Despite being one of the newest members of the Virti team, Ben has confidently settled into his role as Learning Experience Designer (LXD). On a summer London morning, we caught up for a chat about his first impressions of company life, his career journey so far, and what it’s really like to work remotely as a Virti LXD. Read on to find out what he told us…
Let’s get started with a topic that lots of people are curious about; how has your career path led you to this role?
Well, like most of the Virti team, my career path hasn’t quite been linear! I actually studied Business and Law at University College Dublin (UCD), then worked as a Management Consultant for Accenture in Ireland. I really didn’t know much about VR tech at this point - certainly I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be working in the sector just a few years later!
Keen to pursue further study in a field I was really passionate about, I enrolled in a Masters of Cyberpsychology at the University of Wolverhampton. After graduating last autumn, I worked for a VR Learning and Development start-up as a Cyber Psychologist before I heard about Virti and applied for this LXD role.
Cyberpsychology? That wasn’t on the curriculum when we were at school… Tell us more!
Cyberpsychology is a really new, really exciting field of study. There are currently only a handful of universities offering courses in this subject, although the field is expanding so quickly.
Essentially, cyberpsychology is the study of the interaction between people, technology and the digital world. This encompasses everything from social media and gaming to the application of virtual reality and AI to improve human skills, attitudes, and behaviours. If you are interested in those topics, then I could not recommend the University of Wolverhampton more. Their masters course is fascinating.
So what was it that first sparked your interest in the application of Virtual Reality for learning?
During my masters I learnt a lot about how we, as humans with massively complex brains, interact with VR. I found this really intriguing, especially since there’s so much scope for innovation in this space. Because I was so keen to explore further, I ended up doing my dissertation project on how VR could be used to teach people about climate change and influence their stance on the importance of environmental conservation.
As part of my project, volunteers experienced ‘life from the perspective of a tree’ - from seedling to maturity and then ultimately human destruction - and it was incredible to see how impactful the technology was as an educational tool. It is an area I would love to explore further down the line.
As my course drew to an end, I knew that I wanted to keep working in the field of immersive learning. This was when I first became aware of Virti as leaders in the VR/AR training space, and as pioneers in a field I wanted to be part of.
Well, now you’ve been a part of the team for a month - what have your first impressions been?
I actually can’t believe it’s only been a month! I’m working remotely in London at the moment, but I’ve already virtually ‘met’ the whole team and worked on some exciting projects with UK and US-based customers.
Right from day one, it’s been clear that Virti is a place where everyone is trusted and empowered to work autonomously. I was apprehensive about taking on so much responsibility so quickly, but I soon realised that this approach means that we can operate dynamically, innovate quickly, and really focus on delivering solutions to our customers.
However, this way of working doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s a very cohesive feel to the team. We’re extremely geographically dispersed and are operating across several time-zones, but our internal communication is just so incredibly smooth that I honestly can’t say that working remotely has been a challenge at all. The senior managers are great at reaching out to offer support and guidance when necessary, and I think this is going to help me to progress very quickly in the role.
As a Learning Experience Designer, what exactly does your role involve?
In a nutshell, my job is to find ways to create better learning experiences for Virti’s users. I’m using my knowledge of how humans interact and learn in mobile and VR to improve the experience of using Virti for educators and for learners.
On a day-to-day basis, my role involves designing ways to give more control to our users, to make the learning content more engaging, and to make it easier for learners to access the data that shows how they’re improving over time.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to work on three different projects; I’ve been looking at how we can refine the learning experiences to make the objectives clear and create a more holistic learning journey.
And, in your opinion, what makes the Virti approach unique?
Everything we do at Virti is geared towards improving our offering and delivering added value to our customers. Our approach is not to try and solve every problem with one particular type of technology but rather to ensure we are using the right technology at the right times that is suited to each learner. We want to work with our customers to design the right training solution for their particular needs.
The learner is very much kept at the centre of everything we do. This gives a clear focus to our collective efforts - it’s actually rare to find a company in the tech space that puts as much emphasis on human development, rather than just throwing glitzy technology at people - as a Cyber Psychologist, this is refreshing to see. I’d say that’s the core of what makes the Virti approach unique.