Ulrik Street-Poulsen is a Senior Product Engineer at Arbor Education, an edtech company with a mission to transform the way schools work with smarter, hassle-free tools teachers love to use. This week, I spoke with him about what it’s like to work there.
We started at the beginning of Ulrik’s journey with Arbor. He joined the organisation as a newly qualified computer scientist in 2012, just a couple of months after the company launched. Ulrik was drawn to Arbor by the passion of the founders and their drive for making a real social difference on the ground.
Since 2012, Ulrik has learnt and developed himself professionally to where he is today. In his current leadership role at Arbor, he has three main focus areas: to work with other team members to maintain focus on the strategic direction of the Arbor platform, in particular on how the team can serve multiple markets while maintaining data integrity and quality; to coach and collaborate with internal teams and team members to improve the general product and technical knowledge throughout the company, and finally, to understand and implement appropriate processes around Arbor’s functionality related to the Department for Education’s compliance and statutory regulatory items, as well as wider government activities.
Ulrik explained that as a result of the variety of tasks he is involved with, no two days are ever the same. But despite – or perhaps because of – the variety, he remains a key part of the development team. Every day starts with a virtual development team check-in to catch up about ongoing projects, assess plans for the day and highlight any blockers that the team is facing. This daily catch up is particularly important, considering that many members of the team work remotely. Additional catch ups using Slack or Google Hangout help Ulrik and his team to keep up to date with how projects are progressing and to share the latest feedback from schools to be discussed.
In addition to internal meetings, Ulrik is also kept busy with meetings with the government. These meetings are essential to the functioning of the company owing to the need to ensure that the tools it develops meet government requirements and can make life easier for those working in the education sector. This unusual and important role is one of the reasons why Ulrik enjoys working at Arbor and is why new recruits who have the drive to progress through the company should understand the social mission of Arbor and the multiple statutory requirements that it must meet.
We then moved to what maintains Ulrik’s motivation to get out of bed each day. He explained that he thoroughly enjoys his working life at Arbor and relishes the opportunities he is given to grow and develop. He also appreciates the freedom he has to shape his role in a way that suits his own professional goals. Ulrik went on to explain that, unlike many other tech companies, Arbor does not have a blame culture, but one of development and consideration. This is in part owing to its mission to help others, and the drive to hire people for their values rather than just for their skill sets. For Ulrik, this caring culture, combined with the opportunity and space to develop, are key to why he is still at the company after over 8 years.
As the interview drew to a close, Ulrik explained that the work-life balance at Arbor is great, with regular team events and a family-oriented approach. He highlighted that despite the difficult times that we are all currently facing, the company is continuing to nurture its culture and bring everyone together through regular communication, online quizzes and competitions, support groups for parents, frequent wellbeing initiatives and so on. This helps to keep everyone close, despite being physically distant. The family culture at Arbor (alongside dog-friendly offices!), is a key part of working life for Ulrik, which has resulted in his loyalty to Arbor, a tech company decidedly with an edge.