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Featured on May 24, 2011

Danya Cheskis-Gold

"P.M.A., Positive Mental Attitude. - My grandfather, Papa Barz"


I'm a community builder, networker, recruiter, & all-around scrappy go-getter.

PRE: For four years, I worked towards changing the face of education for kids in this country as a member of Teach For America’s recruitment team. I sought out, built relationships with, and convinced hundreds of teachers and staff members to join the movement to end educational inequity.

PERI: In pursuit of a way to give back on a global scale, I joined American Jewish World Service Global Circle (yup, it’s a mouthful!), fell in love with its mission to empower local leaders in their own communities, attended every event they had & am now a member of its Steering Committee.

Recently, I made a crafty transition from the non-profit world to the tech sector by telling anyone and everyone how passionate I am about the intersection of social impact and technology. I got my hands dirty with a few different social impact startup projects, and...voila! I'm now the Skillshare Community Manager (read: Most Enthusiastic Evangelist, Queen of Questions & Answers, Biggest Teacher Advocate, Lover of Learning...and the list goes on).

POST: Always seeking to engage with action-oriented, forward-thinking people, discover and become ever more myself than I am now (& to help others feel that excitement, too), & eat lots of cheese and savor rocky New England beaches.

  • Title: Community Manager, Skillshare
  • Age: 26
  • Location: LES, Brooklyn
  • Contact: @danyacg, blog

Whom do you admire?

Oh man, I don't want to start out all cheesy, but I'm gonna go ahead and say it anyway: my mom!  She did institutional research at an Ivy League university for years and felt really stifled by the limits of not being her own boss, so she went out on a limb and founded a consulting company for institutions of higher education (she helps them figure out how to do any/everything, from housing to food to athletics!) - she's at the top of her game, basically created an entirely new field, and loves her job literally every single day.  She's an incredible connector, too, and is one of the most convincing people I know, whether she's trying to get a restaurant to make her something that's not even on the menu or she's locking in a deal with a tough-to-get client.  I admire her slash totally want to be her, and it's her entrepreneurial spirit that contributed largely to my own decision to join the startup world!

Nepotism aside, I'm pretty obsessed with Garance Doré, French fashion blogger.  Her taste is impeccable, her humor is adorable, and her photography is so honest.   

You mention in your bio that you consider yourself a networker.  Any tips for new entrepreneurs to improve their networking skills?

Actually, when I first learned about the Community Manager role, I had to pinch myself it was so perfect. Spend all of my time interacting with smart, interesting, forward-thinking people? Yes, please.  I landed my current position at Skillshare by doing just that - I had no clue what Mashable or TechCrunch were, and I certainly had never heard of Paul Graham or Eric Ries, but I knew that I'd need to learn a ton about the startup world before trying to become a part of it, so I reached out to all of the people I knew who had either started their own companies or worked in VC and got my learn on.  Every connection bred another one, and each each blog I read surfaced a person or company that I wanted to get in touch with.  Soon enough, people started proactively reaching out to me after we had met to suggest I connect with so-and-so because our interests/talents might's an amazing cycle that really runs on its own once you get it started.

So, my best advice to new entrepreneurs re: networking is "always be selling."  First, figure out what your story is - what you want people to say about you behind your back or when you leave the room (what values/skills you want to be known for) and what you want (whether it's a job or a date) - then tell it.  ALL THE TIME.  EVERYWHERE.  The more people know what you're seeking and how passionate you are about X, Y, or Z, the more they'll want to help you. You've gotta be really proactive, too, so, even when it's a rainy night and you're really tired but there's a meetup where you could totally meet your technical co-funder, get off your butt and go. 

What have you found to be best resources and/or tools that you use to do your job as Community Manager at Skillshare?

I did a TON of research about the Community Manager role before I started my job at Skillshare, since the role can really vary depending on your company, on the size of your team, etc.  I actually wrote my own job description and go back to that often to make sure I'm rooting myself in the specific responsibilities that are most important for the Skillshare community to grow and be healthy - happy to share with anyone who'd like to see it!  I also am blown away by the incredibly welcoming & supportive nature of the Community Manager network.  I recommend plugging into the Community Manager, Advocate, and Evangelist Facebook group (which has an incredibly active Wall), the CMmeetup Meetup group (great, great events), The Glue Project (very informative and insightful interviews with community builders like Caterina Fake of Flickr and Scott Heiferman of Meetup), and follow @CommunityCrew, @TheSocialCMO, and @CMmeetup on Twitter.

Community Management