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The power of connection: Gretchen’s EF journey

Gretchen didn’t have a passport when she first joined EF Education First. What she did have when she arrived to our North American headquarters in Boston was a passion for helping people—making her the perfect fit for EF’s Office Coordinator position.

“I remember being in the lobby and getting really excited,” Gretchen said about arriving for her interview. “My excitement grew as I met with many different people and spoke with those that had previously been in the role.”

Gretchen immediately settled into her job at the front desk with a big smile and happy-go-lucky attitude. The Office Coordinator position required Gretchen to handle a variety of responsibilities, from greeting staff each morning to event planning and new-hire on-boarding. She met each task with positivity and a willingness to help.

“In that position you are in the center of it all, communicating with staff across our 17 different products, finding out about their work, their trips, their grandmother, and staying connected to so many people,” Gretchen said.

Gretchen’s love for her role and always-positive personality led her to win EF’s Core Value Award for Passion, one of seven awards given to standout employees at the Boston office’s annual holiday party. The prize? Two round-trip tickets to Iceland and Ireland.

“I took my dad with me and we found the family crest,” Gretchen said of the trip, “and on top of that, I celebrated my 25th birthday! It’s crazy that I didn’t even have a passport when I started at EF, and now I prioritize travel. EF taught me that travel isn’t scary.”

It was through Gretchen’s conversations at the front desk that she learned about an opening for a UX Researcher with EF Educational Tours. A newly created role, the requirements were very much aligned with what Gretchen was excelling at already—connecting to people—and using those insights to make a positive impact on the business.

“The Executive Creative Director, Nate, asked what my interests were and I told him I love people and data/reporting, which don’t tend to go together! He followed up with that by saying, ‘I have this crazy idea that you would be a good fit for this role we’re hiring for in the Studio [EF’s in-house creative team].’ I’ll never forget it! I returned from my trip to Ireland and Iceland and Nate put time on my calendar to catch up. Seeing the job description was like seeing myself on a piece of paper. I couldn’t have been more excited.”

According to Gretchen, her new role is all about “one-on-one conversations, interviews, and focus groups.” She explained, “we take those insights and distill them into something that people can make decisions from. Anecdotes from our customers are super important regarding how they value the tools we provide.”

Much of the research that Gretchen and her team conducts has led to new features to the EF Educational Tours customer website, where teachers who are bringing a group of students abroad can make changes to their group and get tour-specific updates—simplifying the process for teachers to manage their group and customize preferences.

“We use customer research all the time, in copy or to build out a new feature. I view what I do now as ‘tech therapy.’ It’s an opportunity to ask questions, to listen, and to stay connected to our customers so we can make thoughtful improvements to our business.”

Equally important to Gretchen was staying connected to the people she had met as an Office Coordinator. “It was easy being front and center and having an opportunity to connect with everyone,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that in my new role, I still had my people, so I keep in the loop with the other products by participating in things like the Running Club and the annual Reach the Beach relay race.” Gretchen smiled as she shared her most key piece of advice: “I’ve found that if you express an interest in people, you will always stay connected to them.”

Regarding the recent achievements she’s proudest of, it again comes down to the people—in this case, EF’s customers. “We implemented some customer feedback, and the customer was super appreciative. Keeping that feedback loop going keeps us humble in our designs—if it’s not interesting and it’s not helping our customers, then we won’t do it.”

Gretchen is excited to see what comes next. “The role has definitely evolved since I started. We’re working on bigger projects, outside of the tech teams, on longer studies and market research, and there’s no end of sight. It’s like a goldfish, we’ll grow to whatever size container we’re in.”

Interested in opening the world with us? Visit careers.ef.com

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