The Jobs Report: I’m An Entrepreneur
1:30 pm, February 8th | by Laura Donovan
This is the latest installment in an ongoing series we’re calling The Jobs Report. In light of depressing statistics about unemployment, especially for recent college graduates, the task of finding a job you love — or finding a job at all — can seem insurmountable. We want to challenge those numbers and offer an antidote to the depressing data, so we’re asking women we know who have found jobs they love to share how they got their gigs and what challenges and rewards them about their careers. Previous installments can be found here.
Anindita Basu Sempere is the Executive Director of TheWritingFaculty.com, an online tutoring and eLearning company offering expert writing instruction to students of all ages.
1) When and how did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I never expected to start a company. I graduated from college with a dual degree in Computer Science and English and intended to become an interactive toymaker and poet. I went straight to graduate school where I studied how technology can facilitate children’s learning and worked on technological tools that students could use to express themselves. By that point, I was hooked on education, especially the idea of learning by doing and by making.
However I really missed writing and decided to return to school for another graduate degree. While I was a student, I tutored part-time, and after completing graduate school, I became a founding faculty member at a charter school. Balancing my own writing with teaching middle school was nearly impossible, although I love teaching, so I joined the tutoring company as a full-time staff member, hoping to find a better balance between education and writing. I learned about business through my various roles at the company, from tutor to sales staff to manager then director.
Still, this wasn’t quite the right fit. We primarily tutored standardized tests, and I was drawn to education for a love of learning and especially for making — whether stories and poems or robotics and code, and I wanted to bring those ideas together. I didn’t find what I was looking for, which prompted the leap to entrepreneurship and co-founding a company. The Writing Faculty (www.thewritingfaculty.com ) is an online tutoring company that focuses solely on writing, which finally lets me combine and share my interests in learning, technology, and writing.
2) How did you get the job you have now?
By creating it! I was looking for something that combined education and writing but wasn’t a traditional teaching position, and I found postings that were either tangentially related to my interests or didn’t match my experience. I took a step back and thought about what I wanted to do. Writing and education would both clearly play a role, and I knew the tutoring industry well, so that seemed like a natural fit. I also wanted to provide opportunities for other writers and writing teachers, since so many work part-time to supplement their teaching and freelancing. I ended up partnering with some colleagues, and we launched The Writing Faculty.
3) What’s something challenging about your job that you didn’t know about before starting it?
Oh, where to begin? I knew in-home tutoring well, and switching to an online model required some adjustment. We work with students across the U.S. and even in other countries, so our students have vastly different backgrounds. And while I had run a tutoring office before and managed a staff of tutors and worked with families and students, we were starting from scratch and had to develop new systems for everything. Of course I knew this going in, but every so often something pops up, and I realize — we haven’t had this situation before. We don’t have a model to follow, so let’s figure out what to do.
4) What’s something great about your job that you didn’t know about before starting it?
One of the best parts about starting a company is getting to make a decision and run with it. This was one of my biggest frustrations in both research and teaching — there’s a great deal of inertia. For example, The Writing Faculty was initially geared toward middle and high school students. However, we received a steady stream of inquiries from adults who wanted to further develop their writing skills. I talked to our tutors and most had significant experience teaching adults, so we were immediately able to offer programs to adults, as well. That sort of flexibility has been wonderful from a creative standpoint — we can come up with an idea and try it — but also from a human standpoint. We work with an incredible range of people, from the seventh grade student who’s learning to write an academic essay for the first time to the retiree who wants to revise a novel and everyone in between. I couldn’t have predicted the range of students and programs, and that’s been delightful.
Anindita Basu Sempere is the Executive Director of TheWritingFaculty.com, an online tutoring and eLearning company offering expert writing instruction to students of all ages. Please visit www.thewritingfaculty.com for more information.