Our next installment of “Meet Allovue” gets you up close and personal with our would-be astronaut, Chief Product Officer, Jason Becker.
Thanks for agreeing to be a part of our “Meet Allovue” series.
Tell us about your road to Allovue. How did you meet Jess?
Jess and I met at a South by Southwest Education conference. I was attending a panel of a friend and colleague and asked a question during the Q&A. Jess was sitting behind me and was impressed by my question. She tapped me on the shoulder after the panel ended and we exchanged cards. I was onboard two weeks later.
What were some of the initial challenges you faced when deciding to take on such a significant role with Allovue and the Balance software?
With the different education-based roles I held at a state education agency and large urban school district, I gained a lot of experience working with software vendors. I knew firsthand just how daunting the Balance workload could be with a limited number of IT and data staff, because of my experience managing large-scale projects where there were lots of internal data systems that had to interact with just as many external systems, in addition to requiring our vendor partners to interact with one another. I knew Allovue’s product integration process had to be completely painless for school districts and fast. So the product and data team spent our first 18 months very carefully building our data integration software to ensure this was the case.
Achieving success on quick and easy integrations isn’t just about writing good code. In fact, I don’t even think it’s mostly about that. We designed our entire product around how we could deliver the maximum value to school districts while maintaining the smallest, most flexible integration footprint possible. We still carefully consider the systemic impact of any feature we add to school district personnel and Allovue integration staff.
What are some of the most significant challenges in your role?
Our vision at Allovue is vast and will take more than a decade to accomplish. We cannot skip to the end. The hardest and most important part of my job is sequencing and prioritization. School districts face many complex and varied challenges allocating and spending resources to best meet the needs of students. Like our partners, Allovue doesn’t have endless resources, so every day we have to carefully choose what to build next to best meet the needs of school districts and set up Allovue to best deliver on future plans. All product managers have to contend with this careful balancing act.
It sounds like you found your dream career. Did you always want to work in product conception and development?
Not at all. Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved science and the idea of being a scientist because I was drawn to all things space. During undergrad, I majored in organic chemistry, which I found fascinating, but everyone else seemed to despise. I spent a lot of times in science labs, both in high school over the summers working at universities, and throughout college. I quickly came to learn that lab chemistry was lonely. I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my career. So toward the end of my undergraduate degree, I began taking education courses thinking I might want to teach high school chemistry. What I found was I was very interested in the history and policy courses in the education departments, and much less interested in the pedagogy-focused classes. This led me to earn a master’s in Urban Education Policy. I then started my career as a research specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education and later a Strategic Data Project Fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and Providence Public Schools before joining Allovue.
If you could start your career over again, would you do anything differently?
Although I ended up pretty far from where I would have guessed a decade ago, I love what I do, and it feels like the perfect combination of the skills and experiences I’ve had up until now. I’d be afraid changing too much would have led me away from this role right now. However, considering how much I enjoy programming, I often wished I had taken more than a single semester of computer science. I’ve always loved programming, but I was so far along the chemistry path I didn’t feel like I had the time to pursue it fully.
Where do you envision the Allovue Balance software going in the next five years? What types of things are you hoping to accomplish?
Like I mentioned, I have decades of work planned already for Allovue. I don’t want to give away too much, but mostly what I’d like to see is Balance continuing to get smarter. I want to anticipate what school district finance officials or central office department heads or principals want to see right now and send them directly to that data, presented in the clearest possible way so they can learn from their resource planning and spending. I also hope to see Balance make it easier for school districts to embrace, with confidence, distributed resource decision making. Even if they don’t have access to a financial management system and a set dollar amount in a set of accounts, leaders at all levels of school districts are choosing how to spend their time, are using consumable supplies and materials, and contributing to how education systems are organized to deliver quality instruction. Balance should help connect all of those decisions to resources more clearly, simply, which I think will have a massive impact on education operations.
On a typical Saturday when you’re not working, what can we catch you doing?
Typically, I’d be spending time with my two dogs, trying to move the needle on my Goodreads challenge by plowing through yet another sci-fi/fantasy book, watching movies, or listening to podcasts while doing errands and chores.
We can’t wait to see what else Jason has in store for Balance!
If you haven’t already met Jason in some capacity, feel free to introduce yourself. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org