Campuswire’s newly-appointed New Business Exec discusses data, Disney, and sales development.
Distributing a great product requires great salespeople. That’s why we’re excited to welcome Robert Parker — data enthusiast, Disneyphile, and spiritual Great Dane– to the Campuswire team! Joining us from Atlanta, Georgia, Parker serves as our New Business Executive for southern schools — a role he’s comfortable in, having previously worked with professors at iClicker. We jumped on a call with Parker to discuss Mickey Mouse, his upcoming travel plans, and the future of EdTech.
Hi there! It’s so nice to meet you. You go by Parker rather than Robert, right?
That’s right. I worked in radio when I was in high school, and the owner of the station I worked at could never remember my name — or at least he never called me by my name — so my mentor at the station decided my on-air name would be Parker. And it just kind of stuck. I’m named Robert after my dad, so it’s nice to have a bit of separation, too.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Mobile, Alabama, down on the Gulf Coast. I lived in New Orleans for about five or six years, then went to South Carolina for six years.
And now you live in Atlanta. When did you move there?
I moved to Atlanta in January of 2014. I love it — it’s in Georgia, so it’s technically in the south, but it doesn’t feel like it. Atlanta is a real melting pot. There’s a lot to do — concerts and Broadway shows come through here pretty frequently.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school at the University of South Alabama back in Mobile, where I majored in broadcast journalism.
Did you work in broadcast journalism post-graduation?
I worked in radio for many years after school, then joined NBC’s team in Mobile. But I realized pretty quickly that there isn’t a lot of money in broadcast journalism — not unless you get to the nightly anchor position, that is. And moving up in the field requires you to move around a lot.
What were you doing immediately before joining Campuswire?
Before Campuswire I was with Macmillan Learning, the textbook publisher. I worked in the STEM publishing side of the company for a few years, then worked for their student response system, iClicker.
What drove you to pursue EdTech in a professional capacity after leaving the broadcast journalism field?
Macmillan scouted me on LinkedIn, and it just seemed like a great opportunity. As technology evolves, education has to evolve with it. It’s really awesome to talk to professors and administrators and learn about their needs in the classroom, especially as their student population changes.
“As technology evolves, education has to evolve with it.”
When you’re not building relationships with professors and administrators, what do you do for fun?
What I love to do is travel. I think that’s why I’m in field sales — I like to see new places, I like to try new foods. I try to take in a little bit of everywhere that I end up when I travel for work.
Oh, and I’m a big theme park junkie. I’ve been to Disney — honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times.
Important distinction: Disney World, or Disneyland?
I’ve been to every single Disney theme park in the world.
Really! Okay, how many of them are there in total?
There’s Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
My friends know that I have all of the insights into the parks and can help with navigating through them. There’s about twelve of us that regularly visit Disney World, and we have the best time. We’re all adults, but it makes us feel like kids again.
In your expert opinion, which Disney park is the best?
Tokyo Disney Sea. It’s right on the water and has a giant volcano in the middle of it, which also has a roller coaster component– it’s honestly incredible. If you make it to Japan, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Outside of Disney-related travel, where is your favorite place to visit in the world?
You know, every place is different. And the trips are different, depending on who you go with. This past summer I went to Amsterdam for a friend’s 40th birthday and had the best time. It’s incredibly beautiful, and you can bike everywhere. Amsterdam is a place that I already want to go back to. I also enjoy Copenhagen, which is similar in architecture. The lifestyles of citizens in both cities are similar, too.
For my 40th birthday — which is in two years — I want to go on a safari experience in South Africa. I’ve never been to Africa before, so I want to be able to do it right.
Here are some rapid-fire questions for you: first, cast your mind back to middle school. What was your favorite subject?
Hmmm…. middle school….I’d say it was probably English. I was never a big math person — don’t tell the engineers — although I worked closely with STEM leads when I was at Macmillan.
If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be?
Is it cheating if I say Neapolitan? It’s a little mix of everything, right? [laughs]
What kind of animal would you be, and why?
Probably a dog, because they’re the sweetest. They’re loyal and they get a lot of attention.
What kind of dog, specifically?
Maybe a Golden Retriever? I kind of want to say a Great Dane — is that the type of dog that Scooby Doo is?
Let me Google that to confirm — yes, he’s a Great Dane.
Let’s go with that, then. I’m a huge Scooby Doo fan.
Do you collect anything?
Memories and experiences through travel. I’m not really a things-person.
So you don’t have souvenirs from every Disney in the world?
Actually… I know that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to forget things. So now I buy a magnet from everywhere in the world I’ve been. They’re all on my fridge at home. It’s a great topic of conversation if someone comes to my place.
What’s your pet peeve?
I’m a huge — and you guys are going to learn this pretty quickly — a huge data junkie. I like clean data, putting data in correctly, and utilizing data to be better at what I’m doing. So, my pet peeve is when people aren’t using the data and information at their disposal effectively.
That’s a good pet peeve to have, I could use a bit more of that energy. If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
You’re gonna laugh… probably Mary Poppins. I can turn that one on and still enjoy it, it brings me back to my childhood. Another movie that I can always rewatch is Clue.
I know you’ve only been at Campuswire for a handful of days now, but do you have a good sense of what your role is shaping up to be?
Seeking new business opportunities; consulting with professors about how they communicate with their students, and how their students communicate with each other. So it’s similar to what I was doing before: understanding the communications needs of professors inside and outside of the classroom.
What’s the biggest challenge that you expect to face within your role?
The biggest challenge right now is that we’re entering a somewhat saturated market of active learning tools. I’m figuring out how we should stand out and provide the best value to professors and students. I think that we already have that piece within the freemium version of the product, with the discussion board.
Do you have any memories of your time as a student in which you could have used Campuswire?
I wasn’t exactly shy as a student, but there were courses I took — usually math courses — where I could have used Campuswire. I failed statistics the first time that I took it, and my professor wasn’t exactly the friendliest. So having a tool like Campuswire that I could have used to communicate with other students in my class and learn the material with them, instead of through a teacher who wasn’t particularly supportive, would have been helpful.
I’ve had that experience myself — I had a few professors, usually within my STEM courses, who were quite unapproachable. When someone has such a strong, intrinsic understanding of a difficult subject area, it can be hard for them to understand how a student is struggling with the more basic tenets of that topic. I speak with a lot of students about their experience using Campuswire, and I often hear that anonymous posting is a huge asset in these situations. They can take control over their education and get the help they need without requiring direct engagement with a professor.
What is something that has surprised you about the Campuswire team?
We had a great product team at iClicker, they were very open to input and wanted to hear from us. But it took a long time to get things done.
So, one of the unexpected and nice surprises here at Campuswire is that because we’re a smaller company, we’re more nimble and agile. That allows us to make things happen based on feedback and insights a lot more quickly.
I can confirm that — feedback is huge for us and helps to define our roadmap. Final question for you: What are you most excited about for your future here at Campuswire?
There’s just so much possibility for Campuswire. Like I said, I’m a data junkie — so helping to form Hubspot, our CRM platform for sales, and the entire sales process is exciting.
We’re out to create a product that stands apart from our competitors. And we’re already making huge strides by putting a variety of tools in one place. You know, professors are really good at what they research and teach. But they’re not always so good at the things they don’t know much about. So if there are a lot of different technology components within a product, professors are less likely to use them. It’s too much for them to keep up with.
Offering one platform that provides them with all of, and only, the tools that they need for their course communication — that’s what is needed.
And that’s what we’re building here at Campuswire. Welcome to the team, Parker! ●
Campuswire is a course communication system built with the specific needs of professors and students in mind. Get to know the rest of our team through our Meet the Campuswire Team series, or by sending us a message on campuswire.com.