Job Portraits
Published in

Job Portraits

Note: At Job Portraits, we default to honesty. And the truth is, the world looks a lot different now than it did when we began production on the below story. But we also believe that now more than ever, it’s important to share stories of good people doing good work, like the folks at Quizlet. During this time of uncertainty, we’re sending well wishes to all our readers. May you be safe and healthy.

VP International Richard Gregory on Taking Quizlet Global

When Richard Gregory first got a call about Quizlet, he hadn’t heard of it. But his teenage son and daughter definitely had. They and their classmates were using the app every day to help them study — and Richard realized it was empowering students in a way most classroom education couldn’t. Below, Quizlet’s new VP International explains what sets the company’s business model — and culture — apart, where its global expansion stands today, and what he and his team are excited to tackle next.

What do you do at Quizlet?

I oversee our international efforts, which means a couple of things. One, making sure our existing users outside the U.S. continue getting value out of the product. We’re helping 50 million students a month right now, and about 20–25% of them are international. Every country and community has its own learning culture and systems that we want to support.

Richard (left) and VP Product Nitin Gupta (right) on the SF office’s patio.

The second part is figuring out how to bring our product to more people around the world. We’re already a household name in the U.S.; two-thirds of high school students and more than half of college students are using Quizlet. Now we need to build discipline around growth elsewhere. In part, that means marketing efforts to communicate how we can help. For example, we already offer the product in 19 languages, but a lot of students don’t realize that. It also means plugging into each country’s ecosystem to understand how we can partner with educators, publishers and consumer platforms, so we can reach students where they are and have an even bigger impact than we do today.

Tell us about your background, and why you joined Quizlet.

I began my career in television in the U.K., but realized pretty quickly that digital tools offered an exponentially larger impact. In 2002, I started working for what was then a 300-person company no one had heard of…called Google. I spent about 10 years there helping build the business in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and then I moved to Spotify. That was a similar role but a very different challenge, because Spotify started in Sweden — so I was helping them expand into, rather than beyond, the U.S. Most recently, I was at Nextdoor, which was another interesting challenge — taking a truly local product global.

When Matt first called me about Quizlet, I was skeptical. I thought it was a traditional edtech company, and I had little interest in that. The typical edtech business model is top-down; you have to sell to, and solve the problems of, governments, administrators, and school districts. Thankfully, Matt explained that Quizlet is actually a consumer company — we focus on students first. They often find the product first, and teachers then come to the platform because that’s where their students are. I have a daughter in high school and a son in middle school, and when I asked them about Quizlet, they said, “Yeah, we use it every day.”

“The traditional edtech business model is top-down; you have to sell to, and solve the problems, of governments, administrators, and school districts. Quizlet is actually a consumer company — we focus on students first.”

Then the more I learned about Quizlet as an organization, the more I liked it. Already being at scale in the U.S. was super helpful, and I knew having two revenue models — ads and subscriptions — would give us a ton of flexibility in terms of how to expand internationally. I was also struck by how much thought and care were being put into not just the product but the company and culture. The management team was small but high-functioning, which you don’t always see. And because they already had a second HQ in Denver, I knew they were committed to supporting a distributed workforce. That’s a big deal for me personally, since an international team is distributed by default. But it also showed they realized the best people don’t all live in the Bay Area.

Above: An engineering management meeting, led by Engineering Manager Genevieve Krzeminski (second from left), visiting from Quizlet’s Denver HQ.
Left: The SF office patio. On a sunny day (not shown), you can see clear across the Bay. Right: Web Engineer Lori-Anne Ashwood. Like many Quizlet team members, Lori-Anne regularly volunteers in the tech community, in Lori’s case — with groups that support women in STEM.

What’s the company culture like?

After almost a year here, I can say that it is exactly as described. People are very transparent and authentic; they’ll tell you the good and the bad. That’s pretty rare in the tech community, where so many people claim to be constantly “crushing it.” As a leadership team, we think a lot about how to maintain our culture as we grow, so everyone continues to feel like they can be themselves and say what they want to say. We want people to know their opinions matter, and that requires an ongoing commitment, as a team, to listen to other points of view and assume good intent.

“We want people to know their opinions matter, and that requires an ongoing commitment, as a team, to listen to other points of view and assume good intent.”

We also spend a lot of time thinking about how to maintain a diverse and inclusive environment. I’ll never forget my first management offsite here, because those can sometimes be the dullest of days, just discussing strategy and looking at spreadsheets. But we spent most of the time talking about D&I — and not just about how to build those muscles, but why it’s important. We’re building a product for an incredibly broad user base. There are 1.5 billion students in the world right now, and there will be 2.5 billion in 10 years. The more our team reflects and understands that group, the better equipped we’ll be to help people learn.

Above left: Quizlet engineers in a knowledge-sharing session about methods for improving the experience for users with low-bandwidth internet connections — one of many ways Quizlet seeks to make their product accessible to more people globally. Above right: A Quizlet company value.
Above: SF team members enjoy lunch, which is catered every day. Below left: Another Quizlet company value. Not pictured: “Help people learn,” “Act with urgency,” and “Teach yourself something new.” Below right: A very on-brand company activity.

Where does Quizlet’s international expansion stand today?

The same dynamics that drove our growth in the U.S. are now helping in similar markets, and we’re already at pretty significant scale in Canada, Australia, and the U.K. We just opened an office in London, so we have a team on the ground activating that community. Central and Northern Europe and Scandinavia are close behind, and we’re already getting traction in places where Quizlet hasn’t been localized yet. It’s not available in Swedish, for example, but more than half of Swedish high school students are using it in English. It’s exciting to think about what will happen when we invest more resources there.

Japan, Korea, and Singapore are also super interesting markets for us, and we’re just beginning to decide how we want to grow there. I think Latin America will come next. Then there’s China and India — they’re both important markets where we see huge opportunities, but we also want to be smart about how we enter them.

Left: Quizlet is already offered in 19 languages, but that’s just the start. Right: Richard and Vice President of People Operations Amy Obana meet about international headcount.

What are you excited about in the months and years ahead?

As we expand internationally, we keep seeing new use cases popping up — students in France who use Quizlet to learn a language realize they can also use it to study for Le Bac, or a college student who’s been using it for their classes realizes it can help them memorize daily menus for their job as a restaurant server. It’s been fun to watch, and I’m really excited to see more of that.

“The nice thing is for us, growth means helping people. Quizlet isn’t something we have to trick people into using, or just another place you can go to waste time.”

Quizlet is already working for the people who use it, so while we’re going to continue to invest in the product, accelerating is one of the core company focuses, particularly internationally. Maybe we will get where we’re going organically in 10 years — but can we do it in two? How do we put these valuable tools to work for more people, more quickly? If we can find opportunities to maximize what we already have, to go from great to world-class, that’s what I think will have a truly transformative impact.

The nice thing is for us, growth means helping people. Quizlet isn’t something we have to trick people into using, or just another place you can go to waste time. Every day we get dozens of tweets and reviews from students saying, “I never would have passed my test without Quizlet,” or, “I thought I was failing, but now I’m succeeding.” The more users we have, the more people we help, and that’s a transformational opportunity.

Want to build a product for billions of global users?

Get in touch or check out open roles.

Your moment of Zen: Richard chats with Senior Director of Marketing Laura Oppenheimer in one of the SF office’s many light-filled corners.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Job Portraits

Job Portraits specializes in Managed Employer Branding We use the truth to help teams find their people.