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Tara O’Sullivan (5 Posts)

Tara O’Sullivan

In her role as Chief Creative Officer for Skillsoft, Tara ensures that everything we do at Skillsoft and especially our digital technology strategy, presents our brand, our voice and our vision consistently and authoritatively. Tara has extensive experience in using product marketing, branding and driving strategic growth. Tara oversees the content production business and corporate marketing. Tara has over 23 years' experience in B2B technology marketing including leadership positions in Oracle, IONA Technologies, SAS and TES Global. She has an MA in International Marketing from University College Dublin.

March 16, 2018

Active Shooter Training – Now Free to All to Help Save Lives


This is hard to write.

On Valentine’s Day I was watching the news in my hotel room after a very successful Sales Kick Off in Atlanta and watched with horror as the tragedy in Parkland, Florida unfolded.  As a company, we had been planning a marketing campaign with respect to our new active shooter course, so I contacted our team and we put a hold on our plans and started thinking about how we could help.

We wanted to do something, but it’s hard to know the right thing to do in the moment.

It’s hard because families are shattered.    Hard because as a parent I cannot conceive of the unimaginable pain the parents of the people killed are experiencing.  Hard because the frequency of these tragedies is making us numb (this is the second time we have pulled an active shooter campaign because of an actual shooting).  Hard because as an organization, any effort or sentiment expressed might be misconstrued as opportunistic, self-serving, exploitative or in bad taste.

Nonetheless, like many others, we want to help – and doing nothing is not an option.

We can no longer offer our condolences and little else.

We can no longer feel powerless.

As I watch the young women and men of Parkland take the initiative and take a stand and be heard, I am in awe of their courage, their bravery.

I think change is on its way.  In the meantime, I believe we at Skillsoft can help, and like all good corporate citizens, we have a responsibility to do something.  To contribute in some way to ensure the safety of our children, of our employees, of everyone, by making available the knowledge we have regarding how best to protect, respond and react in this kind of unthinkable situation.

This is why we have decided to make our Active Shooter training free to all – every school, workplace, and organization across the globe.

You can watch the course here, and refer to the additional resources – infographic, webinar and assessments on this page, which we think can help save lives.  We think everyone can benefit from the knowledge we are sharing, so please feel free to make others aware.

I saw a sign from the walk-out on 15 March that a student wrote that said it best, “One death is one too many.”  We hope everyone feels the same.



March 8, 2018

Let It Go: Why We Need To Change the Stories We Tell



Stories are powerful teaching tools.

Our brains, research tells us, are hardwired to understand and learn from stories; that we instinctively are drawn to the messaging, and we internalise and “get it” is a most basic human trait. Stories are our earliest form of learning.

But if this is the case, we need to change the stories we tell our children. We keep indoctrinating each new generation of girls and boys, at least those in the West, with stories that define particular, very narrow gender roles that in today’s world simply do not belong.

Think of it – of all the “classic fairy tales,” those bedtime stories we love to read to our little ones in the hope that not only would they drift off to sleep, they would also instil in them values, a passion for reading and nurture a vibrant and historical imagination.

I’m talking Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and a whole heap of other ‘classics’ that do our young girls and boys a huge disservice.

Take Cinderella for example. I recently saw a video showing this story but merely changing the gender. Now it’s the story of a young boy mistreated by his evil stepfather and evil stepbrothers. After his fairy godfather magically transformed the boy, he goes to the ball and meets and falls instantly in love with the dashing young princess only to make a midnight dash sans a shoe. Naturally she must pursue the owner of the shoe and her heart and so ensues a search of the kingdom for the foot and its owner that the shoe fits. Lo and behold she does, the lovers are reunited and are destined to live a happy and fulfilling long life together.

Somehow that just doesn’t work and is not something we’d read to our little ones – boys or girls. Yet substitute a princess for a prince and somehow we happily read it repeatedly to our girls. Not only that, we gladly let them spend endless hours watching the story played out in bold, bright colours, clearly establishing for them at that most impressionable young age, that girls are for saving and boys are the saviours.

And just when you might be about to say but hey those stories are ancient, things are different today we get this report.

A study carried out by The Guardian and Nielsen, the market research company, on the 100 most popular children’s picture books of 2017 revealed:

  • Lead characters were 50% more likely to be male than female
  • Male villains were 8 times more likely to appear than female villains
  • Over the course of each book characters who spoke were 50% more likely to be male
  • Male characters outnumbered female characters in almost half the top 100 stories

Even when the characters aren’t human, females don’t fare any better.

Whenever an author revealed a creature’s sex, it was 73% more likely to be male than female. And the males were more typically embodied as powerful, wild and potentially dangerous beasts such as dragons, bears and tigers, while females tended to anthropomorphise smaller and more vulnerable creatures such as birds, cats and insects.

Lauren Child, the current Children’s Laureate,  has this to say about girls’ roles in modern books and movies: “If boys get the starring roles in books – both as the good and bad protagonists – and girls are the sidekicks, it confirms that’s how the world is and how it should be. It’s very hard to feel equal then.”

While all this might seem a tad depressing, I can’t help but think of the phenomenon that was Frozen. Yes, that movie with the singing snowman and not one but two female leads who not only speak, they sing and dance and all while making around $1.2 billion at the box office. The sequel is due to have Elsa fall in love with a woman. The first openly gay princess may actually happen before 2020! And in the meantime, we have to buy our girls books like the wonderful Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

Today it’s International Women’s Day. I usually dread this day.

I fail to see how gathering up all the women who work for your company and posting a trite “We couldn’t do it without you” is empowering. In fact, it’s condescending and patronizing. Imagine if we collected all the people of a particular ethnic or racial group and took a photo of them and said the same thing! This would never be an appropriate social post. But somehow, on International Women’s Day, it is ok to corral all the females, take a picture and post some platitudes.

Well, no more.

I believe with all the current #MeToo movements, now more than ever, we need a new message. We need to tell new stories that teach right from the very beginning that women and men deserve to be treated and represented equally. For all of us.


May 19, 2017

2017 APAC Perspectives


When we were deciding the theme for this year’s conference we talked to both our customers and our team to try and get a sense of what’s ‘hot’ right now – what are the issues and the topics the industry is buzzing about.

Turns out we are all looking to the future and there is a sense of curiosity and anxiety around it, what it will bring, what organizational learning will look like and what the worker of the future will expect from their employer.

This led us to ‘Step into the Future of Learning and Talent’ as our theme and it is one we think is particularly relevant given how consumer-led content, technology, gamification, virtual reality and Gen Z are dramatically changing the way we approach learning and talent today.

So, what can you expect at APAC Perspectives on June 1?

We will be hearing from several our customers including the National Disability Services (NDS), Australia’s peak body for non-government disability service organisations, who represent more than 1100 non-government service providers who will discuss how they are using our platform to enable them to offer training capabilities to all their members.

I am looking forward to hearing what Michael McQueen, named in 2015 Australia’s Keynote Speaker of the Year, has to say about emerging trends shaping society and culture and how it impacts business decisions.

And finally, there will, as usual, be plenty of opportunities for you to network with your peers and learning professionals from the region. Our team of learning experts will also be  on hand to demo our new technology, show off our new content and offer their expertise to help you answer your most pressing questions.

Register, here.

May 15, 2017

Join Us at the 2017 India Perspectives


Stepping into the Future of Learning and Talent is the theme of our 2017 Perspectives conference this year.

What does that mean and why did we choose it?

Arguably, it could mean many things. But for us, as the leading provider of eLearning, we feel it is our duty to ensure our customers are prepared. Now while we can’t prepare you for absolutely everything, we can prepare you for the future workplace, the future worker, the future learner.

Let me assure you that the future looks different. Change is happening on every front: from consumer-led content and personalised technology, to gamification, virtual reality, and the arrival of Gen Z.

It is a future that will present people working in L&D and talent management with challenges, but challenges that can be easily met – if you’re prepared.

To ensure you are prepared, we’ve put together an agenda that encompasses all these areas and is filled with expert thought and insight into not only what to expect, but how to meet these expectations.

For starters, our Executive Chairman, Bill Donoghue, will give an overview of the changes we have made to our content, systems, and platforms over the past 12 months and how we plan to continue this growth in the future.

He will be followed by Apratim Purakayastha (AP), our CTO, who will discuss in greater detail our technology. Potoula Chresomales, SVP Product, will unveil Percipio, our new and exciting learning experience, while Bill Docherty, SVP Product, will talk everyone through the new SumTotal Future Roadmap.

Then, we will have a panel discussion moderated by Melissa Ries, VP & GM, APAC on Is Your Talent Future Ready and include Damodar Padhi, VP & Global Head – L&D, TCS, and Prithvi Shergill, ex-CHRO, HCL.

Lastly, from Skillsoft I’ll give you quick overview on all the fabulous new content we have completed and what else will soon be making its way to your systems.

Next, we’ll turn the day over to three of our customers – Tata Communications, Landmark Group, and Sun Pharma to show case their success stories.

Ester Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of People Matters will then host a lively and energetic debate on looking at the organizational learning with two lenses – HR and Business. This will be followed by the Keynote Address by Ashish Vidyarthi, National Award Winning Actor, Speaker, and Founder of AVID MINER.

To end, we will announce the winners of our 2017 India Innovation Awards.

We look forward to see you at 2017 India Perspectives on Thursday, May 18 at The Oberoi Mumbai.

Join us. Register here!

May 1, 2017

Step into the Future of Learning and Talent at EMEA Perspectives


“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”
- Alan Lakein

I am a huge fan of planning, and yes, I admit it might be some sort of control issue thing, but I will say this – it has served me very well in my career. You need to keep thinking and looking to the future if you want to thrive in business, and personally actually. Call it strategy or long term vision, it means the same. It means you are prepared, and that means success.

That we have chosen to focus on planning for the future of talent and learning for this year’s EMEA Perspectives makes me very happy. I want to see organisations thinking about the next “big thing” or the next generation of technology, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), and how it continues to revolutionize the workplace.

After all, no one wants to be blind-sided, or be left behind. Gen Z has just entered the workforce and technology is evolving faster than ever. We, as people, are changing too. We have different expectations around our career goals, our work-life balance, but at the same time, we are demanding more of our learning opportunities.

With our theme and focus on the Future of Talent and Learning this year, as well as many speakers talking on this topic, you will get to experience our brand new state of the market learning platform – Percipio – and see our new Platinum Skillsoft Courses. We will also showcase the latest release of our fully integrated SumTotal Talent, Learn, and Workforce Management suite 17.1 and our exciting 2017 roadmap for SumTotal featuring market leading social and mobile functionality.

As well as hearing from us, you’ll hear from thought leaders and customers:

  • David Wilson of Fosway Group will unveil the results of an extensive research project on the talent and learning landscape across EMEA. The insights and data this study will tell us what workplace learning looks like today, fundamental information needed when planning how it will look tomorrow.
  • The Future of Work with Felix Mitchell from Instant Impact, the awarding-winning graduate recruitment agency, who will hold a panel discussion on Millennials in the workplace.
  • Laura Overton, Founder and Managing Director of Towards Maturity, will reveal how best-in-class organisations are delivering improved performance through learning innovation.

I look forward to seeing you in London on May 16th.

Check out of the agenda and you can register, here.

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