Featured

New Year, New Team

Here at Boom Learning, we’ve had a shockingly busy Spring and Summer as schools have had to make tough decisions and get creative about how they handled teaching. Many adopted Boom Learning as they explored new techniques and tools for teaching students remotely as well as in classrooms. This has been both exciting and overwhelming at times for everyone involved – the teachers, their students, and the Boom Team.

Behind the scenes at Boom Learning, we’ve had to expand our team again and again this year in order to keep up with all the new accounts as well as the flood of questions and ideas coming our way daily. That new team has settled throughout the last half of 2020, and we thought now would be the perfect time to introduce the new faces on the other side of the screen.

In the beginning there was only Mary and Eric with Joe supporting them here and there as they tackled everything from setting up a company, creating the code that brings Boom Cards to life, and helping teachers both access and use Boom Cards and get the most from our platform.

Mary Heuett Oemig (pronouns: she/her) is Boom’s Co-Founder and President, and the one who makes it all happen; which makes her the big boss, “except I’m really petite” she admits. A small town girl, she started off in Potlatch, Idaho before living for a while in Phoenix, Arizona and then the Bay Area, and now she’s landed in Kirkland, Washington. She’s often heard advising the team to “go slow to go fast,” and has an incredible ability to just get stuff done. Before co-founding Boom Learning, “I was a serious copyright law junkie. Not merely an attorney, but someone who could cite obscure cases by title,” and when she was only a second-year attorney, she wrote the defense briefs for the first major case addressing the application of copyright law to peer-to-peer file-sharing (A&M Records v Napster), so it’s safe to say she knows her stuff when it comes to copyright laws. Mary is also “an unrepentant maker” who spends her time away from Boom sewing, knitting, crocheting, baking, cooking, dancing, and traveling when she’s not reading a good book.

Eric Oemig (pronouns: he prefers “lord” though most of us use he/him) is of course a Co-Founder of Boom, but it may be more accurate to refer to him as “Code Master.” Boom was born from a combination of dreams and engineering, and millions of Boom Cards keep playing thanks to his late nights tending that code. Eric believes that “how you do one thing is how you do everything,” and can often be heard advising the team to “do the right thing.” This guiding principle is behind the decisions he’s made on everything from customer care to coding. Eric’s roots are in small-town America – he made his way west from Wisconsin to Kirkland, Washington. Outside of keeping Boom working, he spends his time drumming and writing poetry. You probably wouldn’t guess it, but he’s a secular vegan who can walk on his hands (not while eating of course!).

Joe Coffey (pronouns: he/him or just “Joe” is acceptable) started supporting Mary and Eric in 2016; today he acts as Boom’s Chief Finance Officer primarily. Joe hails from Los Angeles, CA, but lives in Ballard, Washington now and believes that “seeing the humor in life is as important as any other skill,” which the team benefits from frequently as he brings life and laughter into any (digital) room. When he’s not wearing one of his many Boom Learning hats, you can find him out hiking, sailing, or generally exploring the world, and he dreams of living in another country for a few months. In his previous life, Joe was a test driver for BMW AG (R&D), and in this life, has the words “the end is nothing, the road is all” taped up on his wall.

In the Spring it became apparent that there were not enough hands on deck. Kyle, Zack, and Jasmine joined the team.

Jasmine Dinh (pronouns: she/her) started providing technical support to Boom’s customers on April 1st of this year and quickly became our top tech support expert – no fooling. If she can’t identify and resolve the issue, it’s a problem only Eric’s coding can resolve. Jasmine has moved around the world a bit, and her parents live in Tacoma WA, but she is from Vietnam originally and currently lives in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Her motto, “carpe diem,” keeps her both dreaming and doing; one day she hopes to become a helicopter pilot. She’s got a good start on this goal too, because Jasmine has notable pen spinning skills. If you take the time to get to know her, you might notice that “I eat a lot,” she confesses, but you’ll also come to see the cheerful lady beneath the savvy technical support expert.

Kyle Savchuck (pronouns: he/him) came to the rescue in April of 2020 to help tackle customer questions and account setup and soon after was appointed a Customer Service Manager. Kyle started off in Wisconsin before moving to Seattle. He’s always been a good negotiator, which serves him well on the Boom Team, and is frequently heard exclaiming “Nice!” When he’s not on the clock, he’s probably deeply immersed in a Dungeons & Dragons game, but he also spends time at his desk writing or heads outside to do some hiking or gardening.

Zack Beyer (pronouns: he/him) started as a Software Wizard, assisting Eric, on May 18th, 2020, and can often be heard saying “Groovy” both on and off the job. A transplant, he started life off in Evansville and then Madison, Wisconsin, but today Zach lives in Seattle, Washington – where his skills at coding and diplomacy serve him and the Boom Team well, and one day will hopefully land him in Game Design. Now this isn’t common knowledge, but when pressed, Zach admits, “I don’t actually like the color orange….” Fun fact about Zach, this is his second tour of duty at Boom Learning – he worked with us in 2012-2013 on the prototype of what then became Boom Learning as well as the Mathtopia family of iOS games.

As more and more teachers heard about Boom, we continued to struggle, and it stung. We pride ourselves on collaborating with our users, and yet we could barely keep up with basic questions and new orders let alone improve the platform.

Over the summer we went looking for help as it became apparent that Boom was really exploding in popularity.

Tu Duong (pronouns: she/her) has been providing Customer Support and assisting with Sales since June 25th of 2020. Born in Saigon, she has lived in Minnesota, Texas, California, Germany, Oregon, Singapore, and now she’s landed in Seattle although “Portland will always be home.” Tu makes a mean Vietnamese spring roll, and loves traveling whenever she can. She’s even trekked to Everest Base Camp, though she says “once is good enough.” Beyond enjoying the exploration, Tu’s travels have inspired her. One day, she’d like to create a non-profit for children in Third World countries. “Throughout my travels, I saw myself in so many people I met. And I wonder what their lives would be like if they had the opportunities I did.” She dreams of giving them access to higher education one day, and she brings that passion for helping others access education to work every day at Boom Learning in the meantime. She believes that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, and is constantly pushing herself and her team to learn and grow.

Hazel McNees (pronouns: she/her) joined the Boom team to provide Spanish Translation in July of 2020, and leads our new FAQ team to ensure customers have access to accurate and helpful information whenever they need it in both English and Spanish. She is originally from Costa Rica, but lived in Idaho as a certified structure and wildlife fire fighter (BTW she’s shorter than Mary) for several years and also lived in Indiana for some time. These days, Hazel lives in Florida – where she enjoys a beautiful view of the beach which inspires envy in during digital team meetings. She has an amazing ability to make healthy food taste great, and makes the best margaritas. When she’s not working, or mixing it up in the kitchen, you can find Hazel running, racing, hiking, or out enjoying that beach and generally living up to her motto: “Pura Vida” a Costa Rican motto which translates literally to “Pure Life” and with more context as “Life is Awesome.”

Brittany Burkhardt (pronouns: she/her) On July 27th of 2020, ***from Nordstrom (sp?) and brought her fashion. Brittany joined Boom Learning’s Customer Support team, but these days she’s also supporting the President with legal and other matters much of the time. She currently lives in Seattle and has an enviable view of the Space Needle, but she started off in Poulsbo, Washington. When she’s not hard at work, frequently putting in overtime into the evening, she’s likely settling down with a good book while one of her favorite jazz records plays. She’s a fantastic cook and has a talent for music. She used to play both the flute and the piano, and “in high school I was in all of the auditioned choir groups. One year, we went to NYC to sign at Carnegie Hall for Easter!” While she’s an undeniable go-getter, Brittany balances that fire out with a laid back “it is what it is” attitude and never misses a chance to laugh or share stories with the rest of the team.

Quinn Redfield (pronouns: they/he/them/him) started at Boom Learning on August 8th, 2020 ready to put their natural teaching skills to work providing customer support, but soon after began juggling HR, Marketing, and community engagement as well. Quinn admits, “I think best with a pen in my hand; if I’m not writing, I’m probably not paying attention,” and is often the designated note taker in meetings as a result. An Eastern Washington native, they were born in Chelan, grew up in Tonasket and the Spokane area, and then moved to the Seattle area “for the weather; I prefer it 52 degrees and grey or raining.” Most of his down time is spent writing fiction or with the small petting zoo they share their Everett home with, but he can also be found reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, or out camping, road tripping, and traveling abroad whenever possible – all with a camera at the ready. A renaissance man of sorts, Quinn is also something of an amateur historian and theologian who strives to exercise both curiosity and empathy at all times.

Shortly after starting at Boom Learning, Quinn pulled together an onboarding program as the Boom Team strapped in for more expansion to tackle the flood of customer questions and the unexpected mass renewals by all those who had tried Boom Learning out using our COVID Promo. Meanwhile, new sales were mounting as the new school year started; we needed more help to give teachers and whole schools set up with the new accounts they wanted.

Erick Velasquez (pronouns: he/him) jumped into Sales and Customer Service on September 10th, 2020. A Californian, he was born in Burbank, Erick currently lives in Auburn, Washington and enjoys traveling specifically to soak up other cultures. “I am a Yes Man,” he admits and adds that when he travels “I will ALWAYS try something at least once.” It is, after all, “extremely rude to turn down food in most cultures.” Perhaps his favorite food though would be sushi. He also loves to make others laugh. “I am a slow burn, so I’ll eventually make you laugh.” He’s also inspirational, and lives by the words of Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin of NYC): “Problems. Just opportunities that haven’t presented themselves.” Erick will work out a way to tackle any problem, and he keeps the team cheerful in the process.

Jorge Riera (pronouns: he/him) joined Boom Learning’s Customer Wizards on September 24th, 2020 and has loved every day since. He was born and raised in beautiful Puerto Rico, but has lived all over (first as an Army Brat and now as an Army Reservist), and he has a special place in his heart for New York as well. You’d probably never guess it looking at him (he was a childhood model), but Jorge confesses: “I love crocs!” Between helping customers and assisting with marketing and technical projects, Jorge enjoys simply “making memories with friends and family.” His endearing charm, relaxed “if it happened, it had to happen” attitude, and easy humor has made him fast friends with the rest of the Boom Team. Jorge also genuinely connects with the customers he assists; no wonder he gets complimented on his interpersonal skills.

With all these wonderful new additions, we thought for a moment that we might finally have enough hands on deck to keep up with the incoming requests. Unfortunately, by the time this new group was up and running efficiently, we had a backlog of customer requests that seemed impossible to recover from. Since we were already all working overtime, we decided to keep hiring through the Autumn.

Christine Choate (pronouns: they/she/her/them). On October 15th of 2020, we welcomed Christine to Boom Learning. She hails from “the itty-bitty town of Kalispell, Montana,” but the whole family moved to Puyallup, Washington when Christine was just about five years old. These days, she lives with her partner in Tacoma, Washington. An “avid PC gamer,” Christine spends their free time gaming, streaming, or watching other streamers on Twitch, so it’s safe to say they are a bit of a tech nerd, but you might not guess that Christine is also “a HUGE theatre nerd. I love participating in shows both onstage and behind the scenes. Theatre is pretty much my life, and I’ll be doing it as long as I can!” When they want to take a break from the screens and can’t get on the stage, they also enjoy sewing and crocheting. One of their favorite podcasts (“Welcome to Night Vale”) gifted them this gem of a quote to live by: “Be proud of your place in the cosmos. It is small, and yet, it is.” She is also extremely skilled at selecting the perfect size of Tupperware container for leftovers. “I have no idea how I acquired this skill,” Christine admits, “but it’s quite useful when cleaning up after large meals!” Cleaning up at work also seems to be a skill, as Christine now tackles customer questions as they come in as well as before they’ve been asked: they’ve joined the FAQ team and turn out helpful and well written content regularly.

Elizabeth Yates (pronouns: she/her) came from Nevada originally, but has lived in Washington for most of her life, and joined the Boom Team on October 15th, 2020 to assist with customer care. She excelled, almost immediately, and diving into our backlog and connecting with customers who had been waiting for us to catch our breath or lost in the chaos. Truly living up to her own words, Elizabeth is “making things happen!” She’s always looking for new ways to tackle a problem and loves coming up with out of the box ideas she can then turn into real solutions. “I’m a jack of all trades, and I love learning new things.” She used to play the Trumpet and French Horn, and these days you can catch her dabbling with the Guitar and Piano or studying Portuguese – since she’s already got down some basic Spanish and French. Elizabeth also loves sewing and costuming. She also spends her free time playing board games with her family.

Justice Amsbury (pronouns: they/he/them/him) works their Customer Wizard magic from Spokane, Washington, but original comes from the lesser known eastern Washington town of Ephrata. He works with a quiet humility to sort out tough tech support questions and answer customer questions. Behind the soft spoken words, a determined, genius guides Justice from questions to answers and problems to solutions. Outside of work, music fills their time. “Growing up, I played the flute.” Justice explains, “I wasn’t very good at it.” The instrument was wrong, but music itself became a passion. Today, Justice plays the bass and guitar, and one day he’d like to form a band. Recently, they adopted an adorable kitten who spends her time warming Justice’s chair any time he leaves it empty for more than a second and making guest appearances in digital team meetings.

Within the month, these three were up and running strong. We knew even with their amazingly fast grasp of the task at hand that we’d need at least a few more folks to lighten the load though. The very next month, we added to the team once more.

Josiah Spray (pronouns: he/him) started supporting customers on November 17th, 2020. A Montana native, he lives in Seattle now and spends his free time playing Dungeons and Dragons and enjoying musical theatre such as Hamilton – which he has inadvertently learned nearly all the words to. In many ways he is a self-made man who lives by these words: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” He amuses the team with his vocal impressions, and can capture various Muppets and celebrities with amazing skill. He also has a talent for music and reveals that when he was younger, “I played the viola in the symphony.”

Yanichelle Rosado (pronouns: she/her; pronunciation: Jah-nee-chel) is a former teacher who used Boom Cards with her students before becoming a Customer Wizard on November 19th of 2020. Now, she helps teachers get the most out of Boom Learning, and her teacher’s perspective helps us better understand and improve the experience every day. Yanichelle believes that “everything in life has a purpose,” and relies on her can-do creativity and DIYing skills to create solutions from needs. She also has a knack for maps that makes her an excellent travel planner which will come in handy one day, because Yani dreams of living all over the world, “for at least one year.” New York is near the top of that list, but she calls Puerto Rico home. There, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends. She admits that despite her petite appearance, “I eat like an elephant,” but it’s easy to see how her big, beautiful smile and contagious cheer brightens every meeting.

We also brought on more help for some behind the scenes work in legal and development.

Lillith Leonard (pronouns: she/her) joined Boom as a paralegal on November 19th of 2020. She’s a Washington native from Walla Walla who moved to Sumner, Washington “to marry my lifelong love.” Her ultimate goal is to help human trafficking victims. Lillith is exceptionally good at taking apart information and explaining it so that a layperson can understand and learn from it, making her a natural teacher and thus a natural fit for our work supporting education. This combined with her ability to shrug off adversity and remember “I’ll live” in the face of stress keeps her tackling the tough, legal workload she tackles daily. She’s got a fun side too. “I once played a singing tree and the tornado in the Walla Walla Summer Theater production of the Wizard of Oz.” Her fondest memory from that production? “I got to throw apples at the Scarecrow.”

Zachary Foutz (pronouns: he/him) joined Boom Learning’s Dev Team as a Software Alchemist on November 19th, 2020, and has been working on improving the customer experience in small but impactful ways every day. “I love optimizing web apps and focusing on the tiniest of details,” he says. His coding has been complimented as “unparalleled,” and we’re thrilled to have him improving Boom Learning’s student sign-in and classroom functionality. You’ll have him to thank for the improved functionality some new features (including new student logins) as well as the new look on the invoices. An Iowa native and widowed father, Zachary lives in Bremerton Washington now where he is raising his charming 6 year old boy son. In his free time, Zachary is a gamer who sometimes creates text based games and one day hopes to break into game design. He takes inspiration from Nikola Tesla’s words: “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

While we’re continuing to look at expanding, especially on the Dev Team, we are finally catching our breath after the immense growing pains of the Spring and Summer. Some of you have already noticed that our response times are back to where they should be, and we’ve managed to catch up with the bulk of those customers who slipped through the cracks during the heights of chaos.

This week and next, we will all be taking a much needed breather with a brief break, and in generally, we’re looking ahead to 2021 with a lot more confidence and excitement. We finally feel like we’ve got enough hands to cover our bases and get back to what we love: connecting with the Boom Community to provide not only support for teachers and schools using Boom daily, but also to collaborate with you all on ways to make Boom Cards better for the teachers and students who count on them.