For many years, Jeremy Tillman often tried running away from his backstory. However, now he runs to it, with the understanding that it has shaped the person he is today.
A businessman and entrepreneur, Tillman often thinks about the fact that “statistically speaking, I shouldn’t be here,” he told AL DÍA.
Originally from Alabama, Tillman grew up in public housing, his parents were separated, he lost his father at a young age, and his mother, while highly educated, struggled with substance use addiction for much of her life.
However, the value of education was always preached. Despite the challenges, Tillman and each of his four siblings all managed to go to college.
“I think that learning is the one thing that can take someone from where they are today, and help them get to where they want to be tomorrow,” he said.
That mindset has guided him as the founder and CEO of Trainup.com, the web’s largest career training marketplace which aims to present and provide solution-driven learning and development opportunities and technology exceeding customer and partner expectations.
Since founding the platform in 2004, Tillman has dedicated himself to empowering growth and shaping the future of learning.
Getting Started as an Entrepreneur
Tillman has always felt like he had an entrepreneurial mindset.
According to him, it stems from seeing the hard work many of his elders did.
His mother was one of nine children who grew up in a small three-bedroom house. She, and each of her four sisters went to college, while each of her four brothers started worked in carpentry and construction or start businesses.
On the other hand, Tillman’s grandmother worked at the Board of Education.
He saw how hard they worked, and even spent some summers working with them, which sparked some new ideas from him as he started college.
“To see my uncles have businesses that were successful in making an impact all around really inspired me to want to do something on my own, as well,” said Tillman.
Tillman would earn a scholarship to the University of Alabama. Part of the scholarship’s terms was that he had to work a campus job.
While there, he was in charge of managing the professional development training programs.
“In that process when I was in college, I said, ‘Hey, the internet is important. We can use technology to transform some of the paper processes,’” said Tillman, who noted that it was around the time that the internet boom was on.
This led to him building a training management system, which the university used for about a decade.
“Later, I look back and that experience was invaluable to help me start Trainup.com,” Tillman said.
A Vision Leads to TrainUp.com
With his understanding of the increased influence of the internet, Tillman became set on using it to impact learning and make it more accessible.
“At the time, Expedia and those types of service-based sites were picking up, [but] there was no way to find corporate learning and education very easily. It was very scattered,” he said.
For Tillman, the question was: How can we bring learning technology to the masses so that more companies
“In 2003, I began to put this business plan together and connected with some friends,” he reflected.
The following year, Trainup.com was officially launched. The mission is to present and provide solution-driven learning and development opportunities and technology.
As the internet has become a bigger part of our society, Tillman has seen technology evolve drastically over the years.
However, that’s not the case for all components.
“Even though I’m leveraging technology to try to bring learning accessibility to a higher place, I still feel the learning industry, and especially the corporate learning space, has not evolved and adapted as quickly as you would think,” he said.
Given his experience within the industry, Tillman has concluded that technology has evolved based on needs.
As tech-based companies strived to meet the needs of their customers — including expanding toward e-learning — Trainup.com represented them, helping them along the way.
When the transformation didn’t happen for many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift, becoming the catalyst for many to start looking at it as a possibility.
Trainup.com’s training categories include business skills training, finance training, health care training, HR training, industrial training, IT training, and legal training.
All for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
As an African-American entrepreneur, Tillman notes that he is often positioned “into a particular bucket.”
Due to that reality, Tillman has always strived to implement an effective DE&I approach to Trainup.com.
However, he admits that early on, the organization “fell into some of the same traps that many organizations did around this particular topic.”
When it comes to implementing an effective DE&I approach, Tillman and the leaders of many other organizations have learned that training alone wasn’t enough.
“What happens is it stirs up a lot of emotions and a lot of thought, but that doesn’t necessarily get to the root of it,” Tillman noted.
At Trainup.com, a heavy focus is placed on the inclusion component.
“If you don’t help organizations build an inclusive culture, then the diversity efforts that we make sometimes don’t have the impact,” said Tillman.
This can lead to low motivation, an unwelcoming work environment, and employee alienation.
Therefore, Trainup.com focuses on helping companies build safe continuous learning communities, have dialogues and conversations around DE&I, and create a space to explore ideas, celebrate successes and promote inclusion within these companies.
The most important thing is for these efforts to be sustained over the course of several years.
“Our heartbeat is that we want to see diverse leaders be able to have an impact within organizations,” said Tillman.
As he eyes the future, Tillman is looking forward to continuing expanding and further helping companies with their professional development in this age of our society.