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Life@Squiz Q&A with Sarah Appleby, Learning Experience Manager

Melbourne-based Sarah Appleby chats with us about her newly appointed role as Learning Experience Manager, her experience at Squiz so far, and weekend bike rides with her three-year-old son.

Squiz: Can you tell us a little about what you do at Squiz?

Sarah: As Learning Experience Manager, I own and execute the learning-and-development strategy at Squiz. There are two components to that: ensuring that we deliver world-class experiences both to our customers and to our people.

To achieve this, my team works with subject matter experts and specialists across Squiz to design and deliver learning experiences with impact.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?

Transforming our current customer offering will be the most enjoyable and challenging aspect for my team.

We’re a digital-first company, so the way we empower our customers needs to be the best digital experience we can provide. There’ll always be room for the instructor-led workshops, but we need to take a blended approach and lead with digital.

From an internal perspective, my role is new, so it’s going to be about building that from the ground up – the templates, tools, platforms, and processes we need to support the internal development of our people.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?

The most rewarding part is that you get to work with experts from all around the company to create really good products.

We help ensure the success of our people, they help ensure the success of our customers and, in turn, our own success – it’s a very rewarding role to play in Squiz.

How long have you been at Squiz, and what attracted you to the company?

I’ve been at Squiz for six weeks, so I’m fairly new.

There were a couple of factors that attracted me to working here. One of them was the opportunity to work on a learning-experience platform. Squiz didn’t just want someone to manage the learning-and-development function, they wanted someone to discover how Squiz could do something different and innovative in the market. To me, that’s a very exciting challenge – to think about what that might look like and what we can do for our own people and customers.

The other big draw was that I knew someone who worked here and was having a wonderful working experience with Squiz. When we talked about the organisation and how great the people are, I knew it was a place that interested me.

What’s been your experience so far in these early days?

It’s been wonderful. Everyone’s been really generous with their time and open with me in sharing their thoughts and expertise. Because of that, I’ve been able to build a great picture of what Squiz wants me to do and what the organisation needs.

How is Squiz different from other organisations for which you’ve worked?

I’ve worked in both much smaller and much larger organisations but never in one the position that Squiz is in. I think Squiz is at a particular stage in its growth where there are a lot of opportunities, and that’s really exciting.

When I first joined Squiz, straightaway I noticed that everyone was so genuine and knew their stuff. There’s always lots to learn and there’s this amazing can-do attitude. You really get the sense that everyone is trying to do their best.

What’s the Melbourne office like?

The Melbourne office is really social. We’re in a quirky part of town – there are heaps of cafes, and the food is just ridiculously good. You can get everything from a spicy laksa to something from a fancy French boulangerie. I have secured a cafe just around the corner that makes soy chai lattes with fresh tea leaves and spices – so good!

On Friday most people take time to have lunch together at a gastro pub nearby and storytime is accompanied by laughter and a drink. You get the feeling that the people here really like each other and enjoy spending time together. Our internal online chat is always busy with people sharing things in good humour.

How did you first get into online learning?

My background is in engineering. I started out as a telecommunications engineer with Optus, I was one of their first engineering cadets – they called us space cadets!

After about two years working at a switching centre, I realised that I really liked people and I wanted to travel! I went for a training engineer role at Nokia, and, as part of that job, travelled all over the place. A few years later I was able to work at the Nokia Research Center in Helsinki. It was there that I got into online learning, working with an amazing team of people on Nokia’s first learning-management-system rollout and e-learning modules.

I love technology and working in adult education, so Squiz is a perfect fit for me.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I have a toddler and I love spending time with him. Melbourne is just amazing for families, and because we live in the city, there are always heaps of things to do.

I have one of those daggy seats on the back of my bike, and most weekends, we’ll jump on the bike and go for a ride to St Kilda Beach or just to a little café. (He’s a city kid, so he loves his babycinos.) We also live next to a great library that has a fun children's area, so that’s another favourite.

What’s your all-time favourite movie and why?

I’m usually a serious movie person, but for whatever reason, the movie that always comes to mind whenever people ask me this question is Shaun of the Dead. It’s just such a funny movie. It never loses its charm. You can’t help but laugh when they break out the pool cues and start beating the zombies along to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

The wonderful thing about travel is that you meet fantastic people, but that’s also the saddest thing, because you don’t get to see them as often as you’d like. I’ve got friends living all over the world, so if I had a superpower, it would be the ability to teleport anywhere in an instant and have brunch with a friend!

Sarah will be tweeting her week at work at @lifeatsquiz from 1 to 5 May. Follow along to see what she gets up to on a daily basis in Melbourne.

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