Welcome to the fourth part of our showcase on Arist's female team members! Today, we'll be featuring and interviewing Maxine Anderson, our amazing Co-founder & COO!
To start, what inspired you to work on Arist?
My interest in improving outcomes for students has been long-lasting. In 2017, I worked with the school board of Sheridan, a rural town in Oregon, to build an after-school program that helped K-12 students find their interests, which as an important goal, occupied their time constructively.
My freshman year when I met Michael, he told me his idea of creating and delivering learning through a series of text messages. I was blown away by the fact that such a simple modality for delivering knowledge had been overlooked. I immediately thought of the life-changing opportunities this tool could create, particularly in communities like Sheridan. Text-message courses seemed to be the most accessible and cost-efficient way for local governments, nonprofits, and schools to provide children and young adults the training that could help them do well on on the SAT, land jobs, or make it through college, thereby contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Once I visualized the potential impact of this type of learning, I couldn't help but make it come to life.
What do you do, and what does your day-to-day look like?
I manage Operations at Arist. Operations is a really broad term, but essentially the goal of my job is to ensure Arist runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. A lot of my work ends up being internal, which is lot of fun because I get to support the work with everyone on our team—from our business folks to the engineers—on a day-to-day basis.
About half of my time is spent enabling employees to do their jobs well, whether that's providing them with specific resources, or helping them troubleshoot an issue. The other bulk of my work is dedicated to building out and refining processes for efficient workflow within and across departments. This might mean finding a way to automate a repetitive task or helping solve a communication issue between departments.
What have been some highlights and challenges along the way?
Having to navigate ambiguity has been challenging for me, especially since I'm a sucker for process, planning, and organization. With this, I've had to find comfort in the not-so-organized and spontaneous parts of growing a startup. A lot of this ambiguity is external, but some also is internal: understanding myself in relationship to Arist, how I can best contribute versus how others can best contribute, for example, has been tough. On the flip side, building out a team to define some of that ambiguity, has been my greatest highlight. Working with far more talented and knowledgeable people than myself to help Arist realize its potential has been an amazing journey, and I look forward to the future.
What excites you about the path ahead?
I’m still really excited about the potential impact of Arist. Externally, our product and learning modality has the potential to revolutionize the way people learn by simplifying it. Internally, I think we've been able to cultivate a unique, diverse culture. Not only is everyone highly competent, but each person is deeply caring and believes in the impact of our product. I'm really looking forward to being part of our team's growth—as individuals and as a company.
What are your recommendations for people looking to break into startups?
Take action and connect with others. This might feel a bit random at first, but taking steps forward will lead you somewhere. For me, it was especially helpful to connect with people who were where I wanted to be in a few years. At first, finding these people might look like random conversations, reading blogs online, testing out different communities, applying to programs, etc. In the end, you want to find the right people who support, push, and explore with you. Finally, the most concrete recommendation I have: work at a startup! And if you do, try to find comfort in being a generalist. Absorb everything you can.
What drives you, and what inspires you?
Everything around me: people, ideas, art, nature, and so much more. Every day is a chance to encounter or learn something new. The unpredictability of life is what really keeps me going and excited about those chance moments or decisions that will open the doors to so much newness. On the flip side, I'm always inspired by the fact that people have the ability to bring new worlds to life for themselves and others through both imagination and perseverance.