Jobs That Make a Difference: Manager, Software Engineering
At Cengage Group, our mission-driven culture creates jobs that make a difference in the lives of learners. Working here means having a direct impact by helping students around the world discover the power and joy of learning. From Marketing Directors to UX Designers, we all play a role in providing learners with choices in how, where and what they learn.
We spoke with Alexis F., Manager, Software Engineering with Infosec, about why she’s passionate about making a difference in education technology.
How does your role and the work you do help students and learners?
Within our Cengage Work business, my software engineering team is responsible for Infosec IQ’s technical systems. We are responsible for software development, including new features and services. Every decision we make impacts our learners and customers. IQ has grown in its total number of learners, learners per customer and number of features over the last few years, so a large part of our job is making sure we can scale to meet customers' needs in a performant and usable way. Most of that work is hopefully invisible to our users, as we remove performance bottlenecks, identify and remediate errors, and improve our ability to observe the system. We are also responsible for new development, including new features and services. Each of these can impact our learners, either directly via changes to learner-facing content delivery or indirectly, with improved workflows for our program administrators.
What’s something you’re proud of that has impacted learners?
A few years ago, we migrated our entire system in a jaw-dropping two-month project. This immediately increased our scalability, availability and observability. Shortly after that, we changed our core product release cycle from approximately every two weeks to continuous integration and delivery. Right now, it’s about one hour from peer review approval to code being live in production (although changes are usually not visible to our users until the feature is reviewed and released). This model allows us to lower the risk of each release and release code very quickly. If there is a problem, we can fix it within hours instead of days. This is all background work that probably isn’t at the forefront of our learners’ minds when they’re taking a course, but the work we do greatly affects their user experience.
What motivated you to work at Cengage Group and in edtech?
I studied computer science, with a concentration in information assurance, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I have always loved writing code and seeing other people use it, and cybersecurity is a very exciting area of computer science. After undergrad, I worked in cybersecurity for a few years before earning a Master of Science in Computer Sciences from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
My family and I fell in love with Madison, so I strayed from cybersecurity and found a love for the immediate feedback possible in web development. Joining IQ as a developer allowed me to return to the broader cybersecurity space while also enjoying ever-shortening feedback loops - from years to code in production, to months, weeks and now hours!
Cengage Group is a natural fit for me. At Infosec, we help our customers and learners to transform culture around cybersecurity awareness. People, and the decisions they make every day, are the solutions to cybersecurity problems. Through accessible and engaging training, we keep the focus on people so they can make informed decisions to keep information, organizations and people safe.
I believe that education, either formal and structured for a career goal or incidental and for the joy of learning, is so valuable on a personal and societal level. One of the largest challenges facing most people in cybersecurity training is fear and misinformation. Learning requires psychological safety and the space to experiment, iterate and fail.
If a learner is concerned clicking on a phishing simulation sent by their employer will cost them their livelihood, it’s a lot harder to move into a space to assess and appropriately accept risks. This puts the learner and the organization at risk when they are in the decision-making seat of a real (potential) incident. Technology and connectivity should be a tool to enable people, communities and organizations in their goals, and I think too many people treat technology as a vengeful tyrant instead of a set of tools to use.
Based on your experience, what’s the strongest element of Cengage Group’s culture?
I have especially enjoyed the ability for every employee, at every level, to be candid and contribute to any conversation. We have so many passionate people who are thoughtfully considering the learner and our impact on our communities and the world. It’s really inspiring. Cengage Group is willing to take calculated risks, iterate on solutions and apply values in line with continuous learning to all facets of our organization.
Cengage Group employees make an impact and change the world. Here, transparency and collaboration are core values. We provide challenging careers, competitive benefits, a strong technology focus and a great team of co-workers and customers.
To learn more and apply for an open role, visit the careers section of our website.
Read about more jobs that make a difference at Cengage Group:
- Director, Strategic Marketing
- Senior Media Producer
- Senior Director, English Language Teaching
- UX Designer