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Team Q&A: 7 Questions with our Head of Strategy, Al Simpson

An orchestrator of strategy, Alastair plays the long game to ensure Coassemble and its customers are ahead of the game in the microlearning space. Alastair is always seeking a way to improve processes to deliver the best customer experience possible and help each team thrive!

10 Mar 2020 by Ariel Jehwo-Malcolm

About Al

Writer, Analyst, Leader, and Data Monger are a few of the many titles Al has held during his tenure with Coassemble. Adaptive and quick on his feet, Al makes sure all the moving parts across each team works in tandem to deliver the best customer experience possible.

Ideating with his coworkers gets him excited for the future of Coassemble. Coffee is a close runner-up.

1. As the Head of Strategy, your role is quite busy and varied. What does a week at Coassemble look like for you?

No two weeks look the same! That’s part of the fun. Last week I was in Denver, Colorado, breaking down our sales model with our team there.

This week I’m back in Sydney and will be looking at content strategy with our Marketing team, our onboarding experience with the Customer Success team, and a couple of growth projects I’m running to the side of things.

Things definitely change from week to week, but I always spend a lot of time talking to team members like our CEO Ryan our Head of Operations, Dimity, to make sure we’re tracking for success.

2. What was your favorite project to work on at Coassemble? Why?

Bringing the whole team together for a retreat after securing our Series A last year was a really fun one.

In the past, our strategic planning had been limited to a couple of team members. Being able to break down our growth model, communicate that to the team, and then hear everyone’s ideas about where we could go this year was pretty cool. It was also a reminder that everyone at this company is an expert in what they do.

Our ideation sessions on where we should take our product were a standout for me. I was a trend forecaster in a previous role, and there’s something that gets me going about combining our strategic direction with broader market trends to think about what market-leading innovations we could release in the future—or what markets we could occupy.

We came out of the retreat with some sore heads (it doubled as our Christmas party) but also a whole growth strategy for the coming year. Building out a new strategic model can be really exciting—almost anything is possible so it can be an exercise in creativity.

3. What is something important you’ve learned since working at Coassemble?

I’ve learned a lot about radical change. I came to Coassemble from a company that was quite mature in its lifecycle, with a lot of middle management trying to make incremental improvements without changing processes dramatically. One of our goals for a quarter was to improve our lead flow by 10%.

Our founders, Ryan and Jude, have a mindset where they try to improve things by 500% instead of 10%. They’ll be thinking of actions that can radically change our business, and are open to completely switching our processes to do so.

This leads to some exciting growth projects and experimentation—sometimes they flop, but we always come out with a better understanding of where we can grow in the future.

4. What do you enjoy about Coassemble’s culture?

We’re an all-seasons sort of company—we can go from the office to the coffee shop, to the bar, and maintain our culture and our passion for what we do.

That’s helpful when you spend a lot of time together!

5. Your role requires you to constantly be analyzing data for strategic decisions. What would you do if you had all the data in the world?

Data overload! I think it’s one thing to collect data, but another to know why you’re collecting it and what you want to do with it.

I like to set up a lot of our data capture myself so I can understand how I expect it to perform—this makes it easy to spot patterns and trends.

6. Asides from eating data for breakfast, what else fuels you?

I get a kick out of putting a strategic plan in action and seeing it come together.

Being able to enter a month or a quarter with a lot of changes to make to our model, and then look back at that month and see those changes reflected in our metrics is satisfying.

For example, we may look at our sales cycle (the time it takes our customers to purchase our microlearning platform) and see that it’s getting too long for the market position we want to occupy.

We’ll talk as a team, come up with some good ideas around how we can speed up our customers’ time to purchase, and implement them. The next month I’ll be able to look at our sales cycle, see that it’s dropped to where we want it to be, and share that narrative back with the team.

It’s a feel-good moment and (I hope) lets people know that the work they’re doing is powerful.

7. Lastly, what’s your go-to Spotify album at the moment?

Here’s a few albums I’ve got on heavy rotation:

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