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Insights that have an impact: Simon’s EF journey

Simon has always had a passion for figuring out how things work—he was only six years old when he decided to dismantle his family’s TV to see what was inside.  “My parents were like, ‘ok, if you pull it apart, you have to put it back together again,’” he said. “But that was exactly my intention, to figure out what was going on and how it worked.”

That curiosity continued and inspired Simon to pursue a chemical engineering degree in school. “In my college internship, I was working in the exciting early stages era of productionalized chemicals, which also put me in some very toxic chemical plants.”

Simon eventually decided to trade the toxic chemicals for cold hard numbers, and he made the switch to data analytics. He worked for companies like IBM and Staples before becoming the Analytics Director for Go Ahead Tours, an EF Education First company that provides group trips for adventurous adult travelers.  Simon still gets to satisfy his curiosity every day—just without all the danger.

“My role is to bring the business together through its data,” Simon explained. “It sounds pretty technical, but when we have a consistent measure of what’s working, it makes it easier to align to a common goal, track progress, and motivate us to reach new heights we never thought were possible.”

Part of what Simon enjoys most about his job at EF is the opportunity to explore ideas outside of his job description. “At EF, I’m empowered to reach beyond the role of a traditional Analytics Director. I constantly look for areas for improvement, on both the business and technical sides, focusing on the impact to the customer. I have a responsibility to improve the way we operate, so if I see a better way of doing things, I want to help the company move that way.”

Recently, Go Ahead explored a phone system upgrade to improve functionality for both staff and customers, which Simon saw as a golden opportunity. “It came to ‘how do we get better insights?’ I thought, ‘wow, if we can replace our phone system, make the call center run better, and integrate it with our customer relationship management (CRM) system, we’d be improving the whole customer experience’. That way, when you call in, you get to the right person, quickly. That’s the ideal state, using intelligence and technology to make it a better experience for customers.”

Simon knew of a cloud-based solution that could integrate with Go Ahead’s existing CRM and be up and running within a matter of weeks, so he pitched his idea to the group. The team leading the project welcomed Simon’s idea, and, to his surprise, asked him to join the implementation.

“Typically, a Director of Analytics would be part of the conversation, but not the implementation. But this innate thing that I have to help improve the way things work made me want to take part in the execution.”

“It was a complex challenge,” he said, “but those are the ones that have the biggest impact on your career. If you see something that isn’t working, do something about it. If the window of opportunity opens up, you jump through.”

Go Ahead has since implemented the solution, and while Simon is excited to see the impact it will have on the business, he said he’s not planning on resting on that success for too long. “I’ve gotten some good advice that I continue to live by: ‘You can’t rest on what you’ve done in your career. It’s what you are going to do next that is important.’

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