A leading Silicon Slopes company’s co-founder and CEO is stepping down

The co-founder of Pluralsight, based in Draper, will stay on as a ‘special advisor’ to the new CEO.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Aaron Skonnard, seen here at the Silicon Slopes Summit in 2022, has stepped down as CEO of Pluralsight, the Draper-based technology workforce development company he co-founded.

One of Silicon Slopes’ pioneers is handing over the reins of the company he helped start.

Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of the Draper-based tech company Pluralsight, stepped down Tuesday after 20 years at the helm, the company announced Tuesday.

Taking over as president and CEO, effective immediately, is Chris Walters, Pluralsight announced in a news release. Walters, the release said, is an industry veteran who comes from outside the company, most recently was CEO of Avantax, a tax-focused wealth management company.

Skonnard will keep a foot in the door at Pluralsight, as a special advisor to the board and to Walters, the news release said.

Pluralsight, which touts itself as “the leading technology workforce development company,” is one of Utah’s most high-profile tech companies. The Draper company is a “unicorn” — a private startup valued at more than $1 billion — but has faced a turbulent couple of years.

It briefly went public in 2018 and reported a net losses of $163.5 million and $164 million the two following years, according to SEC filings. Vista Equity Partners bought the company for $3.8 billion in 2021 and took it private again.

Pluralsight has enacted several rounds of layoffs since 2022, including a recent bout last month. Several former employees on LinkedIn tallied at least six cuts in 18 months. The company cut roughly 20% of its workforce — around 400 people — in December 2020. The company did not say how many people were affected in subsequent layoffs.

A company spokesperson said in March that the layoffs affected product and technology teams and were done “to align the right people to the right roles so that we can accelerate innovation and create even greater value for our customers.”

The state awarded Pluralsight a tax incentive worth up to $21.5 million in 2017 if it could create roughly 2,400 jobs over 10 years. According to the state’s database, Pluralsight has qualified for zero to 25% of that total credit.

Skonnard helped found Silicon Slopes, the nonprofit responsible for an annual tech summit, in 2016 and still serves on its board of directors. The nonprofit’s moniker is a nod to what was once considered a burgeoning tech community along Wasatch Front — an alternative “Silicon Valley” here in Utah.

Skonnard was appointed to the state’s Board of Higher Education in June, and has been a leading voice in pushing the state to strengthen its tech training in schools. He was inducted to the Utah Technology Council Hall of Fame in 2017.

Skonnard, in a statement to The Tribune, said, “20 years ago I co-founded Pluralsight in the heart of Silicon Slopes, and could never have imagined the company would evolve to be a global leader in technology skills development.”

He continued: “While I am stepping away from my day-to-day responsibilities as CEO, I am committed to Pluralsight’s future success and will remain engaged as Special Advisor to the Board and CEO. I’m also looking forward to spending more of my time on my efforts in the local community.”

Walters, in a statement, said that “today’s business environment demands experienced tech professionals who are armed with access to the latest in skills development. Pluralsight is not only well-positioned to meet this market need, but is situated in one of the country’s fastest growing tech scenes: Utah.”

Walters said he looks forward “to getting immersed in Silicon Slopes and partnering with Aaron and the Pluralsight team to provide businesses and technologists everywhere with the tools and skills they need for continued growth.”

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.