With my eyes beginning to glaze over, I sat down in the chilly ballroom of the Henry Hotel in Dearborn. Day 1 of the Central Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society was wrapping up, and I was exhausted.
As a new team member, I was ready and eager to be Alchemie’s “boots on the ground” and connect with our target users: chemistry educators. We needed to put our products in the hands of as many instructors as possible to be successful. And I needed to learn how to talk about Alchemie’s products with our target base – working our booth at the ACS conference was a perfect opportunity to do both. I felt that after a few weeks, I had a decent grasp of our products and our value proposition to educators; I also felt somewhat confident in my people skills and my ability to talk to potential customers and users.
What I had underestimated was my ability to “get on the same level” as a ballroom filled with chemistry professors, post-doc fellows, and masters students – people with years and years of learning and teaching chemistry under their belts – when I had dropped out of Advanced General Chemistry two weeks into my second quarter at college (I was an engineering major).
Take, for example, my initial attempts at demoing Animator. Animator is our mobile tool for students and instructors to create and share their own animations of molecular interactions. As I walked the first few visitors through the process of creating molecules and capturing frames in Animator, I was met with luke-warm responses. Not quite the enthusiastic “Wow, this is great, I want to use this with my class – how do I sign up?” response I had envisioned.
The professors I talked to were less than impressed by my simplistic animations of water molecules. “Sure, I could see this being helpful for high-school chemistry, but what about more complicated interactions?” I tried to explain that you could animate pretty much anything you wanted, but struggled to show it on the spot. I needed to be able to show rather than tell – so I phoned Julie, who was in Atlanta for an NSF conference.
In that moment I discovered the most powerful thing about Animator: the cloud-sharing platform. Using our own company-specific group on the platform, Julie was able to share her animations with me instantly. Julie’s animations helped bridge the gap of knowledge between the chemists and me.
With these tools at my disposal, the tide shifted immediately. I watched instructor’s eyes light up as I showed them animations demonstrating Boyle’s Law, half cell reactions, and even templates to be used as student exercises. Using these, I was able to get on their level and better communicate the value proposition of Animator, because they could see the chemistry that I wasn’t capable of explaining. And with these animations as a starting point, I felt emboldened to ask more questions of the professors I met. Instead of just nodding my head when they began to describe lessons or concepts they imagined using Animator for, I got curious and dove deeper, asking questions about what specific parts were difficult for students, and even asking for brief explanations on concepts.
Though I felt way out of my depth in terms of relative chemistry knowledge, my experience at the ACS Conference proved to be a valuable one. Nothing compares to getting in front of your target audience and getting feedback firsthand – as a new employee, it helped me understand our product and users on a deeper level. And aside from realizing I need to study up on my college-level chemistry so I can better connect with our user-base, I got to experience the power of Alchemie’s technology in bridging gaps of understanding. And that is a beautiful thing.