This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life” series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout February, we’re celebrating Black History Month and featuring members of one of our Business Resource Networks: the Black Engagement Network (BNet).
Immanuel “Manny” Golden recognizes the value he brings to the student experience in 2U-powered programs. As he so eloquently puts it, “I know how to identify with students, whether they are starters, changers, or advancers. I think that’s because I am constantly reinventing myself—never intentionally staying stagnant, and using the skills I’ve gained from past experiences to forge the building blocks for success in new ones.”
This versatility, adaptability, and ability to put himself in students’ shoes is no surprise, as Manny comes from a family of educators: His mother is a high school technology teacher and continuing education provider, while his father is a higher education administrator. Prior to joining 2U last March, Manny’s own trajectory took him from empowering students to be “the captains of their career path” at Nova Southeastern University to facilitating a pathway program for international students needing extracurricular support at Florida Atlantic University.
Eventually, Manny craved new challenges, as his professional growth had begun to stall. He departed FAU to work on various entrepreneurial projects with his family’s continuing education company. While there, he developed curriculum, supported their instructional team, and even built their online learning academy.
When Manny decided to branch out on his own once more, he knew he wanted to work with 2U in a career coaching capacity. But given his breadth of talents, his path veered ever-so-slightly again—right from the get-go in his 2U interview. In just under a year with the company, Manny has now found his sweet spot as a career services curriculum engineer with 2U-powered boot camp programs. And he attributes an increase in inspiration, confidence to step beyond his comfort zone, and willingness to embrace change to his participation in one of 2U’s Business Resource Networks: the Black Engagement Network (BNet).
Eager to learn more about Manny’s journey so far, his role on the career services team, his involvement in BNet, and what electrifies his days at 2U? Read on for a day in the life of this uniquely well-rounded 2Ute intently focused on students’ career success.
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
I joined 2U for a number of reasons! It was the mission (mainly because I “Give a Damn”), culture, people, demographic of students, industry reputation, ability to work remotely...the list goes on. I wanted to be a part of a mission-driven company that has a deep impact on the student experience, and I knew 2U was a perfect place for me to add value and further develop my skills. Initially, I applied for a profile coach role on the boot camp side of the business. During my interview, I was asked if I would consider a career director position instead, based on my previous coaching and advising experience. After meeting a few members of the team, I couldn’t pass up the offer!
How would you describe your current role as a curriculum engineer?
My curriculum engineer role is a part of the career service curriculum experience team; I play an integral role in integrating career-focused content into our boot camp programs. We help maximize the student experience by using data to deliver polished, meaningful, and professional career content across all program verticals. Our goal is to build high-quality content that is standardized, as well as customizable by program, in order to increase employer-ready-at-graduation rates.
I thrive in environments where I get to think outside the box and be creative in my approach to meet the needs of students. I specifically work with the Product Management, Technology Project Management, and Student Success teams, providing crucial industry expertise and instructional design feedback. In addition, I get the opportunity to work on other special projects outside the scope of my role that impact degree-seeking and boot camp students.
What compelled you to join 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet)? What has been your involvement so far?
While navigating through the hiring process last February, I read a ton about 2U and stumbled upon the “A Day in the Life'' profiles of Black 2Utes, including Nadja Shaw, director of learning and development strategy. Immediately, I knew this was a network I wanted to be a part of, if given the opportunity to join 2U, and it energized me to push through the interview process. I still use Nadja’s advice for new 2Utes to this day! After joining the company, I gave myself three months to learn my role and then branch out to join BNet. Little did I know, the death of George Floyd was going to adjust my timeline. I immediately started attending BNet Open Space, a safe, weekly forum for Black 2Utes to come together and connect. Though I acted as more of a fly on the wall, hearing Black people talk about their unique experiences, and the impact police brutality has had on them and their families, resonated with me.
Though BNet helped me process the realities of living in a country where my Blackness is seen as a threat, I still wasn’t comfortable sharing my story. That was until September when my co-worker Iris Gardner recommended me for a Q&A professional development session with the Denver chapter of BNet. This forced me to be vulnerable in a way I had never been before.
It’s been kind of a whirlwind since: I transitioned into my current role as a curriculum engineer in November, led a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conversation with my team entitled “This is My House” in January, and now I will be part of BNet’s Black Professional LGBTQ+ Panel as part of 2U’s company-wide Black History Month initiatives.
Throughout my journey at 2U, co-workers have challenged me to be more vulnerable. By engaging with BNet and DEI activities, I’ve learned that my experiences are no less important than anyone else's, but it is my unique story to share. Whether as a vocal champion or silent contributor, I plan to be even more involved with BNet moving forward.
What’s it like having your manager in BNet as well?
My manager Shaté Hayes is a true champion for BNet! Shaté is my first Black manager in my career, and being a part of her team and receiving the professional development I need at this point in my career is such a privilege. She always finds ways to bring conversations and learnings from BNet over into our career services work. Just last fall, she created a space for Black 2Utes working in boot camp career services to connect and have deeper discussions about our experiences as Black people in and out of 2U.
Black History Month just started—what does it mean to you? How do you plan to celebrate/honor it this year?
For me, Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the power and influence of Black people past, present, and future. Through the adversity that still exists today, we are resilient; our triumphs are examples of a people who have persevered, and who will continue to do so. My identity as a Black gay man and as an alumnus of Savannah State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), emphasizes my responsibility to continue the work started by those who came before me. The world’s awareness and appreciation of Black excellence hasn't even reached the tip of the iceberg, and I want to continue to positively influence my community in the way my ancestors imagined. Maya Angelou once said, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” For me, Black history is every day, and I will continue to celebrate my community, even when it’s no longer a trend to do so.
You were raised by a family that believes in the value of an education. What are your thoughts on lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning is an important part of me and my values. Recognizing my privilege as a Black man to have a mother with a graduate degree, a father pursuing a terminal degree in education, and a partner who recently completed a doctoral program in higher education, I know that learning is an integral part of who I am. Whether you continue learning from a short course, a degree program, on-the-job training, or a boot camp, I think it's important to have a growth mindset. In the near future, I plan to enroll in short courses that focus on instructional design and learning and development. I’m also looking into some project management LinkedIn Learning courses provided through 2U.
Next month, you’ll have been at 2U a full year. What’s been the highlight of your experience so far?
The highlight of my experience has been the opportunity to transition from career director to curriculum engineer. This transition has taught me to “stand in my power” and never downplay my talents. Every day in my career director role, I talked to students about overcoming their challenges with imposter syndrome, yet I was also battling my own version of it. This uneasy feeling had significantly challenged me in the past and impacted my pursuit of job opportunities and promotions. I’m now surrounded by people like my previous manager Norma Zamora, who has been one of my champions in constantly reassuring me that I belong and that I need to “take up space” in my role, on my team, and at 2U. In sum, my professional growth has been the highlight of my experience so far.
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?
Be unapologetically you. From my unique experience, there hasn’t been a point at 2U when I have not been able to be my authentic self.
Attach yourself to the transformative impact of 2U’s mission. Identify two or three of the company’s nine Guiding Principles to ground you in helping 2U eliminate the back row in education. Personally, “Give a Damn” and “Be Candid, Honest, and Open” are my favorites; they help me stay focused on the student experience and how our work impacts learners in so many positive ways.
Lastly, communication is key. If you are interested in growing within 2U, find a way to articulate your value, network with members who are a part of other departments outside of your team, and build authentic connections, because (and this is another 2U Guiding Principle!) Relationships Matter. Don’t just focus on your performance, but discover ways to increase your exposure and take on collaborative projects outside the scope of your day-to-day duties.
Most importantly, this is your journey, your unique experience, so find ways to have fun!
Learn more about us.
At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.