Interview with Flo Simpson, Head of Product at Atom Learning Q+A

What does Atom Learning do?

Atom Learning is a Key Stage 2 online teaching and learning platform that covers English, Maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. It combines high-quality, teacher-made content with sophisticated technology to keep students on their individual, optimal learning paths.

 

What is your role at Atom Learning?

Being part of a startup means that my role is varied. Predominantly I am involved in product design and development and managing the content that appears on the platform. We want the content on Atom to be industry-leading and I work closely with teachers, educationalists, and subject specialists to ensure that everything that appears on the platform is aligned with the most up to date pedagogies and that it is delivered in a way that engages pupils with their learning. I spend a lot of time talking to parents and schools to make sure our platforms are as useful to our different users as possible. We’ve doubled in size in the last few months, so a portion of my role is managing my team – six people at present – and ensuring we’re working in the most efficient way possible. 

 

What is your tech experience?

Most have come from learning on the job. As is often the case with startups a lot of this has been a process of self-education. I met the Atom co-founders Alex & Jake while working as a private tutor. EdTech is an industry I’ve always been interested in, and I recognised the potential that a platform like Atom has to level the playing field in terms of worldwide education provision. Ultimately, we want to democratise learning, and tech offers the fastest route of doing so. 

 

How did you learn on the job?

Part of the journey has been learning how a tech company needs to operate and educating myself on the wider sector. A key part has been learning the tech language – when I joined the company I completed a number of online coding courses which I found really beneficial. They changed the way I communicated ideas with the tech team, and improved the process I use to design and implement new features. 

 

Why is it so important to teach tech in schools?

Careers in tech are only going to become more common, and making sure that tech isn’t understood as something isolating or specialist is important. It’s important that we incorporate tech into current education systems and syllabuses in intelligent ways – it’s not enough to offer ICT classes or jumble tech in with maths and science. Tech is unifying, and integrating it across the curriculum, using it to offer alternative ways of teaching and learning, is the best way of passing on this message. It should be taught in different contexts and as being capable of building different skills – tech is not limited to web development and pupils need to be aware of the different career paths that tech offers. 

What are the key challenges you face in your job?

Recruitment and talent – every hire has to be right. We’re looking for every new joiner to bring something unique and of value to the company. Balancing the different hats you have to wear in a startup can be a challenge – it’s important to learn to stay focused on every individual task while maintaining an idea of the bigger picture and how each bit fits into our strategy. 

 

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I’m conscious of the lack of women in the sector, especially at a senior leadership level. This inequality throws up wider issues for women working in or entering tech. Everyone in the industry, regardless of gender or position, needs to be confident and proactive in tackling these issues. EdTech is, generally speaking, one of the better sectors for gender equality but just like any industry there will be those who will try and talk over you. Ensuring that you’re confident enough to call people out on this and that your understanding of your product or role is unparalleled is the best way to overcome this.