Last January, Lynda.com became the first title sponsor for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, a connection that boosted the film fest budget while introducing everyday Santa Barbarans to its hometown technology-education business. The collaboration was largely due to the relationship between film fest executive director Roger Durling and Lynda.com’s cofounder/co-owner Lynda Weinman, so we asked the two to sit down and chat about the company, philanthropy, and life in general. Here’s an edited version of that conversation.
Your Web site users are very passionate about its services. Universally, they say, “I love to learn here.” It kind of restores your faith in humanity’s desire to want to better one’s self. Education is in such a tumultuous state right now. Lynda.com is so accessible to so many people. It offers a service where self-motivated learners are willing to pay a reasonable fee and feel like they’re getting the kind of value where they say they love it.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s out of a job right now and needs to reinvent him or herself? Being willing to really see where your gaps are in your knowledge and what’s holding you back from getting a job, really being honest about it instead of just being bitter and going, “Oh, there are no openings for me.” People get paralyzed when they’re afraid, but so many things come out of adversity that are good. Even for us, we can chart our own success to many doors that got closed in our face and just trying to figure out a way to do that in spite of the fact that we were told we couldn’t.
It’s obvious you love what you do. I explored a lot of different career paths and had a lot of different career experiences, but when I taught myself how to use a computer, I was just so delighted. I couldn’t believe the sort of childlike joy it gave me to master this really overwhelming and intimidating foreign, alien thing. Then to share that kind of enthusiasm with other people who were afraid of it and then watch them transform to being excited and seeing that it was just a tool for self-expression was, to me, finding my passion.
Tell me about your look. How did it come about? It’s been pretty accidental. I was actually upset with Bruce when he drew the logo and it looked like me, and I accused him of turning me into the See’s Candies lady, which he’ll never let me forget because the logo looks nothing like the See’s Candies lady.
Do you feel like the hair and the glasses are part of the costume now? A little bit, but not really. I like to change. I get really bored. You just haven’t known me long enough to see that I do, but if you were to look through pictures of me over the last couple of decades, I change my look very frequently. I’m just kind of stuck on one right now.
You’ve become the new face of philanthropy in Santa Barbara. Why give to the arts? (Thank you, by the way.) The film festival was partially a marketing effort on our part to identify with an audience that most likely would be interested in Lynda.com: people who are either creative or interested in creativity. It’s a form of giving back. We are also very big sponsors of the UCSB Arts & Lectures series. Bruce and I have both always been attracted to artists who are more on the edge, and we have so much respect for the level of curation that happens at the Film Festival and that happens at the Arts & Lectures series.
You’re also now involved with Lotusland. Well, look at Lotusland: It’s a very eccentric garden, very artistic. It’s a really out-there person who sold her diamonds to buy cactus. I just love that story, and I just love that place.
Are you and Ganna Walska kindred spirits? I have always been drawn to artists and eccentrics, but I am neither. Ganna’s garden touches my soul and inspires my spirit.
Even in most successful marriages, people who love their spouses admit that they wouldn’t want to work all day with them. But you and Bruce work well together. We’re inseparable.
What’s the secret? It’s taken us a while to learn how to work and live together. Every marriage has its problems. Every couple has their moments. We just happen to have this freak combination of talents. We’re very different, yet our talents are so much bigger when combined than when they are on their own. I just feel that we are incredibly lucky that we met each other. In a lot of ways, it made no sense on paper: I’m 13 years older than Bruce; he was a student when I met him; I was already an established professional with many career successes behind me. I really unexpectedly fell in love with him.
After eight hours at work, do you draw the line at home and say it’s private time? No. When there’s no difference between your life and your work, that’s very pleasurable and stimulating. We always have things to talk about with each other, and we always have challenges that we are facing together.
I remember when I watched the movie The Social Network, because it shows the meteoric rise of Facebook. Even though Lynda.com hasn’t gotten to the level of Facebook or anywhere close to it, we’ve had this incredible growth and incredible success. In the middle of that movie, I grabbed his hand and said, “Thank God we have each other,” because you look at how hard it was to be a single person going through that and all the people who wanted things from you and all the decisions that you have to make and all the jealousies and different challenges. If you have another person you trust 100 percent to go through that with, you’re so lucky.
It’s come with its challenges. We used to fight a lot more in the earlier days. In fact, there was even a period of time where he didn’t work in the office — he worked at home, and I worked in the office because we just couldn’t get along in the office. Now we have offices next to each other, and it’s really nice.