EdTech founder is harnessing the power of community and a happy team to #ComeBackStronger
Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking to Chloe Barrett, founder and CEO of Immersify Education - an EdTech company that provides advanced methods of learning to students and universities, using interactive augmented reality (AR).
As recent months have confined us to the same four walls - and impacted how students learn significantly - Chloe is confident that changes in our lifestyles will help propel AR learning methods to the forefront of education and change how we learn forever.
We also enjoyed chatting to Chloe about how she’s used the pandemic to develop and implement a new hybrid model of working for the business, which she says is leading to better outcomes, productivity and mental health across the team. Here’s what she had to say:
How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?
We were really lucky in that we’d already secured investment and grown the team at the end of 2019, leaving us in a strong position to grow going into the pandemic. We’ve also really benefited from the accelerated adoption of EdTech tools as a result of lockdown.
Overnight, we saw education bodies that weren’t properly set up for remote learning, with barely any resources, rushing to get content online. In dentistry courses specifically, students were simply unable to go into clinical settings, so learning institutions were coming and asking us what we had available to support them and their students. It’s been great to see how our AR technologies have assisted with learning over the past few months, where face to face methods simply haven’t been possible. Really, the pandemic has speeded up the EdTech adoption process by years.
We’ve also worked hard to create a strong community with our audiences and the wider education sector, through social media outreach. Whilst we’d previously been more of a b2b business, we started doing more on social media to a b2c audience earlier in the year; we really wanted to use the lockdown and the fact that people were feeling so isolated as an opportunity to connect with students by providing them with useful content.
We started to see a massive increase in traction from these social efforts, so decided to set up a community for students and professionals. Through this we’ve already got 22 ambassadors and innovators and 47 advocates on board, plus loads more on the waiting list. It feels absolutely brilliant to be building such a strong community and it gives us a much larger reach than we’d have on our own – a total of over 75,000 so far.
We also launched a new app for students in May, which gives us a quicker feedback loop than going through the universities. We now have over 40 countries using the app and have had messages from India, Australia and Singapore, amongst others - to see this engagement across the world is so encouraging!
Where do you see your future opportunities lying?
I see the majority of opportunities coming from the increased appetite for EdTech, which has really accelerated – both from an investment and customer point of view. While no one could have seen what was coming, a lot of education institutions have been hurt by not adopting EdTech earlier.
More widely, I hope that AR specifically will be adopted in the main in education, and that we can lead that push. Getting students in to a clinical setting has been impossible during the pandemic – and will become increasingly difficult – so our tools are there to bridge the gap between theory and practical learning.
I also see opportunities through the community we’re fostering and working with – if I’ve learnt anything over the past few months it’s that working together makes us much stronger. We’ve had so many opportunities through exploring different collaborations – these have opened new doors for us that we didn’t think possible prior to lockdown.
Finally, I see so many future opportunities around remote working and recruitment. We’re now operating a hybrid model, whereby we work from home the majority of the time, but have access to physical meeting room space to join together as a team twice a month for full day meetings. We set objectives at these meetings, undertake a delivery phase over the next two weeks and then meet again to reassess and reset the objectives. It’s working really well and the time in between goes so quickly! This change also means we don’t need to recruit somebody on our doorstep which opens us up to a much larger talent pool – particularly helpful in roles which are difficult to fill, such as developers.
Any money that we’ve saved on office space, we use to take the team out or do something social once a month – it really allows people to get to know each other on a more personal level. We also plan to invested time and money into mentors and specialists to run workshops for our team, so they’re not missing out on any training or development, despite being at home.
What are you most optimistic about?
A lot of things!
Firstly, how EdTech is now getting the attention it deserves. It’s really opened everyone’s eyes and made both educational institutions and students see that they need to implement learning technologies sooner than they thought. From a commercial perspective, it’s about our customers knowing that we’re here not only to support online learning, but also to reduce costs and time for them. I’ve already started to notice a big increase in AR and immersive technologies, which is really positive.
I’m also really optimistic about the strength of our team and how we’re interacting. Despite working mostly remotely, there’s a real sense of cohesion and trust. We have a great team of developers, creatives and marketers on board, and will be looking to recruit again soon.
What are you looking forward to implementing/changing?
We’ve already implemented it, but probably our new hybrid model of remote working. To make this work for everyone, we’re supporting our team in creating comfortable and suitable home working environments, by providing them with a budget to create spaces that work for them.
I was concerned at the start of the pandemic about not having people together, but it’s really working and we’re already seeing a huge impact on the wellbeing and productivity of our team through our new working model. I’m really hoping that mental health across the board – in our business and others - improves as a result of people being able to be more flexible with their time and not spending as much of their days commuting.
How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?
My work/life balance has really improved since working remotely. In the office, you tend to get there and then not really leave all day, but now I can have more regular breaks and take my two dogs out for a walk when I want. From a wellbeing perspective, I’m less tired and more productive. The pandemic has given me more time to sit back and reflect – normally I’d be getting in my car and going from place to place without really having time to think, so it’s been a welcome change.
What have been your key learnings from the last few months?
The first thing has probably been the community aspect I spoke about earlier, and how much it’s strengthened our business. We spotted what we felt was an opportunity to create and grow something and went for it - and it really worked.
Secondly, the past few months have highlighted how beneficial remote working has been for everyone. From my perspective, it really seems to have helped people mentally and physically (in terms of being less tired and more productive). It can be easy to feel a little out of the loop when not in an office and around people, but having morning and evening catch ups with the entire team has really helped for structure.
And last but not least, I’ve realised how important it is to balance work and life. I’ve absolutely loved being at home with my dogs and having more time with them. Making more time for the people and things I care about has massively impacted my wellbeing, so this is something I’m going to continue to prioritise moving forward.