We’re kicking off an exploration of start-ups with a well-known favorite: Quizlet. Quizlet, offers innovative digital study tools that help students around the world do better in school – they grew out of a simple flashcard web app written by founder Andrew Sutherland when he was just a high schooler. Now, according to Quantcast, Quizlet ranks in the top 100 most visited sites in the U.S.! They’ve certainly come a long way, and some might question its claim to being a “startup,” but we’ve got the inside scoop on the passion, energy, and culture that makes this well-established edtech company very much a quintessential startup.
Karoun and David battle it out at the Quizlet ping pong table.
For starters, Quizlet, despite having a successful web, iOS, and Android app with a combined 20 million unique visitors each month, is actually comprised of a very small, extremely hard-working team; in fact, they only have seven full-time developers making the learning awesome for all those students every day! General Manager Thompson Paine explains that Quizlet has a high bar for talent because on such a small team with so many users, each person must be able and willing to punch above their weight, and confidently own and drive on new problems and projects. But talent isn’t the only thing that matters: what makes Quizlet especially amazing is that everyone is committed to education and doing good.
Amalia adds some holiday cheer, Quizlet-style.
To get a sense of how such a small group of people can reach millions (yes, millions!) of students on a daily basis, take a look at their week: it all starts on Sunday. Every team member is committed to thinking carefully about what he or she wants to accomplish that week, and they come together to discuss their plans during a Monday lunch. This helps them start the week focused with strong accountability. On Friday, they wrap the week with a discussion of their highs and lows of the week. Quizlet’s focus and enthusiasm for constantly improving an already amazing learning tool is really inspiring!
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Arun to talk more about his particular role as an Android developer.
Career Focus: Android Developer
We’re picking the brain of the man behind Quizlet’s Android app: Arun Saigal.
Accredible: What do you do as an Android developer at Quizlet?
Arun: I hit buttons! No, but really, I do a lot of listening to users to figure out what they want, work with my team to design and build out different parts so there’s a seamless experience from web to mobile app. My job is to make sure that you can learn anything you want anywhere and everywhere you want—specifically on Android devices. Working in a startup, I get to be involved in all parts of the development phases.
Accredible: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Arun: I’ve heard people actually say, “I wouldn’t have made it through this course without Quizlet” – the fact that what I do can make that big of a difference for someone’s education is incredible. I love running into people while wearing the Quizlet shirt and hearing people call out “ I love Quizlet!” and really know people are using your product!
Accredible: What were you doing before you joined Quizlet, and what led you to the company?
Arun: I was at MIT. I’ve always been into education and tutoring and teaching…I discovered technology and wanted to leverage it to teach everyone. Andrew (Quizlet’s founder) came to recruit at his alma mater, and I decided to join this small company with a huge impact—somewhere I can come in and really own a piece of transforming education. This is where I felt I could make a meaningful contribution.
Accredible: What are your tips for others who want to be an Android developer?
Arun: Go build something! Android is Java at the end of the day. In terms of getting started and seeing whether it’s something you’d like to do: go find these programming languages online – and you can build a simple app with basic tools. If you can do that and be excited, you can get a sense for whether you love it or not. Then go take classes in college or go online and look up tutorials to learn how to program. Between all of the online courses and resources, Youtube, Quizlet, etc. you can pretty much find and learn anything you’re looking for.
Arun and fellow developer Shane take a break on the office swings (and yes, that’s a Justin Bieber piñata hanging above them)!
Accredible: What would you say is the most essential skill for being a developer?
Arun: (1) Problem-solving. At the end of the day, my role is to problem-solve. (And obviously, having the ability to code.) (2) Being willing to take on the challenge and being okay with failing. A lot of what we do here trying something, failing, and then pushing on till we get it right. (3) And you have to be willing to learn from those mistakes so you can improve yourself and your product.
Accredible: What contributes the most to your success?
Arun: The team. I see the team as our team here and our users—the millions that send feedback—that’s the whole Quizlet family. Everyone is so helpful. They give me the pieces, helping me piece everything together.
Accredible: Thanks, Arun!
Software Developer David wants YOU to apply!
Interested in working for an edtech company with a fun-loving team? Check out open positions here!