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A Whole (K)new World: Joining the Knewton Implementations Team

Posted in Knerds on January 30, 2014 by

In October I became one of the latest intakes of new “knerds,” joining Knewton’s Implementations team. I made the leap from working as publishing director at a 500–year–old educational publisher, to client manager at Knewton, a 5–year–old education startup.

I had worked in the world of publishing for 15 years. The language of author contracts, commissioning content, publishing processes, and editorial work was all second nature to me. Making the leap into a (K)new world meant learning a new language on the other side of the fence. It’s fascinating to start learning as an almost complete beginner — in language learning terms, I’m a false beginner — having to unlearn some vocabulary which in Knewton’s “language” means something very, or slightly, different. Immersion in the Implementations team is, arguably, the best possible way to be a Knewbie at Knewton.

The team comprises Implementation Architects, Client Managers, and Technology Architects. It quickly became clear that the team must navigate an uneven terrain between Knewton tech, product, platform and data science teams and our partners — being skillful at managing ongoing change and ambiguity as that terrain shifts due to market drivers, the fast–paced world of edtech, and the continued development and evolution of our partners’ products. The team members must possess highly–attuned communication skills, in order to hear and understand, and then translate for our tech teams our partners’ business and requirements, as well as their customers’ complex and widely varying needs. Diplomatic skills, a level of tech expertise, and knowledge of every aspect of Knewton’s business are also key to ensuring that our partners’ experiences are as smooth and pain–free as possible.

Three months in, and I have acquired a whole new vocabulary and gained an appreciation for what it feels like to be a learner starting out in a new subject domain. Now, my goal is to translate that to our partners so that they can develop the best possible adaptive learning products for their students.