Live Event: November 16, 2017 at 1:00pm Eastern (US)
Lindsey Tropf is the CEO and Co-founder of Immersed Games, where she creates online games that help students master STEM concepts as they play.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Play video games, photography, playing with my dogs and cat
Do you play any sports or do any athletic activities?
What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
I love reading Science Fiction! The Dragonriders of Pern series was my absolute favorite in middle and high school, and still as an adult.
What music do you listen to the most?
Probably the entire soundtrack from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Who do you look up to and admire?
Highest degree attained
Masters in Education. Got all-but-dissertation on a PhD but decided to start a company instead!
Future degree(s) planning on pursuing, if any
Possibly finishing my PhD one day.
Lee University in Tennessee for undergrad, University of Florida for grad school
Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college
I really loved everything, very curious about the world in general. Connected well with any technology related topics, especially!
What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
I held workshops during my doctoral work to train other educators and School Psychologists about collecting, formatting, and interpreting data to help guide educational decisions for students about their learning goals. I also worked on a grant where we developed a curriculum to help middle school students develop “executive function” skills – basically, mental abilities around things like working memory, planning, being flexible in your thinking, etc.
What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
I was running a business or two the entire time I was in graduate school, so simply being spread too thin. Now that I have only been working on one thing for a couple years, it’s great to be able to commit myself fully and not feel like I’m doing a sub-par job on several things when trying to do so much.
I’m the CEO and Co-founder of a startup, Immersed Games
Years in this organization/position
What does your organization do?
We’ve created Tyto Online, an online game where students master STEM concepts as they play!
What is your role in the organization?
We’re still small, which means that the CEO of a small company does a lot! I do the things a CEO normally does, which are seeking partnerships, setting strategy, raising money, making sure we have the resources to succeed. But I also serve as a product manager, more hands-on with the direction of our product, and guide especially the educational side of it because of my background in education, and guide the marketing efforts, too!
Describe your work environment
We have an awesome team that’s working together to make Tyto Online successful and get it out to kids. We have a very open culture, and pretty much all work out of one big room. Everyone can come up with ideas, ask questions, and understand what our business is doing and how we’re going about it. I like to say that “nothing is sacred” in that anyone can question things and change our direction if they bring up a great point or idea. This is one of the great things about working in a startup – we can change quickly and everyone’s voice is able to contribute to that discussion, which is hard when you’re a huge company where interns aren’t sitting right next to your CEO!
What tools and/or techniques do you use in your job?
For managing our tasks and product, we use Trello, something called JIRA, and a lot of Google Drive documents and spreadsheets. The main techniques we use for product development are Scrum and agile-based. The company uses a game engine called Unreal to develop the game, but I don’t work in that. I use our internal web-based tools that we’ve developed to help manage our customers and content.
We communicate with each other in Slack all day long, and use tools to communicate with our customers like Zendesk support desk and Drift for live chat. I am also often communicating with customers on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Describe a typical day in your job
I spend a couple hours emailing with potential partners, investors, advisors, or my board of directors. I may then spend an hour or two to do research and do some strategic planning about an initiative or partnership we are working on. Often this means writing up a proposal or presentation that I’ll give in person to a group of people. I review our metrics like gameplay statistics, our user signups, and feedback, and use that to help orient our goals and strategy.
Throughout the day, I am giving feedback to our team members as they need help on educational questions or need me to help make a decision. A few times a week, I’ll have a Scrum or team meeting where we plan product development for the next couple weeks, or go over strategies for marketing, or game design direction with the team.
Describe an atypical day in your job
At least once a month, I travel to an event for networking or speaking purposes. Sometimes I am presenting or giving a presentation about our company. These can be anxiety-inducing but are a great opportunity to meet new people and find potential partners for the business.
How is the work you do important to society?
Solving education is solving everything.
Our long-term goal is for Tyto Online to be a video game where students can learn anything. They can become a Master of Ecology and build incredible ecosystems, or Master of Heredity breeding cool creatures, or in physics, Earth science, etc. The idea that students will be able to dive deeply into subjects they love, and discover new ones, all inside a game – this is what inspires me and makes me so excited to go to work every day.
What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
We’re adding more content areas and starting to get the game into the market (i.e. to students).
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Building a video game takes a lot of up-front development, which means you need money from people before you’ve grown into a cool business pulling in customers and making money. Finding the right partners who believe in what you are doing and see the potential, and are willing to invest and partner together in those early stages, is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
Every time a kid is excited about science from playing our game.
Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role
Went straight from academia into starting my own company!
Other positions not necessarily related to your current career
I had a photography business in college.
What were you like as a kid?
Curious! Wanting to understand and explore everything I could.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
In middle school, I wanted to be an Ecologist. When I went off to college, I wanted to be a psychologist, but didn’t know what type.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
When I was in graduate school, working with teachers and students in education, I thought I wanted to be a professor and study educational games. I had been a huge gamer and especially World of Warcraft player, and saw the immense potential they had. But when I saw the educational games out there, I realized they had some serious limitations. They didn’t play like those commercial games I love, they didn’t have long-term, deep experiences. And I decided I wanted to do that, and this would be my life’s work!
What advice would you give students in general?
The world is constantly changing right now, and you’ve probably been told that the careers you’ll do in your lifetime are likely ones that don’t even exist right now. That can be scary to some people, but I think it’s awesome. Just keep in mind that having a career is about what value you can bring to other people. For me, I’m creating this video game that brings value for those that want to educate and inspire students around STEM. If you look for opportunities in your life to help people, to solve problems for them, you’ll have no problem figuring out some awesome paths in life, and maybe making your own career like I did with our startup.
Company website: http://www.immersedgames.com/
Game website: https://www.tytoonline.com/
Then & Now series about careers of my team, what they were like as children and how they got into game development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk56FcVbL7A&list=PL84Pvj8x5B03te2wkUKgYNMQr2u3WQmVW