Q&A - Director of Student Experience role at Akimbo

Our Chief Learning Officer Marie Schacht and Interim Senior Head Coach Rick Kitagawa hosted a live webinar on June 2 to answer questions about the Director of Student Experience role we are hiring.

Watch the recording of the webinar:

We had lots of other questions asked, and we promised you the blog post answering them, and here they are:

What kind of rotation and turnover do you have in your coaches?
Marie - We intentionally rotate coaches for each workshop session and throughout the year to make space for new coaches to join us and share in the possibility of working with Akimbo. Some coaches join us for one workshop and many of our coaches have been working with us for several years.

What is the biggest pain point of the program/vision that this role is responsible for resolving?
Marie - Akimbo has grown a lot over the last 3 years. This role will be helping us integrate that growth and build better, more resilience systems to support a remarkable student experience and great work culture.

Rick - It’s really building the dedicated support structure that Marie has been having to juggle alongside her many other roles here, and we’re looking to take a system that works and create a system that excels. It’s increasing communication speed, efficiency, and creating a positive culture and experience for coaches and students alike.

Joining a company that values customers as much as profits is important to me, and the job description and especially your Community Practices page suggest you take that very seriously as well. How do you balance taking care of customers with taking care of the bottom line, which of course must also remain a top priority?
Marie - When we take care of customers, they take care of the business. By showing up and creating a remarkable student experience, the business benefits as do our customers. We're are intentional about workshop pricing and expenses related to each workshop and mindful about frequency and enrollment needs to support the business long-term.

Rick - I don’t think that taking care of customers is at all in opposition to taking care of the bottom line.

When you say the position is full-time, do you have an expectation of a certain amount of hours per week? If not, what does the management team use to measure employee productivity?
Marie - The team has a commitment to doing their best work and being collaborative and supportive. We want to create a space where we can show up as our full selves with our shared humanity. That means some days could be high energy days and other days might be low energy days. Some days may be 10 hour days and some days may be 2 hour days. It's not about ensuring productivity, it's about creating a culture where we are excited show up and contribute to the work and offer what we can that day. Most of all it's about being consistent in our commitment to the work and keeping the promises we make.  

What do students most value about the Akimbo learning experience now? Where do they stumble or hit ouch points in the Akimbo experience?
Marie -
Value: the community and connections. And the space to share their ideas and explore possibilities.
Stumble: Finding the time and energy to engage in learning in addition to all the other responsibilities in life.  

How is this workshop reflecting the pedagogy of Akimbo? Like, how is the way you superstars are delivering (and eventually measuring) this experience modeling what you want in the candidate?
Marie - Showing up as our full selves and doing work we love and care about on a team. Being playful, embracing imperfection, collaborating together, cultivating joy and connection, making mistakes and learning.

How does the Akimbo team measure the effectiveness of the programs?
Marie - The Director of Student Experience would be developing in collaboration with me a more structured and clear process for what we measure and how we measure. We've been focused on expansion the last few years and now we want to get more intentional about measuring impact.

Why has the position not been filled already with internal candidates?
Marie - Our current 4 full-time employees are focused on different areas of the organization so we need additional team capacity. In alignment with becoming a B-corp, we wanted to do an open and transparent hiring process to fill this role.

Rick - We decided early on that the best way to create an equitable, more transparent hiring process is to put everyone through the same application process whether we’ve worked with you closely in the past for years, or if you’re hearing about Akimbo for the first time.

Has worklife at Akimbo changed significantly over the last year of the pandemic, and if so has that changed how you view your ideal candidates?
Marie - I think working remotely has given all of us more freedom to do our best work and manage our schedules in a way that really meets our own needs. The experience of the pandemic has not changed how we view the ideal candidate. It's more about the person applying and if remote work matches what you need from a work experience.

What does "agile learning" mean to you?
Marie - Words that come to mind:
Adaptable. Flexible. Streamlined. Thoughtful. Strategic.

How do coaches fit into the workshop model?
Marie - Coaches our the culture caretakers of the Akimbo workshop and community. They model the behaviors that lead to deep learning and meaningful connection. Coaches support students by offering feedback, holding live calls and events and being stewards of the learning process.

Can you say if there is an emphasis for Akimbo to focus on user/staff growth, or change/improvement/new directions?
Marie - Our focus is on Akimbo's impact as an organization and cultivating resilience.

Rick - This is a both/and situation from what I’ve seen.

What would a typical day look like for this role?
Marie - It would be up to the person to decide and direct their schedule. It often includes meetings, design, strategy, listening, writing and a variety of other activities.

How does someone become a coach?
Marie - Our coaches have all been workshop participants at some point. New coaches are nominated by past coaches to serve in the workshops. The Director of Student Experience would be developing the coach selection process for future workshops and we've been exploring new ways we might do this at Akimbo.

Rick - We’ve had a process in the past, and want to build out something more robust, equitable, and fair. Given that, it will sort of be up to you to answer this question.

How is the community of coaches vetted and what kind of support do you foresee is required?
Marie - This is an area the Director of Student Experience would be developing and leading. Akimbo wants to make the coach vetting and training program better to create an even more impactful student experience.

Rick - As per the above answer, building out an infrastructure and vetting process is going to be part of the role’s responsibilities.

Could you tell us more details about the roles and scope of 75 freelance coaches that this role will hire, trains and manage
Rick - The freelance coach team (including myself) is composed of Akimbo alumni from around the globe. Some are certified coaches, others are not, and we all have other careers/jobs. Most coaches coach in one workshop at a time, and none are expected to be subject matter experts. For those unfamiliar with Akimbo courses, coaches are not instructional, but holders of the culture and question-askers. It’s none of “Do it this way,” and all of “What else might you try?”

The job description states that resume and number of years for experience isn’t required, how do you evaluate and learn if the applicants are the right fit?
Marie - The questions in the application are intentional to capture the skills and behaviors we believe will make this person successful in the role. During the interview process, we have additional questions and situations that will help us understanding if the applicant has what the organization needs to make this role successful.

Is there a time limit for the video submission?
Marie - Yes, there is a time limit. The video tool will allow you to do multiple takes though if needed.

In the job description,  it mentions video recording.  What is the recording about?
Rick - If you’re talking about the application, there is a portion of the application where you will record video responses to questions. If you’re talking about the role, you should be comfortable being recorded on Zoom calls, but no massive video editing/recording skills are necessary.

Can you talk about what you're typically looking for in a coach?
Marie - Generosity. Curiosity. Encouraging. Supportive. Collaborative. Desire to learn and grow.  

Are those meetings what take place during the office hours, making the rest of your schedule flexible?
Marie - Office hours are when the core team needs to be online to communicate and coordinate with each other. It's likely this role will have coach meetings and workshops meetings outside of office hours and it will be up to the person to decide and manage their schedule.  

Rick - 40 hours per week, or whatever is necessary to get the work done. I know in a lot of industries, this can be interpreted as “work 80 hours if you have to,” but Marie and Alex do an amazing job of having clear boundaries, not working on the weekends and evenings, and getting everything they need to, so I would imagine if you can get your full workweek done in 30 hours, the more power to you.

How many employees does Akimbo currently have, and what is your expected growth?
Marie - Akimbo currently has 4 full-time employees and 50+ part-time contractors. We anticipate the full-time staff growing over the next few years as well as our community of part-time contracts that are a critical part of Akimbo as consultants and freelancers.

Is it a one-year contract to start?
Marie - This will be part of the offer process with final candidates.

What are the big priorities that you need someone in this role to address? What are some of immediate goals?
Marie - During the onboarding process of this role, we will co-create as a leadership team what priorities the role will focus on and the immediate goals. We feel it's important this is a conversation with the person who becomes the Director of Student Experience and that those are set together rather than the current leadership team determining those now before the person is hired.  

Any fave AltMBAish thought experiments?
Marie - So many. What's coming to mind is the general sense of being able to show up each day at work and ask big questions and consider what if and how might we is so much fun. We're constantly observing and testing different approaches and learning as we go.

Rick - I don’t know if it’s a thought experiment, but I daily ask myself “How will I choose to show up today?” It makes me reaffirm my belief in the postures that I take and how I try to live my beliefs.

Are there any opportunities for this role to be involved in course offerings/development ideas?
Marie - Yes, you'll be collaborating with Chief Learning Officer and CEO on new offerings/development ideas.

Does the Akimbo team have the opportunity to meet in person every so often (like other remote companies who come together to celebrate 1 or 2 times per year)?
Marie - Yes, we are planning to have at least a yearly meet-up in person as a team.

"You’ll also need to be comfortable leading and facilitating live Zoom calls with anywhere between one other person and 1000 people." What's an example of a Zoom meeting/topic?
Marie - Two examples:
Quarterly Coaches Town Hall - share updates on workshop happenings, new projects in development and open to answering live Q&A.

Real Skills Conference - Leading and coordinating coaches and showing up at the event to give welcome remarks and closing remarks.

Rick - You could be helping a coach through a challenging crisis in a one-on-one, you could be leading an informational session (like in the video above), you could be running a kick-off call for a 1000 person digital conference, you could be running an altMBA head coach weekly check-in.

What is the thing that you would change about Akimbo? Is there something that you wish you could do better?
Marie - Continuing to increase the diversity in our workshop communities.

Rick - I’d tackle some of the marketing around the workshops and provide more learning paths for students to jump into. I wish I could do better at basically everything I do - I’m perpetually trying to push myself to learn and grow, and when I’m not feeling impostor syndrome it’s a warning flag that I’m getting complacent.

What is your criteria/ what are the main things you are looking for in incoming applications?
Rick - We’re looking for people who can live and model the community guidelines and have the experience in leading others and navigating uncertainty.

How many positions are open?
Rick - One for this role.

Can you say anything about some of past AltMBA “projects”? (were they two-day ~14/month-long course kinds of projects?)
Rick - If you’re talking about the projects that students ship in altMBA, I will only say that there are 13 prompts to be done over 4.5 weeks.

The application was very unique in nature so what will the actual interview phases look like?
Rick - The interview phases will be conducted initially with Marie, and then the next phase will be with the Akimbo team. It will be more of a traditional interview done via Zoom, and questions will center around clarifying some of your earlier responses, getting to know you better, and allowing more of a conversation to occur. As with the earlier phases of the application, we will be using a rubric to score these interviews, so don’t be surprised if it looks like the interview(er) is constantly taking notes.

Does the job require travel?
Rick - No travel necessary.

What else should we be asking to become a successful candidate?
Rick - You need to be comfortable doing away with traditional status markers like career titles and be just as comfortable leading a coach (or student) whether or not they are a yoga teacher, a Fortune 50 SVP, a C-level executive, or a college student.
You might have a team of people all younger, or all older than you, some with zero years of experience, others with fifty. You might even have to lead someone who built out the initial template for your role, and be comfortable in treating everyone with the same level of respect regardless of their role in the organization.

What brings you and the team (and folks on the call) joy?
Rick - Helping people learn, grow, and embrace the power that they have within themselves. Also, monsters and the color teal. And watermelon.

We are so grateful for your questions and hope the webinar and this post helps you decide if it's a role you would be interested in applying for.

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