Tell us a little about Magic EdTech.
Magic EdTech has been in the education technology business since 1989. It has always been a company that helps its clients build their digital learning products. Over the years, as technology has evolved all the way from video cassette players to immersive AR and VR platforms, we have been on the forefront of meeting these needs. Our platform and services help our customers build and run their own digital learning products and platforms; we help them innovate at scale. Our customers include publishers that are transforming education technology companies, and universities. We don’t currently go to educational institutions directly, though we have aspirations to. But for now, we are focused on servicing publishers and education technology companies who need support to build and grow their digital learning products.
How would you describe the culture at Magic EdTech?
We think that our culture is very much like any other technology company: flat and non-hierarchical. We’re flexible about the way people work as long as they’re able to deliver. The leadership in our company has defined quantifiable performance metrics. There is very little subjectivity in the way “Magicians” are evaluated, which keeps the company culture clean. It keeps everybody focused on the work that they’re doing. We focus on cultivating a culture of “growth mindset” powered by innovation, collaboration, and celebration. To me, a growth mindset is the ability to think positively, optimistically, and to be a problem solver.
A growth mindset is how we think about everything we do here. And there are really two things that fuel it:innovation and collaboration. Innovation is what we do and collaboration is how we do it. Innovation powers our growth as a company, as a partner, as a leader. Collaboration enables that, allowing us to build upon each other's strengths. As an organization, we’re very entrepreneurial in our thinking. When we evaluate candidates, we're always looking for examples of how entrepreneurial the person is, how much self-initiative they’ve taken in their career, and the way they solve problems.
What do you look for in potential employees?
One thing that’s paramount for Magic EdTech is a passion for the educational space. If someone walks through my door and I ask them why they want to join Magic EdTech, the answer really must be some variation of: “I’m really committed to education”; “I come from education“; “I just want to work in education”. Aside from a passion for this space, we also look for people who are lateral thinkers, team players, problem solvers - again with a growth mindset. There are different words people use for this - hunger, curiosity, grit, determination; it’s all the mindset we value.
How has the pandemic changed your business, and do you think that change will be enduring?
Educational technology obviously boomed in response to the pandemic. My belief is that the pandemic created an inflection point in our business. Before, for many publishers and education companies, digital learning and digital education was a good “brochure”.. All our clients who wanted to create digital products were doing it more as a cost play than a revenue play, in my opinion. A shift has happened, post the most difficult days of the pandemic. It has become a revenue play and has become central to the industry. Schools want digital learning products rather than print. It's a big shift. When you look at student demographics, they’re comfortable picking up digital programs from a variety of places, not just the schools that they go to.
I always say that in our business, the entire world population is my target market. Now this inflection has opened it up. People are no longer waiting to build physical, brick and mortar schools, they’re leapfrogging to deliver education digitally. It’s an exceedingly exciting time to be in education technology! Even with schools opening up, I strongly believe that digital learning will continue to thrive while “remote” learning might not. As schools open up, we will see a shift towards hybrid learning - both synchronous and asynchronous learning will co-exist.
One of Magic EdTech’s big differentiators is its inclusivity and focus on accessibility- how does this translate internally into company culture?
One of the things we've been doing is ensuring that all of our engineers and consultants are certified on accessibility. That's very important to us. Our design philosophy is that our products are born accessible. We build accessibility in from the very start rather than go back and make it accessible afterwards. For DE&I, members of the Magic EdTech team are working with an industry standards working group to explore and set up DE&I standards. Every industry has to agree on certain standards and we’re really leading our industry in that space. Our team feels that they are a part of a larger mission while they help create **Digital Learning for Everyone**.
You’ve always been a big believer in training people- how do you balance go-to market priorities with training new employees?
I've always looked at hiring folks who may not have direct experience in our field, but who have an interest in joining. That may mean recent graduates from college or someone with ten years of experience who has never worked in our space. Hiring people who will require training means that the runway is longer for that person to succeed. Of course, if we’re in a hurry and trying to fill a gap in the structure, then we don't have the luxury of that longer runway. We can't always wait for someone to take off. Nevertheless, we do our best to set everyone up for success.
I’ve always selected people who have shown a high degree of entrepreneurship and hunger. When it comes to hiring new grads, it is just good to see the energy that young people bring to the office. The “leftfield” thinking that they bring to the table is just amazing. Some of us graduated from college twenty years or more back and, when we try to understand a digital learning product that is used in schools today, we don’t have the intimate experience with it that they do. I just got off a call with a client and a colleague who just graduated from NYU. She had incredible insights on how a learning product needed to be delivered in order to be accessible and easy to understand. She pointed out aspects of it that the customer hadn't even thought of. Young people have experience with the products we build because they’ve lived with them, grown up with them. She was able to lead and influence our conversation; it made me really proud.
What are some of your proudest achievements with your team?
I always ask candidates, “Tell me where you’re coming from and tell me where you want to go. And I'll tell you whether Magic can help you in that journey.” That growth they seek out can be growth within Magic, within education, or otherwise. Some of my proudest moments with my team are when they leave Magic and get a bigger, better, brighter job somewhere else. That means that they found value here and were pulled by someone else into a higher position, a higher level. In your career, if Magic is able to make that difference to you, then that’s a great thing. Our alumni are a huge strength of ours. In fact, a lot of people who have left us have also come back to us again. When they come back, it always feels like a homecoming.