Meet James, based in Wellington NZ and a maths teacher before joining EP. He’s been with EP for six years, and like many EPeeps, has had more roles than years of service. This includes Maths Brand Manager, Head of Mathematics, Content Manager, Head of EP New Zealand, Head of Content and now Head of Product.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m based in Wellington NZ, where I live with my wife Katie, two kids, two dogs and a cat. I’m still a kid at heart, with my very favourite things to do being board games, computer games and LEGO. We also live close to both the sea and bush, and getting out and about in nature is a great way to unwind and recharge.
I was a maths teacher and leader for a decade before joining EP. I loved the challenge of helping young people grow in confidence and enjoyment of a subject that gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. I’ve been with EP for six years now, guiding our maths product in the early stages and now overseeing the wider product.
I get to work with schools to figure out how EP can help to improve the teaching and learning experience. I work with a team of 10 product managers and designers who guide the development of the platform, within the broader Product and Engineering team, and alongside our wider group of wonderful EPeeps. It’s a hell of a talented bunch and I’m super privileged to work with them every day.
My favourite part of my job is being able to work with those around me to do awesome things. Pushing people to the edge of their comfort zone and then supporting them to break through to the next level of their capabilities and confidence. I am particularly fond of the quote ‘if you are the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room’ – surround yourself with awesome people and lift each other up.
Why become an EPeep?
I met co-founder Craig Smith early 2015 while using an early version of EP Maths in my teaching. I was very honest about the improvements that needed to be made to the product, and shortly after that he twisted my arm into joining the team.
To be fair it wasn’t a hard sell, as I got to jump on and help bring to life a pilot online maths assessment for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. I absolutely loved seeing NZ maths teachers get behind this wildly bold idea, and see it become a raging success. I’ll be forever grateful to Craig for offering me my dream job back in 2015, and it’s only gotten better every year since.
I love my job, and often reflect on how lucky we are to have such a direct positive impact on teachers and students. Whether it be troubleshooting a problem for a busy teacher, inspiring a student with an engaging Maths lesson, or providing insights into where a student is finding something challenging – it’s all such a positive thing to be involved in.
What are you most excited about for the future of EP?
EP as a global leader in education and in the hands of learners worldwide – no financial, technological or accessibility barriers to anyone. A community of educators working together to support each other with expertise and resources. Schools and parents working hand in hand to support each individual child. A generation of students better off for having used EP.
I’m constantly amazed and excited by our pace of evolution. Our value continuous improvement is baked into the core of our being, and means there is always something new around the corner. We’re always pushing for a better product and better support for our users. Never a dull moment.
Tell us your favourite teacher/student story
I just love hearing success stories from teachers about personalised learning, and about developing student agency. Awesome to know we are having an impact. This quote in particular is my favourite:
“Education Perfect is the perfect learning tool. I love sending my students on individualised learning journeys. The website is well designed and easy to use. This program is perfect for a school that is encouraging self directed learning.”
What’s EP Studio all about? Why are you jazzed about it?
To quote my colleague and friend Tim Vaughan, it’s a game changer. EP Studio gives teachers the ability to use EP’s world-class content authoring tools to make engaging and effective resources for their students. They can modify EP’s extensive Library of content, or create from scratch. The icing on the cake is the ability to share these resources with others, and to use resources that other teachers have created.
What book has been a big influence on you?
Both of Marty Cagan’s books Inspired and Empowered provide a great guide to everything we’re trying to achieve with our way of working in Product and Engineering. His strong messages on empowered engineers, the importance of product discovery and the value of data are clear principles in the continuous reflection and improvement of our approach. Essential reading for product people.
What are your goals for the next 3 months?
We have a huge 3 months ahead in regards to our products for parents. The disruptions of COVID have laid bare the need for better connections between schools and parents, and we are taking a huge step forward in our support for that. This begins with some weekly reporting for our EP for School parents, and extends to full support for our B2C product EP for Home. Exciting times ahead.
How do you prefer to start your day? Does it set you up for success?
My typical day involves doing a half-hour blitz of clearing emails and planning my day, then heading out to drop my daughter and son to school. With time zone differences, I often have a head-down hour or two to get a bit done as the Aus-based crew starts their day, then the middle of the day is often where we have our various check-ins. It’s fair to say I do a lot of Zooming / Meeting / Slacking. Afternoons will often be more free to have calls with external folk like teachers or partners.
I have always worked from home in my time with EP, so this world of remote-working is very familiar. One luxury is being able to go for a walk around the block some days during meetings – sometimes even with the dogs.
What is something you’re proud of you and your team achieving at EP?
I’m really proud of our work on EP Studio last year.
What advice would you pass on to a younger version of yourself?
You’re all good, don’t stress, keep going. Set ambitious goals and just stick one foot in front of the other until you get there.
Any last words? Or, any other question that you feel would be relevant?
I feel hugely privileged to be in an industry that makes a huge impact on our collective future, and for EP to be rapidly expanding our reach globally. The key is remaining laser focused each day on our collective mission, being bold in our ambitions, and ensuring we continue to provide value to those that can benefit from it.