An interview with David Heřman, Engramo´s CEO
Ever wondered how learning apps are born? Then read along and find out on your own!
David, are you a language learning freak?
I think so. Not in the sense that I speak many languages but I love languages in general and would like to learn them on a more serious basis. It is like that ultimate hobby that you don’t have enough time for.
How many languages do you speak?
Not too many. Czech (native), English, a bit of Russian, I used to speak German, started with Arabic, Finnish, French and I remember a few Korean words. I like these languages, so I mention them here and I just wish I could speak them without any barriers.
How did you learn the languages you speak?
This question sparks lifelong stories that comprise private lessons in early childhood, poor and inefficient mandatory lessons at school and also dating and traveling on different occasions. Most notably, these stories involve English. My first serious learning phase only started after many years of having English at school by getting real experience in an English speaking environment. I spent three summers in California working and gaining active English knowledge that I hoped to use during my studies. I am still far from being comfortable with the language in all situations but spending a few years abroad after graduating helped a lot.
What annoyed you when you were learning English?
At the very beginning? The pronunciation of written text. I was applying German rules for pronunciation which was, of course, laughable.
What is your original job?
What else do you do in your free time?
The concept of free time was always strange to me. I always feel obligated to devote my time to something that is (subjectively) useful. And I almost always enjoy it. However, these days, if it is not computer time, it is family time.
When did the first idea to create Engramo come to you?
Long story. It goes back almost 15 years. I made a little piece of software for revising vocabulary in a meaningful way just for myself and a few friends. A couple of years later, I tackled French in my own computerized way with recordings from my friend in New Brunswick, Canada. It only picked up steam as a serious project in 2015 with a focus on English for advanced students and with a full team of linguists and programmers.
How long did it take to develop the app and introduce it to the market?
It is a software project, so there is no end date to it. I can only say that we started in 2016 and we developed Engramo without the startup buzz, without media involvement until we found it had some value as a product, not just as an idea. Introduction into the market is now scheduled for 2020. We have partly introduced it in Germany last year and in Singapore the year before that but then we quietly went back to developing it more.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome?
Finding the right people to work with! That’s the biggest challenge, bigger than investment and bigger than implementation and integration together, if you know what I mean.
What is the most valuable thing you have learnt along the way?
To trust, to let go and not to dwell on details…. Not to micromanage. That sentence probably says a lot about me, doesn’t it? But to be honest, I haven’t learnt to do this completely. I keep on learning it, that’s more accurate.
What is your favourite and least favourite part of your job?
My role consists of a blend of various activities and I enjoy it as a whole. My least favourite part could be almost anything that you realize is important, urgent, non-delegatable and you don’t have enough time for it. That’s rare, though.
What does a normal day look like for you?
It is a constant search for finding the right balance between computer time, time devoted to organizing and planning things and family time. Each part comes in waves.
In fact, I would say that a “normal day” suggests that some days are not normal. And I’d like to think that most days are not normal — most of them are somehow extraordinary.
What is the best thing about Engramo in your opinion?
If it had to be only one thing, I think it would be that the app represents a new and pure form of learning where achievement certificates are a thing of the past and ongoing learning is the present, where new knowledge is acquired efficiently, remembered easily and moved to active state and long-term memory effectively.
Do you agree the future of education lies in e-learning? Why?
“Yes” is the implied answer to the first question, isn’t it? But actually, “no” is my answer. We spend too much time in front of screens. I’d say the future of e-learning is some much better version of e-learning than what we see today. To me, the future of learning is real experience, hands-on projects with physical, emotional and social engagement. Smart, efficient and effective e-learning would be the next best option for learning.