Our people: Rich Shupe
“Our commitment to improving education is what drew me to Learnosity, and our focus on people and culture is another big reason I’m still here almost eight years later.”
Delivering world-class service is part of the job when working with the brightest lights and rising stars in the learning industry. But it’s Learnosity’s support team that gets the most customer love. And sitting at its helm is the plate-spinning, wood-turning, wonder-working Rich Shupe.
What do you do at Learnosity?
I’m the VP of Global Support. We have teams in North America, Europe, and Australia to provide help for our customers 24 hours a day, five days a week.
How did you get into that area?
I’ve been in edtech for a long time, and was running a company that created educational assets ranging from distance learning objects, websites, and assessments, to applications, kiosks, and, in the old days, DVDs and CD- and DVD-ROMs.
We obviously supported our customers, but I began focusing primarily on customer support in 2014 when I was lucky enough to join Learnosity. The company was looking to establish a New York office and a friend in the edtech community kindly mentioned me to Learnosity’s CEO, Gavin Cooney. (Thanks, Lance!)
I liked Gav immediately, and was really impressed by the rest of the team I spoke with in those early calls, including Mark Lynch (CTO) and Michael Sharman (SVP of Product). Gav and I talked a lot about the company and its vision to improve education and that really resonated with me. I’ve been a teacher for many years (I teach in the Masters program at New York’s School of Visual Arts) and have written a handful of textbooks, so teaching has always been important to me.Gav and I talked a lot about the company and its vision to improve education and that really resonated with me … I thought Learnosity could really make a difference and I wanted to be part of that. Click To Tweet
Even more important, however, was the fact that my two daughters were elementary/primary school age at the time and I wanted to do whatever I could to improve the educational resources available to them and their generation. I thought Learnosity could really make a difference and I wanted to be part of that.
I was fortunate to be the first member of the US office, working under my friend Neil McGough in support. Eight years or so later, Neil is GM of our sister company, Questionmark, and I’m trying to carry on what he started.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge at Learnosity to date?
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge in any support scenario is developing resources that can help customers as quickly, clearly, and efficiently as possible. Learnosity is an API-based SaaS product and we have a fair number of APIs of varying power and complexity. Getting that across to the average customer can be daunting. We’re continuously refining our guidance and documentation, so we make an effort to gather customer feedback and revisit and renew periodically.
What work project are you most proud of and why?
At the risk of generalizing, I’m proud of my colleagues in Support and what they contribute to help our customers every day. Each member of the team works directly with clients but also takes on additional projects without hesitation. In the recent past we’ve collaborated with our documentation team, as well as our product and engineering teams, to improve demos, reference, and help materials. I’m an avid subscriber of the life tip that says to make yourself better, surround yourself with smart, capable people—and I’ve followed that advice.I’m an avid subscriber of the life tip that says to make yourself better, surround yourself with smart, capable people—and I’ve followed that advice. Click To Tweet
If I really had to narrow things down to one project though, it would be our new program of annual enhancements to our support resources. We’ll be rolling out improvements to demos, docs, and even internal tooling on a recurring basis to keep driving us forward. This program is designed not only to help our customers, but to make us more efficient and better able to track our efforts—as well as those of other teams in the Product and Engineering departments. I’m pretty excited about what we’re trying to accomplish.
In your opinion, what makes working at Learnosity different?
Our commitment to improving education is what drew me to Learnosity, and our focus on people and culture is another big reason I’m still here almost eight years later. I’ve not seen the same level of transparency, caring, or attention to staff development anywhere else. From a personal training budget, to office social gatherings, to global hack-days, I never feel overlooked.
I’ve not seen the same level of transparency, caring, or attention to staff development anywhere else. From a personal training budget, to office social gatherings, to global hack-days, I never feel overlooked.
What do you do to relax in your spare time?
With an active family, spare time seems to be a rarity these days. Happily, three amazing women in my life keep things interesting.
My wife is a successful writer and sometimes she lets me work through the occasional plot point with her or line edit one of her books. My oldest daughter is a multi-instrumentalist that is currently consumed by jazz guitar and her desire to go to the Berklee School of Music. Seeing her musical tastes evolve, taking her to see bands like King Crimson live, and hearing per play Magazine’s “Shot By Both Sides” on guitar is an endless pleasure. My youngest daughter plays on a traveling softball team and pitches so hard we had to invest in a top-notch catcher’s mitt to protect our hands. Seeing her play is always a thrill, and last year we got to watch her win the state championship and go to the nationals. Oklahoma City, here we come!
Just for myself, I love to build things.
I enjoy making rings out of coins or laminated wood veneers, and my favorite pastime is woodworking. I recently replaced all our kitchen countertops with butcher block, and designed and built a whiskey caddy for a friend.
But what gives me the most pleasure is turning things on my lathe. Every time I hear a chainsaw nearby I try to secure a few segments of whatever is coming down. (Sadly the emerald ash borer beetle is decimating the ash population in our area, but it’s also not uncommon for a big storm to fell the odd oak). I can then turn a rough bowl, dry it in my kiln, and finish it into something special. I’m particularly enamored with segmented pieces made of multiple species and have turned everything from pens, to bottle stoppers, to baby rattles.
Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from the executive management team about my proposal to open the inaugural Learnosity Wood Works, but I’m sure everyone is just too busy to have given it a proper read. 😉