EduBirdie Talks: Not Just Any Team

"I’m proud to say my team is a real team."

To keep our writing at its best, EduBirdie makes sure there is always a person they can look up to. Today, we welcome Natalie, the Head of our Writing Department. She is one true inspiration for the whole company, no less. As a bright beacon, she shows the light and leads the way for her team and every writer at EduBirdie.

On personal life

What makes you laugh?
Funny memes, or not really funny memes sometimes. We have this tradition in our team that we share our favorite memes with each other, so there's always some high-quality content.

What kind of music do you listen to?
I think my playlist looks quite messy, but I love Arctic Monkeys, and I almost got to one of their concerts. Almost!

On Professional Life

What do you like about your job the most?
Creativity that I have about it. In most cases, I have the general destination that I need to end up in, and I am the one who decides on how to get there. Oh, and also my team!

What makes a good writer?
A couple of good editors' feedback, piece of motivation, and, as our writers say, timely uploaded instructions.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do and for how long?
I’m the head of the Writers Department. Actually, it’s gonna be my third anniversary here at Edubirdie on Friday. And it’s so weird, because when I just came here it was like “Okay, I just need my laptop and my cup. I'm gonna spend 2 months here max and then I’ll find something better.”

Wait, wait. Why?
I didn’t expect it to be a real job. I thought it’ll be something temporary until I find something more suitable. You see, I'm an air transportation engineer. I cannot repair an aircraft but I can organize the workload, so it doesn’t go wrong. So, what I’ve done during my education is transportation planning like the economic value, how much do the tickets cost, why this way, how many do we need to sell and so on. I didn’t really consider this would be something I’d do for three years. And I’ve been the manager of our huge team—we have fourteen people now—for almost two years.

What did you do before?
Before EduBirdie, I used to work as a support agent at a different company. It was also dealing with writers, so I had some experience when I joined. And here before becoming a manager, I was dealing with new writers. Basically, all the new writers that were approved by the selection process would come to me, and I would have to deal with lots of questions. I’m actually proud of the communication guides I created back then.

So, you said it was a temporary job at first. You were going to pursue a job related to your field of study?
I thought of it. A lot of people I studied with at my university went to do something, let’s say, aviation-related. And when I hear them talking about what they do all day, I feel like it’s not really my thing. There is a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of rules you have to follow, a lot of things you cannot do. So I was like “nah, I’ll try something else first.” So, I prefer to be a passenger now. It works well enough for me.

What made you stay?
People. I really love the team that I had back then and that I have now. It was a challenge. The team has grown a lot, and now we’re located in different countries. I love the atmosphere that we have, and I’m proud to say my team is a real team. We often work with routine staff. Even on vacation, your work never stops. You always have complaints, you always have new writers, you always have new applications. I’ve never before seen people saying, “I have a lot of work but you have even more. So, let me finish my part and take some off you.” Without getting anything for it. My team is just there for each other. Some people have been working here for 4 years, for 5 years.

Your team has fourteen people, right? What do you guys actually do?
Okay, let’s do it step by step. We have a team of editors. They’re not directly reporting to me. They have their own team leader. It’s not the editors who work with our customers. They work with academic writers and editors who do. And our editors, they don’t actually edit papers. They grade them. They check how writers are doing on the platform. They check their papers and put their grades on things like grammar, punctuation, structure, formatting and so on. There are eight parameters, I guess. These parameters go to an average grade, which affect basically everything writers do on the website: which orders do they see, how many, when and so on.

Wait, but writers choose their orders themselves, don’t they?
Well, yes, they do. But our recommendation system filters the orders, so the writer gets only the relevant ones based on their qualification and performance. This is one part of our editors job. The other one is that they send detailed feedback to the writers where they would comment on every tiny detail in the paper, every mistake. So, what the writer sees is this huge piece of information they can study, work on it and improve.

Well, your team obviously doesn't read every essay. There are too many of them. How often do you guys check the specific writer? If the writer improves, can they text you something like “I think I got better.” Do they see their grades, first of all? They see the feedback obviously but the grades.
No, they don’t. They just see the general recommendations. We check the first five papers of every new writer. After that, we check 6 papers of every writer per quarter. Apart from that, customers rate their papers when they get them. We always check the writer if there are any complaints or like 1 or 2 star marks from the customers. If there are several negative cases, we put the writer on probation and monitor all of their work. Plus some random occasional checks. That’s it for the editors.

The team members, yes.
We also have a person who works with applications. This is the basic screening. When writers register on the platform they have to pass the English test and submit the application essay. So, she checks those essays and organizes interviews to check the documents.

Oh, you check the documents straight away?
Yes, of course. There’s been some issues.

Issues?
Like when a person submits an ID, but in fact it is a totally different person. Like obviously young people or even teenagers showing the id of a 60 years old. People often do that to sell the account later, and it’s the worst.

Oh, wow. So I do like ten papers, get some reputation, and sell it to someone?
Exactly. It’s even more profitable than writing itself. The account can cost up to a couple thousand dollars. Just to get an account.

How do you fight it?
Well, we monitor the groups where these accounts are being sold. We have this system developed by our IT department. Basically, it monitors if a writer has some suspicious activity on their account. Like they were registered and worked for 3 years from Philadelphia and now they’re suddenly in Toronto. Or someone changed the phone number and now an account is linked to a different one. We alway double check it. We can ask for a new id check just to be sure. We can take a look at the papers, compare the work.

Let’s go on with the team.
Next person is a new writer mentor. This is a girl who checks the new writers’ profiles and answers the questions about the platform. Sometimes, new writers are upset that they cannot get as much work as they wanted and they want to leave. So, she tries to make them stay, helps them to get first orders. Those writers are already approved, and that means they’re good. It’s easier to motivate them to stay than to look for and check new ones.

Anyone else?
Then, we have 3 people who check the customers’ complaints about orders and writers.

So, they complain to the support team and they pass it over to you?
Yes. We also have a project manager. She makes sure that writers are happy, deal with some unusual stuff. Now, she’s working on the bonus system for writers. We also have competitions between our writers every season. So, she organizes it.

Tell me about yourself as a person. What do you do in your free time?
I love traveling. I’ve traveled a lot by myself since I was 18.

You mean alone?
Yes.

So where have you been?
Basically, all the European countries. It was very challenging not to travel during COVID. But it opened some other opportunities. I’ve traveled to our office in Bulgaria. I didn’t know anything about Bulgaria, and it was surprisingly really good. So good, we even asked to extend our stay for a couple of days.I love travelling. If I was to pick any job, I’d be a tour guide.

Why don’t you do it then?
*laughs* Well, you know how it goes. And especially with our weather. Rain, snow, no thanks.

Okay, let’s imagine. You're in a new country, city, wherever it is. What do you do first? You check seesights, bars, museums?
It depends, really. I love going to the sea, if there is sea. If I want to meet people, I can stay in hostels and make new friends. If I want to stay alone, I stay alone.

Who usually starts the conversation?
It can be me. It can be other people. Both. It always happens randomly. Even here, at home, people often ask me for directions. I don’t know why.

Any other hobbies you want to share?
I also like old movies. Black and white ones.

So, what’s your favorite movie then?
I love Casablanca and Roman Holiday. I spend a lot of time with my team. Before the pandemics, we always used to play board games in the office. Then the pandemics started, so we all had to move online, and it actually became even more fun. We are located in different cities, in different countries, and board games are really something that brings us together.

What do you play?
There is this game when you have to draw something and other people have to guess. There is also a game called Codenames. You have a list of words and you have to unite them with one common word the way only your team would guess it.

Do you often meet outside of work?
Yes, a lot. We even used to have this tradition to grab breakfast. So, we could come earlier and have breakfast somewhere in the city all together.

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