.

What programs does FLG have in place that are a key piece to the solutions for creating paths of economic opportunity? 

Here at FLG, we not only look to secure talent and subject matter experts project by project – we are going a step further to provide growth opportunities, and formal training to ensure our workforce is successful on day one and beyond through Training Hub.

Training Hub is a pathway for contributors to upskill and grow their knowledge base. Contributors can enroll in upskilling opportunities through stackable learning paths. Each learning path consists of robust, automated training for FLG specific operations, in tandem with industry specific training through our learning partners. Upon completion of the automated training, students are immersed in on-the-job training focused on refinement of newly learned skills all while ensuring client and project success.

We partner with companies like LinkedIn and Google who provide our talent community of Instructional Designers access to a self-paced industry-recognized training while simultaneously completing on the job training with us. Collaborating with these two organizations is a powerful opportunity that offers our geographically dispersed workforce a more enhanced and stackable learning experience. 

In consultation with our Future of Learning Advisory Board, we are continuing to expand our learning paths and standalone modules.  These additional opportunities will not only help meet the future needs of our clients, they will further decrease the ongoing training gaps that Military Spouse, Veteran, and underrepresented professionals experience throughout their careers.

As an active duty Military Spouse, what kinds of career challenges did you face when you were first married? 

When my career started out I had little babies at home. I had little to no access to affordable and safe childcare and remote opportunities didn’t exist. When I did take a coaching position, it was one I was overqualified for. It turned into a career of diminishing returns as I constantly accepted jobs below my experience level at new duty stations just to remain in the industry. 

I pivoted to Military Spouse and Veteran employment and used my story as motivation. My personal North Star is to find solutions for displaced professionals seeking economic opportunities compatible with their expertise while simultaneously supporting their military family – the two do not need to be exclusive of one another. The solution for Military Spouse and Veteran under- and unemployment is a flexible and remote workforce.

One of my most proud publications FLG has delivered so far is our White Paper on “Women in the Workforce: Recommendations for Creating Flexible & Remote Opportunities.”  The goal is to challenge other businesses to be a landing zone for women seeking professional opportunities at every stage of their career while sharing FLG’s successes as a global, remote, flexible project-based workforce. 

Companies, both large and small, must address the issue of women dropping out of the workforce at unprecedented rates. By creating flexible and remote jobs, employers can break the cycle of female unemployment. FLG will continue to create workforce-focused change for disconnected populations, leading to socio-economic mobility.

How did being a basketball coach strengthen your leadership philosophy and how has that shaped your outlook in non-profit and small business leadership roles?

Being a coach and being a CEO are essentially one-in-the-same. 

Success is based on who you bring on to your team. The hiring or recruiting process sets you up for foundational success. It is vital to pick the right people to be on your team and the right coaches to lead alongside you who hold themselves accountable and exceed their own standards and expectations.

From here, I prepare my teams with a vision and empower them to lead their own teams. Prep, prep, prep, then empower and trust them to perform on the court or in the boardroom. Let people shine on their own merit. 

What does a flexible and remote workforce look like and how has FLG made it a successful model to follow? 

FLG is an intentionally built company made up of a remote, flexible, project-based workforce–a visionary model created by our co-founders to create socio-economic mobility for an underserved population.  We are expanding our talent community through flexible and remote work opportunities coupled with last mile training, a concept which focuses on retraining and upskilling our workforce to meet the current and future needs of our clients. 

Our talent community is invested in their career and not just a job.  There is an unwavering trust that our team gets their work done – we have a philosophy to do your best work on a schedule that is convenient for their lifestyle. We all show up every day to deliver quality content and create an excellent client experience. 

FLG has been fully remote since 2017. We chose to be a remote company and were not forced to be this way due to COVID. There are checks and balances in place – meetings with managers that are scheduled; deadlines and deliverables to provide.  At the end of the day, I trust my team to get their work done and deliver what they need to.

For example, I have three daughters who are in school and play sports. My day starts before they’re up but I get to drive them to and from school every day. I may reply to emails at odd hours but I don’t expect them to be read or answered until a time that works for the person receiving it. 

What advice would you give to an employer thinking about transitioning their workforce to be completely remote? 

My biggest piece of advice for any company contemplating a remote workforce is that you need great communication processes in place and playbooks to allow team members to feel they are a part of the culture. Your onboarding process should include making the values clear from day one so everyone is on the same page. From here, encourage your talent community to join a business resource group (BRG) to grow their network and grow professionally.

FLG’s BRG  voluntary, workforce-led body bringing all FLG Contributors together across the globe, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace aligned with the organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. 

Society is at an inflection point where businesses have to create landing zones for displaced professionals, especially women, who seek career positions that fit into their life rather than giving up their life for work. 

As a small business, FLG is as dedicated to placing Military Spouses in remote economic empowerment opportunities as any Fortune 500. To date, FLG has paid over $6.8 million to Military Spouses & Veterans for their subject matter expertise and contributions to educational courseware projects. 

We pride ourselves on providing flexible, meaningful, and career opportunities. FLG is validation that a small business can be a key piece to the success of Military Spouse employment.

What can we expect from FLG in 2022? 

As we enter our fifth year as a company, FLG is poised for tremendous growth.

We are positioned to solidify our place as a trusted solutions-based learning and development partner for organizations and educators. Thanks to the tenacity of our talent community we are able to embrace the evolving landscape of learning while providing a consumer-centered approach. We will continue to drive our social mission forward to ensure displaced professionals have an opportunity to be economically successful in their fields of expertise.  Let’s get to work!