Our people are central to our success at Graide, and we are particularly proud of the work everyone is putting in to make sure we can meet the demands of our customers. It is this hard work and dedication that has led to us receiving high levels of customer satisfaction.
We have a strong team ethic at Graide and this is evident in the way we work together to get the job done. We are all committed to providing the best possible service to our customers.
In our employee spotlight blog series, we will feature Graide’s employees and their roles at the company. Our goal is to provide a little bit of insight into the lives of our ever-so-hardworking employees. In this post, we’d like to introduce you to our Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and co-founder, who is often in the background making sure the product is running smoothly. Robert Stanyon's outstanding PhD thesis was the idea that brought Graide to life, and he has since then worked to make Graide a success. In this post, we will discuss his career journey and work at Graide. We hope you enjoy getting to know Robert better!
Tell us about yourself
Hi - I'm Rob, one of the founders of Graide and the CTO. I moved to Birmingham for my undergraduate degree in 2012 and have stuck around here ever since. I developed the core marking engine for the Graide platform as part of a PhD at the University of Birmingham titled "Improving Student Assessment and Feedback through the Application of Computer Algebra and Machine Learning".
What are some of the interesting things about you?
My favourite hobby is playing board games with friends—I have a collection of about 40 different games I own and also enjoy playing games virtually with friends who live further away, or when world events conspire to keep everyone apart. When alone, I quite enjoy reading books—I have recently finished re-reading Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, which kept me busy for quite a while!
You’re our CTO; what made you keen to start Graide?
I was keen to start Graide in order to help educators, having seen the pain that marking can be and cause firsthand during my PhD.
I started working in EdTech (education technology) during my undergrad at UoB, during which I did two summer internships writing online mathematics assessment questions for the STEM departments across the university. There were enough of us doing these internships that we could specialise in different areas; I and another intern focused on what we called the "Grading Code"—that is, the small programme which determines whether the answer is correct, and therefore what grade it should get. We created a reusable library of these functions which is now in use in universities across the globe, and a number of other improvements that I created during this time have been incorporated into the software that we were writing the questions.
As part of this process, we identified a number of flaws in this approach to grading. The vast majority of lecturers are not in a position to be able to create effective grading code, primarily due to a combination of lack of time and the high level of programming skills required. Using interns got around this problem by making time (and teaching them to program), but this process doesn't scale very well and isn't always an option. This leads to the next question: surely there must be a better way to do this?
This was then the seed of the PhD-can we fundamentally shift the way that we use technology as part of the marking process to really take advantage of the benefits it can bring, without introducing any downsides. The short answer is yes, and we generated such promising results part way through the PhD that we actually started creating a spin-out company (Graide) a few years before the PhD was finished.
What do you like best about working at Graide?
It feels like what we do can really help people in a significant way. Ultimately, we are trying to give educators more time to focus on face-to-face teaching by removing some of the repetitive and boring parts of their work. Giving an educator even a few extra hours a week (even if they use it to take a break!) should be able to improve the quality of the education they can provide, which can then have a positive impact on all their students—by helping one person, we help many.
Fun Fact - If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Probability manipulation, aka "being lucky". Think of something like Mat from the Wheel of Time or Domino from Deadpool.