Faisal Anwar started his career as an engineer. But he discovered that merely solving technical problems wasn’t satisfying. So he took a job teaching high school math in Boston. “I had always found educational opportunities transformative for my own life trajectory and I enjoyed mentoring and helping students,” he says. He dove in headfirst; inspired to make a bigger impact, he even went to grad school for educational policy.
When he found out about a job opening for an engineering manager at Teachers Pay Teachers, the popular resource-sharing platform for educators, it combined the two things he cared about most: improving education and solving challenging technical problems. “I get to work on product-driven problems to improve teachers’ and students’ lives on a platform that is used by millions of people across the world,” he says. “I get to think about scaling systems, integrating technology and helping students learn. It’s a great feeling to work on something that has such a positive and wide impact while also growing in the technical skills that interest me so much.”
Trace Anwar’s path back to engineering, and learn how you can follow your passions to find a truly fulfilling career.
What attracted you to work at Teachers Pay Teachers?
It’s a company that strives to empower teachers to teach at their best. As a former teacher myself, this mission resonated with me. Anything we can do to help our teachers be successful and raise the prestige of their role is something I can get behind. Doing it on a platform used by millions and with a product that has a great deal of breadth introduces technical challenges that are also exciting.
Beyond the mission and work, the people and culture at TpT is also a huge part of what attracted me to the company. We have such a diversity of thoughtful and passionate people across all functions who strive to meet our core values. These values include learning and growing together, enjoying the journey, and acting like owners. When you find people embodying these values in the work they do, it creates a positive environment for your own growth that is essential for long-term satisfaction in any role.
What are you responsible for in your role?
As an engineering manager, I oversee a team of engineers who are responsible for our product and platform. This means I’m helping to make sure we have a clear technical strategy that meets our product and business objectives. Hiring and growing engineers to iterate on and implement this strategy is one of the biggest ways I support their career growth and the company.
Can you talk about some of the innovative technology that you create?
On the digital team specifically, we have embarked on unique authoring and collaboration tools for teachers and students. We want students to be able to interact with existing printable resources on a device more easily, so we’re building capabilities for them to annotate and manipulate what were previously static PDFs. At the same time, we’re building capabilities for teacher-authors to prepare new types of content on this tool that classroom teachers can immediately distribute and review with their students.
We’re combining this work with integrations to other services like Google Docs to create a broad ecosystem of digital-ready content on our marketplace. We’re iterating and scaling an integration with third-party APIs like Google Drive to allow these new content formats to live side-by-side with file formats on the TpT marketplace.
What are some notable wins, and how did your team accomplish them?
One of our proudest moments was how we were able to respond to the COVID-19 crisis so effectively and support our educators as they all were forced to embrace distance learning at an accelerated pace. We launched improved discovery and integration features for content on our catalog that is usable in a distance learning context. This includes supporting the new content types like Google resources, which have seen a huge increase in demand. Additionally, we made our new Schools Access product available to a much wider audience at an accelerated pace. This reduces the burden on teachers to pay for materials on TpT out of pocket and empowers them to use more of the resources on our site to support distance learning.
Finally, we’ve launched our new annotation capability in closed beta to authors, teachers, and students in the past month. This allows a much larger portion of our resource catalog to be used immediately on a device, even if it was originally intended for paper and pencil use. We’ve heard really positive feedback from users on how this eases their burden in printing and is a special lifesaver when online learning is the primary mode of instruction.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
I’m thinking a lot about how to make using digital content and digital tools in the classroom as easy as possible. Teachers are so excited to innovate and use new tools to improve their students’ learning, but they are really short on time. Our product and technology need to hit the right balance of delivering functionality that is easy to use, scalable, and high quality.
What employee benefits help set Teachers Pay Teachers apart from other companies?
As a parent, I’ve really appreciated all the support that TpT gives other parents to effectively manage their work with family obligations. For example, we have a really generous parental leave policy.
What do you like best about the company culture at Teachers Pay Teachers?
TpT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is really unique. We have a really collaborative environment that gives you the opportunity to work with individuals from every part of the company—learning about different perspectives and viewpoints. Additionally, we have a number of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and as a company, we prioritize giving these ERGs time and space to organize and advocate for inclusive practices that make sure TpT continues to be a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging.