What's Your Why? Engineering SVP Steve Hill on Working for a Mission-Driven Company

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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As I begin to see colleagues face-to-face in our offices as they slowly return to normal, I am reminded of a pre-pandemic session with an author who claimed the fidelity of learning and communicating face-to-face was billions of times higher than online. Oh, how that assertion has been both felt, and tested, in the last 18 months as educators scrambled to deal with the abrupt digitalization to connect with learners, and we quickly worked to support their efforts. 

The last 18 months has been a period of new stresses, new social change, and profoundly more time to ourselves. With all that time, it is clear that people have not only been reevaluating where they work, but also “why” they work. Throughout my career I have had several different answers to the question of “why” I would enjoy working with one employer and team versus another. What I learned ultimately was -- the mission matters. 

Steve Hill blog.pngEarly in my career I worked in finance, but was quickly drawn into a reengineering effort that involved software technology meant to streamline and transform a number of internal processes. I was suddenly excited by how much more effective and efficient we were, and saw firsthand how software could radically change things. With my new passion for technology, my “why” shifted to helping others solve problems with technology and my passion evolved into supporting learning. Over time, I really gained a passion for the outcomes of improving teaching and learning, the “why” was less about me and positions or money and more about doing some good.

When I joined Macmillan Learning I was struck by both a sense of fun, and a gentle but deep seriousness about our roles in improving the lives of others, not only in our content and products, but also in how we connect with society and care for each other internally. The company’s mission was exactly what I was passionate about, and it shows in everything we do and how we work.

At Macmillan Learning, we methodically learn. There’s a humility we take on every day with our focus of “test and learn”, looking at data from the market, from impact research, from customer feedback..  We sometimes fail, but we hopefully always adapt. We’re transparent about it, we’re brave -- who else publishes product research while in Beta for the scrutiny of customers as well as competitors? Our leaders consciously and intentionally nurture a culture of trust and respect - really we demand it of ourselves and each other. Our leadership team demonstrably shows greater trust in each other than I have seen before. To me, all of that lines up against working toward our mission. Together.

Doing better is an encompassing “why” for me now, but I believe “doing better” is only part of the mission at Macmillan Learning. Doing better means supporting our technology team members to be strong owners and customer experience advocates, supporting our customers directly, and partnering with our product and learning science teams to support the development, testing, and validation of hypotheses we have on improving teaching and learning. 

So for those of you who may be job seekers that are looking for your next opportunity during this time of great change, I encourage you to think about your own “why”. There are many reasons people work in tech, but for me, finding work in tech that supports a learning mission has been infinitely rewarding. So think about why you work, the impact you want to have on your own lives as well as the lives of others, and how you can do better. It made all the difference for me in my career. And if our mission and values align with your why’s, consider working at a mission-driven company like ours. Come ready to continue to learn!