OpenSesame Employee Spotlight: Dave McFarland

Dave McFarland

Senior Manager of Content

Portland, Oregon


For Dave McFarland, arriving at Senior Manager of Content for OpenSesame in early 2020 was the culmination of a teaching, design, and video production career. Dave has a discerning eye for the highest quality educational content and diverse voices. Today, he uses his experience to assemble best-in-class elearning, empowering all types of learners across the globe to grow their skills and knowledge. “It’s my team’s job to ensure the talent and experts in our catalog truly represent the diversity of our customer base,” Dave said. “It’s incredibly important the learners and our customers see themselves reflected in our courses and material.”

Briefly describe your role.

I lead a team that brings courses into the OpenSesame catalog that are exclusively available from us. We produce content for our catalog by working with subject matter experts and elearning developers to bring in new courses that match our customers’ topic and feature needs.

How did you get into the field you’re in?

I’ve been an instructor and trainer of adult learners for — well, let’s just say a long time. I was initially a web developer and designer as a magazine art director. I was interested in teaching people new skills. That led to teaching adult learners at universities, corporations, and continuing education programs. From there, I got into online video instruction, teaching computer programming and managed an educational programming and video team. At OpenSesame, we review lots of visual footage; I bring a design eye to producing courses. 

How has your OpenSesame team maintained a sense of community through the pandemic era?

I manage folks who work remotely — even before the pandemic — and the change to a remote culture has helped them feel more included in the organization and build stronger ties with their colleagues. Being a more remote company has certainly opened up avenues for hiring. It’s a positive we are increasing our talent pool. 

In what ways have you been supported by the OpenSesame team or culture?

The company’s response to the pandemic was terrific. The leadership team acted quickly to protect everyone’s safety. We’ve all worked hard to build an inclusive and vibrant remote culture to replace the in-person office life. The new programs — morning meditation, afternoon yoga, monthly online activities, and team virtual happy hours — have energized me during these difficult times. 

What has been the best part of working in your role? 

I get to work with so many fascinating subject matter experts and creatives outside our organization. I’ve talked to folks worldwide about their work, research, and the creative process of building exciting elearning opportunities.

How has the work you do changed following 2020? 

We’ve increased our publisher quality standards. We’ve been growing diversity in the content we produce. It’s my team’s job to ensure the talent and experts in our catalog truly represent the diversity of our customer base. It’s incredibly important the learners and our customers see themselves reflected in our courses and material.

What is your favorite course in the OS catalog?

The Power of Journaling by OpenMindI’ve learned so many great techniques to focus, embrace gratitude, and explore my thoughts, and get organized.

What is your favorite TED course?

The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown I’m a people manager. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s powerful to be vulnerable. You can become more human and create deeper bonds of trust. It flips the traditional narrative. 

What is the most unique thing about working at OpenSesame?

The leadership is fantastic. They have embraced transparency, empathy, and diversity and are willing to share so much with employees. The company structure was described to me as an inverted functional pyramid. At the top are the customers, then front-line folks, and then down to leadership at the bottom. Customers drive what we do. Our support people hear and communicate the customers’ needs down the chain. The people on the team who work closely with our customers are the real value of the organization. Leadership is here to support them. 

What advice would you give to new OS hires?

Ask lots of questions, seek help and meet as many people as possible — especially across teams. We have a friendly, giving, and collaborative culture. The sooner you learn the things you don’t know by reaching out, the sooner you’ll build working relationships that match our culture.


What makes a team member successful at OpenSesame?

Initiative, inquisitiveness, and humility


What’s something people may not know about you?

I dropped out of college for a semester and was a short-order cook at a breakfast place. It was the single best training I could have received in project management, prioritization, and customer service.