Behind The Scenes: John

Babbel’s Head of Guide tells us about how his team builds guided and connected learning experiences, shares some practical tips for work at home parents, and enlightens us on what Pride means to him.

At Babbel, our endgame is getting people to have conversations with other people, in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at. 

This round we’re talking to John Quintana, Head of Guide. 

What’s your role at Babbel? What do you do on a typical day?

I am Head of Guide at Babbel. We are a future-focused team that works on building guided, connected learning experiences.

A lot of my day is meeting with stakeholders throughout the organization to align our efforts. My favorite time is when I sit down with our Instructional Design, Product Design, Engineering, or Machine Learning folks to work out solutions for Guide. These are the folks who make everything real for the Learner and make all of our user research matter.

With all of those meetings, it’s tough to find focus time. And one of the most important things – inspiration time. So while I am getting ready, cooking, commuting, or winding down, I’m usually listening to a podcast to inspire my work.  

Where are you from and which languages do you speak?

I am from San Francisco, California. I am a native English and Spanish speaker. I can get around Paris with a bit of French. And overtip at a German café (but also get my coffee exactly how I want it). I once tried to learn Italian on a flight, and succeeded in embarrassing my Italian travel buddy for an entire weekend! 

This is a pretty international workplace. How does that influence your work?

For work culture, it’s so much fun to jump around languages and cultures throughout the day. But designing for our Learners, it’s tough to remember most of our Learners don’t bump into their learning language as much as we do. So you have to remember to design against your lived experience.

What challenges are you most animated by?

Sounds cheesy, but honestly – user problems. Problems of human empathy – understanding the problems a person can’t quite yet express, but that are keeping them from making the decision they want: to learn.

What learning/growth opportunities have impacted you most?

Before I came to Babbel, I was part of an incredibly fast-growth company. I felt like my job changed every six months. I keep that stamina and steadfastness with me as I work on Guide for Babbel.

How does working on a purpose-driven product affect your workday?

It means everything. I’ve worked for the big corporates and non-profits. I know what we have at Babbel is special – creating a product of value that helps open minds to new ways of looking at the world through language.

June means Pride month, not just at Babbel, but all around the world. What does Pride mean to you?

Asking all the heavy, heart-felt questions huh? Pride is a big deal to me. I identify as queer. For me, Pride means not hiding who you are anymore. It was a long journey to get here. One thing that makes Babbel really special is our culture of embracing diversity. I have worked in lots of progressive places, but I don’t think I have ever felt so free to be myself as I have at Babbel. No fronting to conform, no token celebrity status for being queer. The respect we give a point-of-view has nothing do with the box someone checks on age, gender, etc. But we’re all genuinely curious about each other’s lived stories.

You are a work-from-home parent. How have you adjusted to this situation? Do you have any tips to share for other WFH parents?

Because COVID-19 news changes every week, no adjustment lasts too long. But I have found a few things help:

1) Routine & Ritual
Kids thrive on it. But so do grown-ups. Create and keep loose rituals. I start every morning with a little 15 minute sharing circle of song and learning with my son. I end every night with a family ritual of gratitude.

2) Be Present
As best you can, try not divide your attention too much. It’s tough advice, but I find it just stresses me out and makes me feel like I am being a crap parent and a crap employee. Lean on others to find focus time for both. I promise nothing feels better than undivided focus time with your kid.

3) Keep Your Priorities In Check
If you’re lucky enough to work in parent-friendly work conditions, prioritize your kids. That’s the relationship you will still have in twenty years. I’m grateful I work in parent-friendly conditions. If you don’t work in parent-friendly conditions, then you’re probably making the right choice by prioritizing feeding your kids and keeping a roof over their heads. You’re making the right choice, and our community needs to step up to support you. You know the great thing about tips and advice? It’s just an opinion. From one person. And no one has to follow it or take it more seriously than that. Thanks for the great chat! I have to go see how we’ve progressed in our latest user journey.

Want to work with John? His team is currently looking for a Senior Product Designer and Product Manager!

Ewa Cabaj

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.