Interview with Founder and CEO, Apto Global – Traci Snowden

1. Tell us about your role in Apto Global?
I’m Traci Snowden, Founder & CEO, Apto Global.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
My journey into this market has been an organic one. I grew up influenced by multiple cultures and languages and had the opportunity to travel domestically and internationally starting as a child, throughout adolescence and adulthood. I studied foreign language education, ESL and international business. In 2011, I was recruited into SaaS sales and in 2013 I started the predecessor company to Apto Global, which catered to the ex-pat population in Nashville, Tenn. As a consultant, I did more than just teach my clients English at various levels, I helped them and their families adapt to a local community by equipping them with the cultural context to know what to say and why, and how to express themselves based on their own personality and identity. I also helped connect them to resources they would need locally to adapt to every day life in Nashville. They were my inspiration and the reason I converted this methodology into a scalable technology solution.

3. How do you think technology is changing the Education Sector?
It is my belief that the best method for learning a language, or adapting across cultures, is to be immersed in the culture and language itself. Sadly, for most of the world’s population, that is simply not feasible. Technology allows us to blend learning and I think that’s where it shines in this space. It is making education more affordable and more widely available. I think as long as we allow technology to serve humanity and not the other way around, we can continue to innovate generation after generation.

4. Can you explain how experiential learning enhances the learning curve of every individual employee?
First and foremost, have you ever had to take online training? The first wave of online training that came to the market was as dry as taking a 500-page textbook and simply converting it online. It required hours of watching sub-par content only to be awarded with a test at the end to meet a compliance-based need. Then gamification entered the e-learning scene. Okay, let’s try to take this excruciatingly boring process and make it slightly more rewarding. Progress, but the average professional’s development and productivity is also rapidly advancing. Let’s face it: online training has stayed largely behind the curve of other technological advances. But when we move to experiential learning, we begin to contextualize that learning based on individual needs and outcome driven goals. Today, learners can learn exactly what they need, when they need it, in a highly contextual way—which is how we learn and develop from early childhood and gain the critical skills needed for life-long success—not just Grade 8 Algebra or to pass a one-time exam.

5. How do you think Apto Global has contributed to the development of experiential learning?
When I first conceptualized the idea of Apto and began extremely preliminary market research, it was clear that experiential learning in our space was still lagging but the CAGR trends and user studies were favorable. It was also clear that prospective learners were highly engaged by authentic content and particularly when delivered through live action video. We built our content model around this research, believing that AR/VR were still too premature and costly for the gap in the market we recognized that needed to be filled. I believe Apto has contributed to the development of experiential learning by seeing a gap and creating feature sets and user experiences that make us a next generation product with disruptive key differentiators. We listen to the experiences of others to make our product better every day.

6. “E-learning is the future of Education” What are your views about this?
Blended learning is now. Perhaps there will come a day when e-learning dominates. I think we’ll see more of a shift, certainly, but again,

I believe in creating in order to allow technology to empower humanity.

We have leveraged technology to simulate experiences learners might otherwise face in real life. However, you can’t replace smell, touch and face-to-face human interaction completely. What technology can do, however, is prepare learners in advance, track usage and efficacy, drive down costs and increase retention and productivity. More people across the globe can become more in their life and maybe have a greater chance at fulfilling their purpose—be that a successful career, relocation or world traveler.

7. Can you share with us one of the most digitally innovative strategies that have resulted in boosting the performance of the company?
Systems thinking is one of the greatest ways to drive efficiency and efficiency boosts performance. So, unfortunately a lot of the secret is in the back-end “sauce,” which I can’t share too much about.

8. What advice would like to give to the up and coming HRtech StartUps?
Iterate with the active participation of your early adopters; focus on expanding those relationships and learning from your clients and users. Track and analyze data early and often. Don’t allow negativity to keep you from finding ideal solutions. Computer science shows us that there are infinite solutions to a single problem, so you can find one to yours…and trust me you’ll have to…multiple in fact, probably every day. That has to be part of the fun for you. If you don’t like solving problems with increasing efficiency, you may want to turn back down the yellow brick road and start sprinting for Kansas.

9. What technology do you think will leave its mark in 2019?
The simplest technology that will leave its mark is focused on increased battery life, lol. Seriously, I definitely think AR is finally making its way to stay.

10. What is the vision on which you and Apto Global are working on?
Our mission is to empower internationals from everywhere to adapt to local communities and environments anywhere. This vision means helping promote global adaptation on three levels: 1) We want to see individuals from all over the globe be able to succeed in any way across “borders.” That’s why we designed Apto to push hyper-localized content to users based on their learning focus and goals. There’s a big difference between using Apto as a 42 year-old Japanese man relocating to Theodore, Alabama versus a 15 year-old American who is smitten with K-Pop and taking her first trip to Seoul. 2) We help organizations, especially multi-national corporations, with multiple locations and employees working across borders and cultures in multiple regions of the world. We make training useful from tracking, recruiting, hiring and onboarding employees where domestic and international workforce must interact a MUCH more streamlined process. 3) We want to have economic and social impact—we support local and federal economies in attracting foreign direct investment, global citizens and tourists. And yeah, we are all pretty passionate about living in a global community that celebrates rather than rejects our differences. We think by allowing our users to experience the world in this way and learn how to interact virtually, maybe some of the fear that limits us will gradually recede. Maybe we can give our children a better chance and a better world, no matter how incremental that change…it’s worth it.

11. What are the major developments you are planning in the near term?
As you may know, we are still a relatively young but rapidly growing company. Our native Android app is being released in Q3, as is a 2.5 iteration of our web-based application. Way more in the works than that but those two items are imminent.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
The Apto Global team is the foundation of all I do. We support each other. Our culture is built on mutual trust, respect, honesty and kindness. We value efficiency, balance and we are constantly learning. We have a lot of fun together.

13. What book are you reading these days?
Well, that’s a loaded question, because I’m always reading 10-12 simultaneously. I just finished up Michelle Obama’s Becoming and have been reading the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell in addition to a lot of books on the topic of data, lol, and Tintenherz (which yes, is in German, lol).

14. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture. Can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?

15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
My apps are broken down by the following categories: Entertainment, Video Chat, Radio/Music, Finance, Services, Travel, Apto (all the productivity apps we use as a team in one place), Social Media, Language, Utilities, Productivity, Books and News. I use Slack, Calm, Waze and Weather pretty much daily.

Traci Snowden Founder and CEO, Apto Global

Traci Snowden is the Founder and CEO of Apto Global. Prior to this, she had also founded Music City Tutor. She has immense belief that language should be learned via the authentic context and cultural nuances of one's chosen destination.

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