How Employees at Cengage Group Use Innovation at Work
Our employees are inspiring and creating innovation at work, big and small, every day. We are a competitive force in the education technology industry, driven by our mission to keep education affordable and accessible for all. To do so, we must have products and services that change to meet our customers’ needs.
As we continue to innovate, our customers benefit from next generation experiences that make it easier to learn, when and where they want. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every innovation is a giant leap – incremental innovation is also extremely important.
But what is innovation? We spoke with employees to find out more about how they approach innovation and encourage innovation in the workplace.
What is Innovation?
“Innovation, to me, means the active pursuit of creating or delivering value. The frequent exercise of this pursuit and teaching others how to productively innovate is incredibly rewarding to me, both in ways big and small.”
– Jen M., VP of Strategy, Operations and Transformation
“Innovation for me is to enhance your solution by implementing new ideas which deliver long term strategic value and reduce risk.”
– Priya D., Manager, Software Engineering
“My personal definition of innovation is differentiation with distinction. One of my maxims in life is, ‘If we continue to think and do what we’ve always thought and done, we will always get what we’ve always gotten.’ Henry Ford said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ No one knew that they wanted the automobile (or the smartphone) until it was shown to them and then they said that’s exactly what they needed. That’s innovation – it’s more than replacing like-for-like but instead jump-starting new capabilities, new ways of working, and new skills and training.”
– Eric R., Director, Enterprise Architecture, Strategy and Roadmap
“To me, innovation is how we come up with novel ideas, products and processes to make things better for ourselves and for our customers. For example, as a company we innovated in our pricing structures and product delivery to provide better value to students with the creation of Cengage Unlimited.”
– Nick S., DevOps Engineer
What are Innovative Jobs at Cengage Group?
Rachel L., Senior Technical Talent Acquisition Partner, helps build innovation teams by hiring Technical Product Managers, Program Managers, DevOps Engineers, Salesforce Cloud Leads and more. These roles are cross-functional in nature and are hands-on with our products.
Rachel often hires for roles in our higher education or ed2go businesses, but she also recruits for open roles company wide. She explains that these innovative team members directly benefit learners because, “their purpose is to help build the understanding and roadmaps behind our products as well as produce and strategize the future of those products.” At Cengage Group, we have jobs that make a difference, including:
Software Engineering Manager: Applying Innovation to Information Technology
Priya D., Manager, Software Engineering, and her team oversee a SaaS-based cloud platform for optimizing processes, connecting silos and creating a single, unifying platform to digitize business. This platform, which has several products, specializes in IT service, IT operations and IT business management. Priya’s team implements and maintains these products to improve efficiency and accelerate digital transformation through workflows.
“My team and I are constantly looking for new ways to resolve problems that can be solved more efficiently and quickly using technology and innovation. We use workflows and automations to help IT better support business and enhance the user experience,” says Priya. “We have implemented many new ideas that streamline and support efficient cross-functional workflows by easing the burden on our IT teams.”
While Priya and her team use innovation daily, she believes, “You can bring innovative thinking to any job. Creative ideas, and the right mindset to use technology to implement those ideas, will help provide quality solutions.”
Enterprise Architecture Director: Using Innovation to Improve the Customer Experience
As part of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) team, Eric R. and his colleagues make sure that we see what’s coming and combine this knowledge with business objectives to get us where we need to be to capitalize on it. To do this, they research and prototype emerging technology and trends while partnering with technology companies. This includes not only evaluating technologies and trends to verify if the high expectations are reality, but also balancing when it’s likely to be most productive to act.
Getting the timing right for innovation is important. Eric says, “Jumping on to a technology or trend too early can be costly. For example, releasing something with bugs or limited functionality can create a poor experience for the customer. Likewise, being too late can create the added expense of playing catch up and the platform may seem stale or antiquated.” The EA team creates recommendations and guidelines to aid in the design of future-state roadmaps and clarify current designs to align with objectives and plans.
One of Eric’s responsibilities is to identify technology solutions and business capabilities with gaps and misalignments and address them by working with leaders and partners to create multi-year roadmaps. His team also anticipates and plays out “what if” scenarios to prevent tunnel vision while also inspiring innovation.
“Because the world outside of Cengage Group isn’t static, we must continue to innovate,” says Eric. “Our customers expect us to be innovative because that’s the experience they’re having outside of our space with companies like Amazon. The trick to being innovative is understanding what both your current and future customers will need, even if they aren’t aware of those needs.”
DevOps Engineer: Utilizing Innovation to Improve Operational Efficiency
As a member of the DevOps team, Nick S. uses innovation to develop systems that automate time consuming, repetitive processes for engineers and reduce the friction they experience when building products for Cengage Group customers.
Nick focuses on developing and supporting systems that streamline the software development and deployment process for our engineering teams. The innovative work that Nick and his team do benefits our customers in a variety of ways including:
- Providing functionality that our instructors find useful
- Improving the reliability and performance of our software platforms, so students can spend more time engaging directly with the curriculum
- Creating efficiencies in our product development processes so we can deliver features to our customers at lower cost and with greater frequency
Nick says, “We’re always looking for new ways to shorten the time and effort required for our product teams to build and release new functionality to customers. In software, in general, innovation is a constant as we are always providing new functionality to users or looking for new ways to improve their experience using our products.”
What Are Three Indicators of Strong Innovative Job Candidates?
“When you work at Cengage Group, you’re contributing to content, products and services that help improve the lives of others through education. Innovation is important to our everyday work,” says Rachel.
We encourage innovation at work and want to hire people who approach innovation and the chance to help learners better their lives with the same excitement we have for our mission. Rachel shares some of the characteristics that we look for when interviewing candidates for innovation jobs, including:
1. Taking Innovative Approaches to Research and Problem Solving
When interviewing for an innovation job, Rachel suggests researching the company and coming prepared with not only what your skills and experience can contribute to the role, but also what you can do to make improvements or bring new ideas to the table. She says, “Come prepared to ask insightful questions. Ask the typical day to day and technical questions, but in addition, inquire about the strategy and the impact this role will have on learners.”
Rachel adds, “We want people who see themselves in our mission and values, and who ultimately align with our goals. When asked why you want to join us, consider an answer that includes what you can bring to the product offering or the job to improve it. That shows you care, you’re an innovative thinker and you already have ideas to bring to the table.”
2. Encouraging Innovation Among Team Members
“We will continue to innovate and improve what we deliver so our products are the best they can be for our customers. That goes for our team members, too. We want to work with people who are committed to helping themselves and others in the company innovate, grow and improve as this will ultimately help our products innovate, grow and improve as well,” says Rachel.
While certain jobs require more innovative thinking than others, the ability to encourage innovation is a skill that’s highly valued. We can all look for inefficiencies in the way work gets done. Nick encourages people to think innovatively by “considering ways to eliminate or automate tedious tasks or reduce wasteful practices. If there's something that you find causes friction in the way you get things done, chances are others feel the same way. If you're in a customer-facing role, share what you've learned from talking to customers with managers and product teams.”
If you’re a people manager, encourage your team to think about innovation daily. Eric says, “Managers and organizations can encourage innovation by inspiring and creating opportunities to receive ideas.” At Cengage Group, we live our ethos and ask employees to provide candid, valuable feedback. We encourage teams to look for pain points and empower them to make decisions and take actions to resolve them.
3. Embracing Innovation for Better Results
It’s said that the only thing that’s constant is change. To be innovative, you can’t let fear of change or fear of the unknown hold you back. “Being innovative is knowing that although change may come with growing pains, like disruption to your process or day-to-day work, at the end of the day, there’s a big enough idea behind the change that all those factors are worth it. So, you take that change by the horns and help drive it,” says Rachel.
Nick adds, “Cengage Group does a great job of empowering its employees. We are consistently challenged to disrupt the status quo in the higher ed market to provide more value to our customers. The challenge of solving problems for our customers is the perfect recipe for innovation and Cengage Group empowers employees to affect change in our products and processes.”
At Cengage Group, We Never Stop Innovating
As Vice President of Strategy, Operations and Transformation, Jen M. is truly passionate about innovation in the workplace and the belief behind the Cengage Group mission and commitment to learners. She says, “I have found Cengage Group to be an incredible enabler of creativity. It’s part of your DNA when you’re a company delivering learning solutions. Team members thrive on making progress on innovations together, and culturally, Cengage Group does a great job acknowledging when employees totally rock it and continue to deliver value time and time again. It’s the balance of innovation and the focus on the individual that makes Cengage Group special."
At Cengage Group, we help millions of learners improve their lives and achieve their dreams through education. If you’re interested in working in innovation and technology, visit our careers page to find available edtech jobs.