In this episode, Brendan sits down with 7taps CPO Kate Udalova to discuss the power of supplementing your training with microlearning and the tool her team has developed to make authoring more efficient.
Brendan Cox 0:08
Welcome to the podcast today we thought we'd chat with someone who's in the learning innovation area. So we're speaking to the CEO of seven taps, Kate Udalova. Which should be an interesting chat and find out all about the stuff she's developing. Hi, Kate. How are you?
Kate Udalova 0:40
Hi, Brandan. I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.
Brendan Cox 0:44
No problem at all. So whereabouts are you at the moment?
Kate Udalova 0:46
I'm in Belarus in Minsk.
Brendan Cox 0:49
Okay. And you mentioned before the call started that your team's in different locations?
Kate Udalova 0:54
Yeah. Our team is located in Florida. And my startup is Florida based startup. So I'm in the process of relocation. And due to some COVID things I got stuck here, my parent's house. I hope to join my team soon.
Brendan Cox 1:12
So I guess let's start at the beginning. So before we dive into seven taps, tell us a bit about your background and your journey up to now.
Kate Udalova 1:21
Sure. Before I embarked upon my startup journey, I had spent nearly six years in a training and consulting company. And I had a pretty wide range of responsibilities because I dealt with marketing stuff with l&d product development. And I worked with clients as a consultant. And that was when I had my first experience creating an eLearning product, actually, it's called swipe. And it's an LMS with bite-sized courses, split into cards. And learner swipes those cards like you know, in Tinder. So it was it's really funny. And when I got to the point of creating seven taps, my own product, I had a pretty curious mix of experience, just because of all that marketing and product development instructional design.
Brendan Cox 2:27
How did the things that you did, and your interests over the time that you were doing them lead you to decide to make seven taps? Where was the genesis of that idea?
Kate Udalova 2:36
That's a great question. You know, I've been always the person who's interested in every single case. And I've always found it too boring to dwell on one thing. Furthermore, everything in the world now is so interconnected, that it's really crucial for you to understand not just one thing, but also some related areas to always broaden your horizon since one.
Kate Udalova 3:00
And in terms of the seven taps and my product, I think that at some moment, I just realised that it would be easier for me not to adjust to the employer's whims, but to do things on my own, just as I see them today. So that freedom means seven taps now has a solid product philosophy behind it, and it reflects my own outlook. And this is something that I believe no competitor can copy.
Kate Udalova 3:27
As for the interests that somehow helped me to get to this point, I think I should mention that when I was in school, I dreamt of becoming a journalist. And I was in a specialised class. I saw actually, in the fact that if your words you could convince, you could reassure this weight, and the like, and extra, I have a degree in management and economics, which is more down to earth, according to my parents. But my love of convinced in an engaging way of delivering information hasn't disappeared. And I suppose that my quest for microlearning takes root somewhere there. Since microlearning is all about using short, self-sufficient pieces of information with some practical outcome.
Brendan Cox 4:22
Were you influenced by things like Twitter, and the Instagram carousels when you were building?
Kate Udalova 4:29
Yeah, mostly, I was influenced by Instagram stories, as stories are media format. That's one of the role of social media platforms, they provide you with great storytelling capabilities, and they are easy to consume. So I just thought why not leverage these in order to get higher learner engagement.
Brendan Cox 4:56
A lot of E-learning has a lot of fat attached. People are smart, they can learn the things that you want them to learn, If you design it well, quite quickly, and then everything else becomes unnecessary, where you have something that you can consume fast, but is in bite-sized nuggets that work. Describe what seven taps does and how you created it?
Kate Udalova 5:21
Actually, I'll tell you a little secret about the process of creation. And I know it will sound horrible to some extent. So we didn't follow any of the conventional setup techniques. Frankly speaking, we were locked at home for almost nine months, mainly because of the lockdown. But anyway, we didn't communicate with potential customers along the way. And still, we managed to release the product that now gets tonnes of positive feedback from early adopters, and is promoted only by word of mouth. So we didn't spend a dime on advertising.
Kate Udalova 5:57
And as for the product itself, seven taps is a powerful, simple tool to create, share and track bite-sized courses. And as far as I mentioned, courses look like Instagram stories. And learners don't have to download anything to open them, they just get a glimpse and dive into a course in a quick, no passwords required no downloads, nothing but the structure of courses is intentionally engineered for the optimal microlearning experience.
Kate Udalova 6:29
So the courses ought to be consumed in up to 10 minutes, no longer as for the course offering, we drastically reduced course development time. This is just the greatest thing about sound taps. Because given you already have a topic in mind, it takes no longer than 20 minutes to create a course and then to share it in a click. So generally, that's all about it. In terms of the position in the app tech sector, seven taps was designed to work within your existing elements ecosystem to increase engagement and to boost knowledge retention. It's not a replacement for your current LMS platform. It's a good companion, I'd say.
Brendan Cox 7:19
Yeah, it's like a daily dose of learning. That you can do alongside what you're doing. You can reinforce the learning that you've already done. I've had a go with this. And it's really good. I've been using it to prototype our projects. So on somewhere I need to work out the flow of it seven taps is actually really cool for prototyping as well. So I can test out stuff when I want to try it.
Kate Udalova 7:40
I'm glad to hear that.
Brendan Cox 7:42
What have been some of your biggest challenges and surprises as you've built seven taps and as the CEO as well?
Kate Udalova 7:48
You know, in fact, I think that my current role in the company could be better defined as a Chief Product Officer. As for the challenges and surprises I could come up with, on the one thing that so far has been both the biggest challenge and the greatest surprise for me, you know, I'm an introvert, and I'm not good at networking at all. Okay, so every single thought about the upcoming cold outreach to industry experts to clients used to leave me breathing heavily in a cold sweat. You know, people in the industry are all busy and overwhelmed by messages like, Hey, take my product out, hey, let's come in today.
Kate Udalova 8:33
So I was really nervous about it. And how surprised there was to get a massive amount of feedback and support. It was sheer pleasure. And I'm so glad that I was able to overcome my fears. And now it's like a new world is opened up for me. I have all those amazing people in my life who support who inspire me on a regular basis. And I just couldn't devote an entire day. So just name-calling and telling you how cool they are and how grateful I am. So I just I'm sending them my hellos.
Kate Udalova 9:11
Really, there were dozens of people who really influenced me and inspired me. Most of them enjoyed seven taps and they provided me with their expertise, their advice. And of course, at some moment, I was not sure whether I'm moving into the right direction. And when clients were so enthusiastic about seven taps, when they asked me to book a call just to thank me just to say, what an amazing product I've built. And they asked whether they could be of assistance, and maybe they could spread a word about seven taps just to help me. So it's just awesome.
Kate Udalova 9:59
Something else I'd never imagined. Really, we don't have marketing budget right now, seven taps is promoted by word of mouth via LinkedIn. People just create their seven taps courses, they share them, and people can band. And there are more and more seven steps users just because of that unpredictable promotion, maybe it's about the viral effect, and it cannot be managed, it cannot be planned. It's something that proves that seven taps is a good product. It really resonates with people. And it's helpful. So it's all I can say.
Brendan Cox 10:41
The thing is, it's something that people want to try and want to use and find useful, it says a lot when something doesn't have a marketing budget, and yet still pops up in the radar of so many people promoting it as well. It is cool to see. So looking back over your life, and there are moments in it that have seemed disconnected, but now signpost to where you are now, you mentioned journalism as one of the things that you feel played a big role. Is there anything else?
Kate Udalova 11:09
Actually, I think that every moment I had in my life, now somehow all lined up, and everything turned out to be so timely and so necessary. Even what once seemed like nothing. Actually, I think that the most valuable asset for me is my marketing background. I cannot say that at some moment, It wasn't helpful to me. But now as I'm a founder, and if I'm dealing with eLearning, just this is the process, you know, where I can draw a smooth learner journey, just like in marketing when it comes to customer journey mapping.
Kate Udalova 11:49
I mean, I need to improve each point of contact with the learner along the training process from attracting attention and choosing the appropriate communication channels to keep an eye on metrics. And my deep understanding of how people prefer to consume information really helps me to feed these channels with relevant messages and relevant visuals. That's why I built seven taps, because in marketing we are always trying to attract customers' attention, and we are trying to reach them out and to make them buy something or just to persuade something. And the same story actually is about the learning process when you have to reach out to your learner when you have to convince him when you have to see the practical outcome of the information you believe it, you see. So I think that marketing is something that drives me and helps me to see the larger picture maybe from the other angle, in contrast to L&D folks, you know, because we are just coming from different spheres,
Brendan Cox 13:15
I feel the same way because we set up blend, because Tom was in education, and I was from content creation, marketing communications side of things, but the design aspect, and it's exactly what you said, that understanding of in marketing and communications, it's about empathising with the audience and building something or telling something or creating something that connects with them. So they want to buy something. And with education, it's connecting with them so they can learn something. And I think the practice that comes in from doing lots of marketing side of things, really helps you ask the right questions about is this really for the target audience? Is this really for the learner?
Brendan Cox 14:02
And I think that what you've created as opposed to a lot of software that is bloated and slow, and makes it feel like a PowerPoint presentation, that gets bigger and bigger, the more information you put in, instead, you've gone down an intuitive route, in the same way, that social media is driven by users reactions, and users preferences to create smaller and smaller nuggets of information and smaller ways of catching their attention as you said, That's influenced by your communication side, the same way that ours is.
Kate Udalova 14:35
And you know, for me, the eLearning industry now, it's really a place with lots of talented and enthusiastic people. But at the same time, it's a place full of cumbersome technology platforms and solutions, which were literally built 20 years ago. Random features sometimes no vision behind and you need to pass a four-hour guide to learn how to use the basics of the Learning Management System.
Kate Udalova 15:01
Not to see that you have to be a graphic designer to properly colour style and align content. So instead of focusing on educational knowledge, you spend your time doing graphic design work, and while learners, as you mentioned have switched to Instagram and tik tok. Course authoring tools are still miles behind producing learning engaging content because they are hardwired to do so. So I really hope that the industry will see the appearance of more user-friendly tools, just like seven taps, and then being friendly for both educators and for learners. It's really important.
Brendan Cox 15:43
like you say, a lot of the software and technology that's been used up till now was originally designed to animate PowerPoint presentations. Something crazy is captivate, which is made by Adobe, who make all of the Photoshop and After Effects and bits of software that are industry-leading, but they still have captivate which looks like PowerPoint, and has absolutely no development done on it. And it just seems crazy to me. So I think it's about time that someone built something user-friendly and learner-friendly as well.
Kate Udalova 16:14
Yeah, and if we speak just about the evolution of the industry, I think the first place is to deliver information at the right time. And with the right tool. Now we live in a world where we can find almost anything in the internet and l&d specialist, I think will be focused, not so much on content creation but, in time, really playing with the right mix of tools, something like that.
Brendan Cox 16:47
Letting the content dictate how its presented, not forcing the tool to dictate how the content is built. And I think they've had around the wrong way up until now. This is why everything looks like a PowerPoint presentation. So what are your predictions for the eLearning industry over the next few years?
Kate Udalova 17:09
Training will be based on timely delivery and a good mixture of right tools. And also, I think that training will be integrated into the work as much as possible. You know, currently, we haven't a streamlined process of education, just other business processes in the organization. And I think that the training should be really integrated in the job path. And you have to deal with lots of information just without understanding that you're learning, you're just going, you get something that you really need at the point of use, you consume it very quickly, and you can go and do your work. This help. So no more one-hour webinars just with comprehensive information, I understand that there is compliance training that cannot be skipped. But I think that the methods we use in training and the way we deliver that training can be improved and should be improved.
Brendan Cox 18:17
Definitely. So is there anything else you'd like our listeners to know, resources or books or podcasts or magazines that have helped you along the way building seven taps that you would recommend?
Kate Udalova 18:28
If you speak about entrepreneurship, the greatest resource for me is the Y Combinator library. Y Combinator is a startup accelerator. And they have a huge collection of articles, guidelines, leaders and how to create how to launch your product, how to deal with your customers, and alike. And personally, I suggest following Paul Graham's blog. He's an entrepreneur. He is a venture capitalist and his blog is a treasure trove of useful thoughts. And they are not only about business, but also in general about life about self-development. Lots of insights really well grab that calm. And maybe if we speak about eLearning industry, then a good resource would be a leading learning podcast leading learning.com. Actually, I'm subscribed to dozens of eLearning podcasts. I love them. But this one covers a wide range of subjects. And you'll definitely find the one you're interested in.
Brendan Cox 19:34
So where can people find you then you mentioned before you're on LinkedIn,
Kate Udalova 19:38
yeah, sure Kate Udalova at 7taps, LinkedIn or Twitter. I'm open to communication and happy to be of assistance. And sure you can email me at Kate at 7taps.com I'll respond as fast as they can.
Brendan Cox 19:51
Great. We'll put the link in the bottom of the show notes and I recommend go and try seven taps because it's a really cool way of delivering microlearning. What's the key thing You'd like the listeners to take away from this chat?
Kate Udalova 20:02
7taps story is all about enthusiastic people who dare to challenge a future educational technology market, which is now dominated by multibillion-dollar corporations. And those people spent oll of their savings on the product development just because of their belief in the product in its vision. And because they believe that they can help people be better, be faster, be more effective at what they do. I mean, educators, of course, and those people quit their full-time jobs in the first month of the lockdown. And it turns out that even with our pretty small team, we managed to build a product that gets tonnes of positive feedback and literally makes people excited about it. So if you're really obsessed with the idea to build something, you definitely should give it a try. You'll face lots of challenges and struggles. But at the end of the day, it's all worth it.
Brendan Cox 21:06
Perfect 2021 sentiment, get out there. And if you've got a good idea, don't wait around go make it. Well, thanks for the chat. Kate. It was really nice to talking to you and finding out a bit about seven taps. I recommend everyone go and have a go at it. And I look forward to seeing how your startup grows and takes over the industry.
Kate Udalova 21:25
Oh, thanks very much, Brendan.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai