TalentSprout® specializes in the art and science of people: developing them, empowering them, delighting them.

We believe learning is not a disruption, but rather is the most important aspect of one’s work. Our mission is to reinvent the way training is done.The Team

Our Team

We are a interdisciplinary team of learning, design, and technology specialists united by the singular goal of putting the learner front and center.

Matthew Christensen
Vice President, Talent Technologies

IMG_2052My first job out of college was building an online genetics textbook, and from that point on my career has focused around e-learning technology. On the way I’ve managed teams that built learning management systems, learning content management systems, recruiting systems, classroom assistance tools, and integration engines, with brief forays into other areas like back-end software for trading firms.

I like to emphasize that technology is a tool to enable learning, not an end goal. The real work is done by the educators, designers, and students. The best part of my job is seeing how we’ve made people’s lives easier.

Robbie Conaway
Creative Director

IMG_1964I spent 3 years as a professional illustrator, 12 years in an internationally touring rock band, and 5 years in advertising, which is where I learned most of the skills I utilize today as Creative Director. My responsibilities include script reviews, storyboarding, photography, songwriting and recording, animation, cinematography, compositing, video editing, graphic design, and illustration. I take the great ideas from our amazing team of instructional designers and work together with them to bring it into reality. I utilize green screen with 3D and 2D animation along with on-location filming to create the media for our clients. I love my job and the people I work with.

Most days you can find me pushing pixels on my computer, playing guitar, or biking with a camera slung over my shoulder.

Brian Davies
Director Learning Technology

IMG_2017Brian has a B.A. in computer science from Bowdoin College, and an M.S. from Northwestern University, specializing in application of artificial intelligence algorithms to educational software. He has been working professionally in educational software for 20 years, both in academia and the business world. He is dedicated to making authoring tools and courseware that are usable, reliable, maintainable, interoperable, and beautiful.

John Kruper
Chief Learning Officer

IMG_2082My dad was an electrical engineer who was granted 13 patents working at Westinghouse’s R&D lab. My mom taught public school first-graders for over 40 years. So if it’s true the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then that explains why I’ve spent my career working to combine science and education. Reduced to a sentence, I am passionate about studying and building environments that enable people to connect and learn.

My own learning started with undergraduate and graduate degrees in the basic sciences (molecular biology and molecular virology). But while at the bench practicing how to do science, I became fascinated with how people learned about science. That led me to a doctorate and post-doctorate in science education, which in turn led to stints at the University of Chicago, Allegheny College, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where I taught numerous courses and ran educational technology groups.

With the birth of the Internet in the late ’90s, I saw the opportunity to apply emerging technologies to education (heck, how many people can say the presented a keynote at the First International World Wide Web Conference?), and so I joined an ambitious online learning startup called UNext, which grew to become Cardean Learning Group. There, I rose to the rank of Chief Learning Scientist and along the way worked with Nobel Laureates, learning scientists, and technologists to develop some of the most progressive online business and general education courses of the time.

Then, in 2007, I heard about another startup with a revolutionary idea: rather than bringing people to the work, why not bring work to the people? Wanting to help create what is now called the “work-at-home” industry, I joined Alpine Access and built their 100% virtual online recruiting and training solutions. After growing the company from $25M to $100M in five-years, we were acquired by SYKES Enterprises in 2012, where I was promoted to Chief Learning Officer and today lead our market-facing TalentSprout group and oversee enterprise talent development of SYKES’ 50,000 worldwide employees.

Science and education, connecting and learning: These are the themes that have come to define me and my work. And hopefully, along the way I’ve combined them in enough new, creative, and impactful ways that my mom and dad would be proud.

Carl Puccio
Vice President, Talent Management

IMG_2004Hi. My name is Carl Puccio. I have the honor and the responsibility of heading up the Learning Design and Development team at TalentSprout. I’ve been doing instructional design and development work for 25 years. I know, I’m ancient.

I started my career as an instructional designer at RR Donnelley, where I learned a great deal about learner engagement, video production, and what was then called “multimedia.”

At Accenture, I had the chance to study how adults learn and how smart, competitive people behave in business settings. I also gained a ton of experience creating goal-based scenarios and learning simulations and working with teams of experts.

During my time at Accenture, I was introduced to the man who eventually became my mentor, Dr. Charlie Palmgren—my interactions with Charlie completely transformed the way that I viewed leadership.

In 2000 I had to be part of the Internet BOOM—who didn’t?—and I also participated in the Internet Bust in 2001, as so many others did as well.

After 12 years of corporate learning and development, I then moved to online higher education. For the next 7 years, I was able to work with the most bleeding-edge entrepreneurs and led many talented learning designers and creative media people. After helping the institution achieve accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, I followed Dr. John Kruper to work at Alpine Access—a virtual call center headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

I knew nothing about call centers except that earlier in my career I was often told—”don’t ever work at one.” As a creative person who values quality and process awareness, I can’t say I ever saw the call center industry as a natural fit for who I am, what I do, or what I value.

While there have been moments where I’ve found that to be true—I’ve found it to be true for almost everywhere I’ve worked—I can say that over the past 7 years there have been far more instances when being different from the industry’s cultural norm has been useful, welcomed, and valued. If you genuinely value people, can write well, and want to create amazing learning experiences for others—then come check out our learning design and develop team. I’m biased, of course, but they are awesome!

Brian Shumaker
Manager, Global Learning Services

I’ve been working in Instructional Design, educational technology, and web publishing for 5+ years. I’m a big fan of the “learn by doing” model—it’s how I’ve learned almost everything I do day-to-day, from developing interactive modules using publishing software, to coding, to perfecting whatever my next musical project is. I do a lot of performing (classical singing & conducting) on the side and try to incorporate it into my work whenever possible. I also love opera and sports.

Adam Zamora
Director, Cloud Operations

IMG_2023I have been working in and around technology and learning my entire career. I’ve had the good fortune to see technology used in education from multiple perspectives: from higher education to the enterprise. Most recently, I’ve specialized using cloud-based technology infrastructure in the Enterprise. I enjoy dodging traffic on a bicycle around Chicago and spending time outdoors, even during polar vortices!

Cyndy Witz-Gebhardt
Director, TalentSprout Operations

It’s more apparent to me now than ever that project and process management was deep-rooted in my psyche even at the tender age of five years; some of my earliest childhood memories involve me carefully managing the time my twin brother and I spent at the playground. Ever the free spirit (as a child should be), he would mosey around without a care in the world, whereas I was concerned that if he and I weren’t judicious enough with our minutes and seconds spent on the slide or monkey bars, we wouldn’t have enough time to suitably enjoy the swings.

My path to this profession wasn’t a perfectly linear one, however – my early interests and undergraduate education centered on writing as opposed to business or project management. Post-undergrad, sustainable work as a writer wasn’t easy to find, and in the blink of an eye, I found myself working at a large education corporation. What I thought would be a temporary position until I could find my way as a writer became the start of a legitimate career path in project management. I continued down this path at Northwestern University, where I was privileged to work alongside experts in distance learning and world-class professors as I managed a portfolio of projects to create quality, engaging, and 100% asynchronous learning opportunities for NU’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS).

It was during my time as a full-time employee at NU that I completed a master’s degree in business and project management; I’ve since held project, program, and portfolio management roles for companies including Juice Interactive, a rapidly growing digital design and development agency in Chicago, and Pearson, a well-known global education company. In each of these roles, one constant has remained – I’ve managed project teams as well as project space processes to ensure on-time and on-budget completion of large-scale initiatives for universities and corporations alike.

My ideal work environment is one in which I am privileged to interact closely with people who are not only intelligent, but highly innovative. To that end, I can’t think of a more appropriate place I could have landed than at TalentSprout; herein lies a unique group of collaborative, passionate and hard-working individuals who are bursting with creativity and thoughtfulness.

Learning Design & Development
Jason Miles
Facilitation Manager

Jason Miles brings over 15 years of facilitation experience to his role as Facilitation Manager at TalentSprout. Since joining TalentSprout in 2007, he has helped to design and launch new hire training for numerous clients including Sprint, Microsoft, Capital One, and Cardinal Health.

Jason lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and 3 children. When he is not working he likes to spend time with his family playing sports and exploring the great outdoors.

Alexander Pegg
Instructional Designer

Hi! I  joined the TalentSprout family as an Instructional Designer in late 2015. I have a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University. Before coming to TalentSprout, I covered Hurricane Katrina at the Times-Picayune, covered market research at a small trade magazine, and I’ve been creating instructional content for clients since 2009.

I strive for clear, concise writing that makes complex concepts easier to approach. I’ve come to realize that more than just writing to inform, I want to help people be better at what they do.

While I may stay glued to a computer screen all day, my heart’s true home is the kitchen. I love to cook! I also like to read, run and create content for roleplaying games.

Colin Roberts
Instructional Designer

pic4bPrior to joining TalentSprout as an instructional designer, Colin spent seven years working as an English teacher in Indiana. During his time as an educator, he worked hard to design curriculum that was both engaging and utilized technology. Colin earned his B.A. in Education at Purdue University where he met his beautiful wife. When he isn’t working, Colin enjoys remodeling his house, traveling, and watching the Cubs.

Katie Robbins
Instructional Designer

pic3bHi! I am one of the newer members of the instructional design team. Before starting with TalentSprout, I taught higher education writing, literature, and film for around 8 years. A couple of years ago, I began to realize that my favorite part of teaching was actually the design and so began to work on my PhD in Education Studies with a focus on Instructional Technology. In addition to being a full-time employee, I am also working on my dissertation in digital texts, which is a combination of all of my interests: Shakespeare, literacy, instructional design, and education technology. When I want to take a break from writing, I love to cook and binge-watch shows on Netflix and Hulu.

Matthew Siefert
Instructional Designer

Matthew Siefert joined TalentSprout as an Instructional Designer in 2016. After starting out his career as a writer in marketing communications, Matthew moved on to ply his trade in a learning environment where he developed instructional content for more than five years. During this time, he was privileged to work with many esteemed clientele, conceptualizing and crafting clear, concise and creative content designed to facilitate an engaging learning experience. Now at TalentSprout, every day he looks forward to upping the amperage on that creative output with all of his fine colleagues as we seek to Make Learning Fun Again™. Matthew earned his degree in Journalism from Northern Illinois University in 2006.

Outside of the office Matthew enjoys absorbing and performing music, reading Southern Gothic novels and theological texts that he’ll likely never really fully grasp, going on long walks (or a short run), watching a good baseball game, and traveling to faraway lands.

Niké Basurto
Instructional Designer
Hi! My name is Niké (Nee-Kay). For me, learning is about more than memorizing facts and robotically completing tasks. True learning gives people the tools to process information, assess situations, resolve challenges and build relationships. These skills are valuable for individual and business growth.

I designed and facilitated learning in the nonprofit arena as a portion of several positions and other responsibilities for 15 years. My commitment to collaborating with people and organizations to reach their full potential, led me to pursue and complete Master of Social Work and Master of Arts Training and Development degrees. Focusing on learner-centered, results-oriented instructional design here at TalentSprout is an amazing experience.

I am also an avid gardener, amateur chef, music fan and a dutiful pet parent. If dancing with cats while cooking and laughing were an Olympic event, I’d bring home the gold!

Todd Tumaneng
Instructional Designer

Hello, my name is Todd! Before joining the TalentSprout team as an Instructional Designer I worked as a training and development coordinator charged primarily with designing and delivering the organization’s new hire orientation training.

My undergraduate degree is in East Asian Studies and Japanese and after a brief stint as a corporate trainer, I decided to pursue that interest by moving to Japan and working as an ESL teacher. I enjoyed working with both elementary and junior high school students and I credit that experience with imparting to me the importance of active learning.

My return to the states forced me to come to grips with the harsh reality that billionaire superhero isn’t a real job and so I decided to parlay my fascination with how people learn into a career as an instructional designer, receiving a master’s degree in training and development in 2016.

I am fascinated with the effect that “situatedness” can have on one’s learning and when I’m not preoccupied with making training more active and learner-centered, I enjoy practicing traditional Japanese martial arts and riding my motorcycle, proving that even with an awesome job, surrounded by great people, I’m still just a kid pretending to be Bruce Wayne.

Talent Technologies

Roberto Fernandez
Simulation Engineer

IMG_2016I’ve been working with computers for about 10 years now. I also teach about them and I am always trying to find new ways people can practice and take advantage of all their potential. Programming is a challenge that allows me to make the best of both worlds; to be creative while working with computers and generate new things to help people in their learning process. In my free time I like to work on scale modeling projects and research new technologies.

Jonathan Gray
Senior Software Engineer

IMG_2001Mathematics teacher turned software engineer, Jonathan has been working for 20 years as a developer, and with the exception of a two-year stint in the banking industry he has been involved in online education initiatives since 2000. Since joining TalentSprout in the fall of 2012, he has focused his energies on system stability, durability, and scalability, always with an eye to improving the experiences of our users. In his words: Software should be intuitive, useful, and a joy to use.

Ben Mueller
Software Architect

pic2dBen snaked his way to software engineering via a circuitous route starting with screenwriting and rock music, curving to e-learning content development and project management, before figuring out about 15 years ago that programming gives you a way better life than any of those other things. Since then, he has been at his happiest when building tools and platforms to enable the rapid development, deployment, maintenance, and marketing of e-learning courses. In his free time, he writes music, sips a responsible amount of single malt, and obsesses about how not to destroy his back and knees while out running in the wee hours of the morning.

Nicholas Perich
Interaction Designer

IMG_1995Nick contributes to the user experience design, UI engineering, and visual design of our products. He has worked as a product designer at TalentSprout since receiving a master’s degree in Human–Computer Interaction and Philosophy from Virginia Tech. His West Virginia roots come through when he selects karaoke songs

Bryan Wakefield
Office Manager

pic6Much like the rest of the team, Bryan followed a circuitous path to TalentSprout. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Theatrical Performance from Northern Illinois University, he have been an active member of the Chicago Theatre Community for nearly a decade.

But as the saying goes, “One job feeds the mouth, the other feeds the soul.” I am lucky enough that the job that feeds the mouth is to support such a bright, talented, and — most importantly — creative team dedicated to improving education through technology and technology through education.