Episode 023 - Naomi Lindermeyer - Supporting Teachers & Business Challenges | Limeworks

Episode 023 - Naomi Lindermeyer

Supporting Teachers & Business Challenges

Starting her professional career as a Teacher, Naomi founded Kimberlin Education, which is a specialist agency for delivering innovative and exciting education programmes to suit their clients' needs and objectives. 

We cover so much in this chat including Naomi's journey from educator to founder, and a failed (albeit popular) startup along the way. We also discuss the challenges of scaling a business operating in the notoriously challenging education sector, but also how getting the formula right becomes a powerful tool.

We ran a little over time on this one but it's a great discussion with loads of interesting insights.

Kimberlin Education: http://kimberlineducation.com/
Naomi Lindermeyer: https://www.linkedin.com/in/naomi-lindermeyer-76836625

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Transcription

Please note, while an effort is made to provide an accurate transcription, errors and omissions may be present. No part of this transcription can be referenced or reproduced without permission.

Rob: So, Naomi Lindermeyer, you're the founder and education director of Kimberlin Education, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Naomi: My pleasure, Rob. Thank you for having me.

Rob: And so I really want to get into what you guys are doing at Kimberlin. But before we get there, can we understand a little bit about yourself, Naomi, and how you came to found this company in the first place?

Naomi: Sure. Well, I have a very nontraditional business background. I started my early career as a teacher, a primary school teacher. I always loved being around children throughout high school, wanted to do all of my work experience in schools. I just loved the energy that young kids have and bring to the table. So followed a very traditional path. I went to high school, went straight to university, straight into teaching, and began my career as a first and second year out teacher. So that's reception, and year one or foundation and year one, which was wonderful. But after a couple of years, I decided that I needed to spread my wings and maybe shirk some of that responsibility of being a teacher. And I went travelling. So I still did some teaching in England and I did some volunteer work in Peru and Thailand and various places around the world, which was fabulous. But when I got back, I decided that it was probably an opportune time to see if there was something else out there that I could maybe bring some skill sets and education to. But it didn't require a typical classroom environment. So I then moved into a role as a communications manager for a company that was at that time utilizing a relatively new type of technology, which was SMS technology, letting parents know if their students hadn't arrived at school. So it was kind of marketed as a safety type of technology. However, it was used a lot for truancy as well. So that was very interesting.

Naomi: I should probably mention as well that I'm from Adelaide. So this all took place in South Australia. And then I decided that a move to Sydney was on the cards for me. So I went over to Sydney and went straight back to teaching because that was my safety net. It was something that I enjoyed and loved. And also, I found the business development side of my previous role really challenging because the business development was positioned in a way that it was very hungry and aggressive. And that was not my style, at all. I'm much more of a farmer and a nurturer, love to get to know people. And so that was a little bit of a confidence shaker in that previous role for me. So going back into teaching, my safe place. Where I loved to be with the kids was wonderful. And I decided that primary school teaching again back in Sydney was for me and loved it. But after a few years, again, started to feel that itch that I'm just not being challenged in the way that I think I need to be at this point in my life. So this was in my mid to late 20s and I thought I can either maybe become a principal, go down that pathway, which is the next logical step for many teachers who want something a bit different. Or I could try something completely different. And I had been in quite a few circles in Sydney, friendships and social circles where this word entrepreneur had started to hit me left, right and centre.

Naomi: It's not really something that you hear as the teacher. But I could see all these people doing incredible things. Starting their own business, following their own pathways and journey and really being able to mould something into an idea that was percolating in their head and mould it into an amazing business idea. So I thought, well, I've got nothing to lose. I've got no responsibilities at the moment. And my partner was totally supportive, so I thought I'm going to give this a go. So I left a permanent full time teaching position in a beautiful school in Sydney, which was scary enough in itself because they like hen's teeth. It is very difficult to get yourself into that position. And I became a sole trader, so that was a huge amount of research. Do I want to do this? What does this mean to me financially? How will I support myself if I can't get any clients? And it was a real challenge to take myself out of a headspace where teachers always get paid a regular salary. You don't have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, free to the unknown of becoming a sole trader. But I decided that I had nothing to lose. So I drove in headfirst and became an education consultant. So I wanted to still utilise the skill set and expertise that I had developed in school, developing curriculum, writing programs, really understanding the developmental stages of students and what they were looking for. I wanted to harness that with a huge problem that I could see in classrooms and in schools.

Naomi: Which was really being able to connect authentic real life learning scenarios back into the classroom. So it wasn't so heavily textbook based curriculum based. And also to be able to provide teachers with support from industry leading professionals and experts when they came to their programming. That was a really big gap I found when I was teaching actually being out to find somebody who would be in a real life job doing something real to talk to the students was a real challenge. So that's where that's a bit about my history and where I decided to focus my energy and really stumbled across quite a niche. So there wasn't any organisation doing what I had envisioned doing in terms of going out there to businesses and charities and government and saying, look, let me help you take your key messages and position them in a way that teachers will be able to utilise in the classroom of connect to the curriculum and harness the expertise that they have in their organisation, bring it into the classroom in a way that was going to be able to be utilised by teachers and then friendly enough students to actually wrap their heads around. So age appropriate language and content. And so that was back in 2010. And from there, it just it launched and it kind of grew legs and had a life of its own. So we've been going strong for 10 years now.

Rob: I was going to say, I see your are 10 year anniversary coming up for Kimberlin very soon, which is a huge achievement. Absolutely huge. So before we get to Kimberlin, there's a few few bits in that story that I'd love to sort of pull apart if we can. And one one is mere curiosity. And so you've taught in Australia and in the UK. Are there any notable differences in terms of the approach to education between those two countries?

Naomi: Yes, definitely. I found the UK had a much more prescriptive curriculum. So this was pre are national curriculum being released in 2008. The Rudd government went for it, sided with the Howard government. But then the Rudd government really looked at finessing a national curriculum, because up until this point in Australia, each state had their own jurisdiction and they were responsible for creating their own syllabus documents. And there was a lot of inconsistencies, especially if you're a student who was transient or you had parents that were moving from state to state. Very difficult. So when I went over to the UK, I found that the curriculum was easier to follow. But there was very little room for movement and teachers basically had to teach what they saw in front of them. And I taught in a lot of schools which were placed in special measures. And that was essentially just a way of saying the schools failing. They're not up to national standards similar to the national testing that we have here. And that's when testing these schools were failing for whatever reason. And so I found that there was a real discrepancy over there between schools that were high fee paying, slightly different system over there where the teachers were absolutely dedicated, committed to the job. The students were soaring. This is the schools that were placed in special measures where they needed a huge amount of support. But the curriculum didn't really change. And the teachers were essentially trying to deliver the same outcomes, but with very different means at their fingertips. Whereas I found in Australia once the national curriculum came in after 2000 over here, that it just might have a little bit more linear, which meant that students were able to pick up where a previous teacher had left off. If you had huge age differences in terms of learning abilities in your classroom, then they were slightly more easily catered for. So having that national curriculum over here was of huge benefit.

Rob: Of course. And so while that prescription can be like a bit of a sort of a backbone, did it ever become so frustrating as a teacher as well, not being able to to Tailor? Or was there enough latitude there to do what you thought was appropriate?

Naomi: I feel Australia does that quite well. So you've got the backbone, as you suggested, and the outcomes are there. But teachers really have an opportunity to look at those outcomes and say, right, this is the approach that I feel comfortable taking. I'd really like to use this particular piece of content as a stimulus to meet those outcomes. So they do have a huge amount more freedom. I found in the UK that it was very prescriptive. It was quite rigid. And there wasn't a huge amount of room for movement.

Rob: Okay. Interesting.

Naomi: So, yeah, that was frustrating.

Rob: And obviously, there needs to be some kind of framework in order to to provide a a, you know, a national testing framework as well, because otherwise the students aren't receiving that same education to to ensure that that testing is fair across the board. And I think while where we can see some criticism of the national testing and the way that it's rolled out. Do you see that as a, you know, a benefit, a beneficial thing overall in terms of just assessing where our kids are at?

Naomi: The very political question of.

Rob: Not my intention, by the way.

Naomi: Look, it's a very difficult question to answer. I'm not trying to be offensive here, but there really are pros and cons to each side of things. I understand the need to gather data from a national perspective to look at how teachers and students are making the outcomes that are set from a national curriculum perspective. I think the approach can probably be finessed. There's a huge amount of stress and pressure that is placed on teachers and students, which I think is unnecessary. Some schools with really innovative principals that have understood that teachers and students and parents for that matter, are finding this a really challenging, I guess, obstacle to navigate. Every year have put measures into place to really support their community and to really hone to the students that, look, this is just one test. This is not going to define your future and really try and ease the pressure. But other schools, I don't feel are doing that quite as well. And so I think in terms of national testing, I believe, is here to stay. However, the approach that we can take to support teachers, students and parents is one that really needs to be analysed and given a lot of a lot of head space, too, because I think that's the area that we really need to focus on at the moment.

Rob: So is it. Is it perhaps the same potential downfall of standardised curriculum is that, as you noted there? Schools can implement the same thing very, very differently across geography and socioeconomic background like differences and that sort of thing. Is that one of the challenges that they. They're always going to have in trying to develop curriculum?

Naomi: Well, look, I guess one of the misunderstandings and one that we get a lot at Kimberlin that we hear from our clients to say they seem to think that we embed their key messages or their outcomes into the curriculum and we don't do that. So the curriculum is set. It's a national document that has been developed. And what we do is try to harness a vehicle to reach outcomes that are already prescribed by that curriculum. So standardised testing, I don't think is going anywhere anytime soon. So let's look at let's be positive and proactive and look at how we can support everyone involved to really students. Number one, this is not going to define your life and your career. Teachers Let's try and take some of the pressure off. They're already so overworked and so bogged down by red tape and their performance is judged on a regular basis. And parents, I know, they're feeling hugely overwhelmed, especially with the recent homeschooling environment, as to how they can support their children and what emphasis should they be placing on that plan. So I really do think that there's a big education piece there that needs to be done and that needs to be done from a national approach.

Rob: Now, that's that's quite an answer. And I and I don't want to get political, it was merely a personal curiosity of sorts and and some very interesting perspective. But one thing you just mentioned was around support. And one thing that I understand Kimberlin does is find ways to support educators and roll out all sorts of things. Can you give us a little bit of a rundown about what that is and what you guys are doing?

Naomi: Sure. Absolutely. Well, that was the first and foremost when I set out as a solo trader. That was the one area that I wanted to tackle because I saw how many teachers were burning out around me and the amount of hours that teachers put in in their personal time in the evenings and on the weekends. It's no it's no surprise, It's been talked about in the media for many years, that the public perception of what teachers do and the hours that they put in is vastly different to the reality.

Rob: Nine till three and 12 weeks holiday, right.

Naomi: Exactly. Exactly. So I have spent many years trying to dispel that myth and educate people that teachers teach between nine and three. So they actually facilitate and they deliver. But there's a huge amount of preparation and work that needs to go in to ensure that that happens. It doesn't just all tumble out of their heads in the morning and throughout the day, and then they knock off at 3 and go home and have a glass of wine and put their feet up. So what I wanted to do was see how we could stop teachers from reinventing the wheel because there was a lot of work going into planning the same things year on year. I should preface that by saying teachers are also quite transient. So it's unusual or uncommon these days to find that a teacher will be teaching you three, for five years or teaching year seven for their entire career. So there very often moved about every year. They might give you one and then the next year they'll do year six. And the following year they'll do year five. So what teachers were doing was really just having to re plan and reprogram for that new year level every year. And in primary school in particular, teachers are generalists. So they have to teach all subject areas. High school is slightly different, but still, it's not just their geography teacher. They don't have to teach quite a few different subjects in and around that space. And so I want to to take stock and have a look at what teachers were spending their time on, which tended to be planning.

Naomi: And then I wanted to look at where they were finding the materials to support them with their planning. And it was true back when I left in 2010. And it's also very true today that teachers, number one go to, to find sources of information that they're teaching on a particular unit is Google. And so at Kimberlin, what we try and do is look at the curriculum, look at the outcomes, and look at all of the content that needs to be covered. And then we create units of work and resources that are already developed by teachers. So that's probably the key. Important part or differentiation point about business is that teachers develop these materials. We have them all in-house and then have them available to them online in an easy to access portal where they can jump in and say, all right, okay, I can see that there's a unit of inquiry here, fits in beautifully with the STEM topic that we're doing at the moment. And then the idea is that they can take that and manipulate it and change it to suit their own environment, suit their classmates or their student needs. But the majority of the content work has been done. The majority of the kind of thinking process is being done for them. And so that that was the crux of what I wanted to do when I left. I wanted to support my colleagues that I could see burning out. Teacher burnout is a huge thing. Gabby Stroud is a very famous Australian teacher that's been doing a lot of media trying to raise awareness of that.

Naomi: She actually really tries to focus on the fact that teachers just don't get the support that they need. And it's very true. We're just in a box all day, every day with twenty five, sometimes thirty five students from nine or three. And so creating the mental support and the collegial camaraderie is really important from from that perspective. So there was a range of reasons as to why I decided to focus on resource development for teachers. And also because I found in my own classroom when I was teaching that it was around the time that the stimulus package had been brought in and schools were being provided with hardware. So schools were getting interactive whiteboards. This really amazing new piece of equipment that essentially acted like an overhead projector. When we first got them. But and we were told you need to be using this. This is an amazing piece of technology. We should be harnessing it and using it in every lesson. But I didn't find that we're really provided at that point anyway with the training that we needed. And the resources also is ever almost actually having to create their own resources to go on these interactive whiteboards from scratch, which when you're trying to program and plan and teach, trying to learn a new piece of technology or a new piece of software on top of that, is very time consuming. So we wanted to cut all of that work out for teachers.

Rob: That's really amazing. And I think we probably see this is an assumption, but I think we we see more of that sort of thing happening with more rapidly evolving subjects such as stem entering education and and so. I mean, you've spanned sort of the priest heaven and, you know, not the post stem, but I guess including STEM era of school education. How has that changed what you guys are doing and the needs that teachers have for that type of content?

Naomi: I would say the biggest change that I've noticed would be in teaches fear factor around embracing new technology. So in the mid 2000s, early to mid 2000s, you're always going to have the innovators that so excited with new technology and embrace it and want to learn everything about it. Most of the kind of the middle of the cohort is, well, okay. I've been told I need to do this, so let's get on with it and work out the best way to do it. And then you've always got the the ones that are dragging their feet and, you know, protesting with every fibre of their being about trying something new. And so I think that what I've noticed now, as opposed to when all of the technology was emerging in the mid 2000s, is that teachers are just much more willing to give it a go. The fear factor seems to have been removed somewhat. I think that be kind of the unknown being trialled and tested. And they're able to see that using technology in their classroom is certainly a time saver in many instances. They also understand that, you know, the student cohorts that are coming through now, digital natives, they need everything at their fingertips. They need bite sized learning. And their attention spans are short. They're also used to you know incredible animations that they see in movies. So things have to be really visually and aesthetically pleasing. So I think that some teachers have really cottoned on to that and understood that unless they embrace the use of technology, they're going to lose their students interest and won't be able to really harness that. And so that's probably the biggest difference that I've seen in the last 20 years, is in teachers willingness to give new technology a go.

Rob: That's interesting. And I mean, there is a reasonable fear factor there in terms of particularly in, say, programming, where, you know, when if we if we warn back the clock, say, 30 years, it was in schools. But in a very, very small way, there was, say, the computer's class or something like that. I remember doing coding in high school, but it was still very, very niche. But now all those things are becoming mainstream and and more visual. It's not writing lines of code. It's, you know, my boys seven and he's been coding games on on his iPad and that sort of thing. Do you think that it's just so far from what some of these teachers were initially trained in? And there's just a bit of a hurdle to get them to that next step. Is that maybe contributing to that hesitance initially?

Naomi: I would say that there's an inconsistency in teacher professional development that's made available to them. So most teachers are willing to learn. They love learning. They thrive off of it. What they do every day, they deliver professional development's really important to them. But there is no standardised or national approach to providing professional development to teachers. And that's a huge issue. It's very much up to principal discretion. And so you have to fight for your professional development in many instances. I would suggest that if we could really harness a program that enabled some fairness and equality for professional development, teachers would be much more open and willing to take on new courses. But as it is and teachers spend a huge amount out of their own pocket on resourcing their classrooms and they spend a huge amount on their own professional development and their own in professional learning, as we all do. But when it's something that's a requirement for your job, in many instances companies will pay for your training if it's a requirement for your job. And it's something that a piece of hardware or software that you need to understand, and know, to be able to do your job well. That's normally covered. And I'm finding in my conversations with teachers and certainly from my own experience that it's not there. There is so much professional learning that needs to happen in order to stay ahead of the game.

Naomi: So in terms of being able to stay across those latest, innovative practices, teachers really need to be doing a huge amount of professional learning. And in every state, there is actually a requirement of how much professional learning in terms of hours needs to be done, then led to chartered accountants and so on. However access to that is difficult because invariably you've got the expense of having to get a casual or a supply teacher in to cover your class if you need to leave for a day or a week or however long it is. And then teachers actually finding time to do online learning out of hours with all of the programming, all of the reporting that they need to do the data collection. It's just a really challenging environment. So to answer your question, I would say we need to think of some professional learning for teachers in order for them to be able to jump that hurdle and really start to embrace a lot of the new technologies that are out there. And I feel as though a conversation needs to happen around the fairness and equality across the board in the three different systems so the Catholic systemic system, the independent system and the government system again. There is no continuity there on how teachers receive access to professional learning.

Rob: Sure. Yeah, no doubt. I think I think that the professional development side for teachers is certainly something that isn't given enough prevalence and we don't really think about it, even though, you know, we all know, as you say, chartered accountants, GP's. They all have to continue that that development because the industry does move with the times. But it sort of brings us to this other aspect of education and the role that private institutions play in terms of bringing products into schools and education tools into schools. How do you see that interplay between educating the teachers directly or bringing in, say, you know, workshops and third party activities into that curriculum?

Naomi: It's a fine balance to get right and one that I have taken great pride in finessing over the last 10 years to ensure the integrity of Kimberlin education is maintained. So we work with organisations that have got a really strong, purposeful message or content that is going to be of added benefit to teachers and be of added benefit to the curriculum. And so we have had to assign story to working with organisations before. Australia is lucky in the fact that we're not quite at the same stage of the US where schools are sponsored by large corporations or, you know, you see vending machines in hallways or billboards in the car park. We're not at that point, thank goodness. However, there is you know, there is a very fine balance to strike between marketing a product or a message to students that isn't appropriate. This is how we can actually take the expertise of an individual or an organisation in terms of authentic, real life, learning what they do, how it works for them in the real world, and deliver that into the classroom in an age appropriate manner. I think the reason Kimberlin education has done that so well is because at the heart of everything we do is a group of teachers who always have our teacher hats on. So we review everything. We we review the ideas before they get to a point of being developed to say, right. Would this fly? Does this meet the outcomes? What are the students going to achieve by engaging with this resource? How is this resource going to support teachers? And if it doesn't tick all of those boxes, then we do need to say no to them.

Naomi: But it is a really difficult balance. But I'm so proud of the organisations that we've worked with over the last 10 years. So we've had over 75 clients now, some big blue chip corporate, government organisations and not for profit. And then their messages vary so widely, but they all fit into some aspects of the curriculum that could a really important like social message or emotional message. And it might be on the side of safety. It might be on bullying. It might be on financial literacy. There's so many different areas that organizations and expert individuals can bring to the table and support teachers and what they're doing. But I agree with you, when I first tell people what I do, it does take a little bit of explanation so that they understand that what we're doing is a social and meaningful and totally connected to the curriculum, what teachers are looking for. We're not just you know replacing a forty five second advert on TV with a forty five minute lesson. It doesn't quite work that way. But I do think it comes down to the educational integrity that we have in-house without teachers looking over everything.

Rob: Certainly sounds like it underpins the delivery of successful. You know, everything that you're putting into the schools. And because one thing that springs to mind in this space, and you mentioned it, financial literacy. And there was some criticism a little while ago around the involvement of Dolomites in you know, I know I remember Dolomites when I started school. And and I don't want to get into that because that's not what we're here for. But for a company who has a product or service that can contribute to curriculum in a school or an education scenario. Are there are certain things that they really need to be mindful of when they're even trying to go down this route before they try and approach schools or someone like Kimberlin to help facilitate the process?

Naomi: Absolutely. I mean, I need to identify what their endgame is. So why do they want to get into schools? That's the most important question that I have to ask themselves. And then we need to kind of flesh that out with a whole range of questions. You know, look at what their outcomes are and whether they are literally just trying to hit a KPI that ticks a box or whether they genuinely have an interest in supporting the next generation of Australians. And so that's up to us. And mostly that rests on my shoulders as an education director of the company to identify what it is that they can offer, why they want to offer it, and then how we can best approach the resource so that it does actually connect very well with what teachers are teaching in the classroom and what they're looking for. So my answer to that question would be take a long, hard look at why you'd like to get into schools if you are looking at really trying to give back and maybe it's a corporate social responsibility initiative of your organisation, you're trying to give back to the community or whether you have got an amazing wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. If it's in the I.T. sector and you want to be able to look at developing the talent, the pipeline that's coming through. So your organisation can really take their pick from talented professionals that are coming through and graduating at the end of year 12. Those are all good motivation. If it's simply to just sell a product, then not so much.

Rob: Yeah, certainly, certainly sounds like it needs more than just profits as the driver to get into schools. And I mean, I know it's an area of interest from mine is, you know, the technology T part out of STEM. And I think that's where we see so much in innovation, maybe because it's just that it's 2020. And because I mean, the science and and the maths parts of STEM and all the rest have been there, you know, for as long as the curriculum has been around. But the technology aspect evolves so rapidly. Do you see an increasing role in, say, technology providers or technology focused education coming through this sort of pipeline?

Naomi: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, Edutech, it's one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest growing sector at the moment, and there is a huge amount of startups in this space and tech startups, it's it's kind of its own huge hurtling through at the moment. I think, again, organisations just need to take stock. Startups need to take stock and look at why they're developing what they're developing and talk to teachers and talk to schools to find out if they want it so the technology is wonderful, if it's needed, if it's required, if it's going to make life easier for the end user. It's going to support teachers in this instance with their planning or role, attendance or whatever. It happens to be a data collection. And the biggest mistake I find in regards to technology and companies coming through with an amazing idea is that they just simply don't talk to schools about it to find out if it's required. And it sounds like a no brainer, you know, doing your market research before you start. But it doesn't happen. And so you might get and look, I'm guilty of that personally as well. Like, my business partner and I invested quite a significant amount into a startup a few years ago, which we thought was just such a cracking idea. But we didn't do a huge amount of market research beforehand. And unfortunately, that business idea was just unable to be commercialised, even though the concept around it was brilliant that we just hadn't done that research beforehand on how we would actually turn a profit and make the business tick over, which was a challenge. So I would suggest talk to teachers, talk to students, talk to parents and talk to schools, find out whether this amazing idea that you've got will actually come to fruition if it's got legs. And then if sorry. Yeah. Go for it. But otherwise, maybe go back to the drawing board and say how you could re frame it before you develop your MVP.

Rob: So this is pretty standard advice from a product delivery or product development standpoint anyway. Don't just look at the fact that there are schools and are students check that they actually want these things to begin with.

Naomi: I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted. It sounds so obvious, but the amount of organisations that I see doing it without having done the research is phenomenal. That's something that we do in-house at Kimberlin. And we try and start every single project. Every new campaign. Every new client. By doing market research first. And we're really open about that. We say just because we've got a great idea and we think that we can do this for you doesn't mean that that's actually going to be utilised in the classroom. So let's go out there and let's ask. We do focus groups. We do. We do. And call research and surveys before we start most of our resources for our organisations.

Rob: I mean, it wouldn't be the first time that we talk about confirmation confirmation bias. And, you know, people going into things with with blinkers on. So I think, yeah, perhaps it's it's just general marketing in general product development. Just because it's education doesn't make it any easier. If anything, it probably makes it a little bit harder. So you touched on something a second ago with your startup that you tried to launch with your co-founder. And if I'm not mistaken, it was called Propel Her.

Naomi: That's correct.

Rob: Can you give me a little bit of a rundown around that end and maybe the missteps that occurred that what the intention was as well?

Naomi: Sure. So, look, it's a bittersweet journey was a bittersweet journey for my business partner and I. Danielle Fletcher, who is half owner Kimberlin Education and my business partner and an absolute Gun. She joined me in Kimberlin twelve months after I started. So I started as a soul trader for twelve months. And then Daniel came and joined me back in 2012, beginning of 2012. And we had met through a mutual contact. We worked really well together and she had a completely different skill to myself. So my skills are in marketing communications. She's got an org site background and just an an absolute gun at absolutely everything that she does. And a really complementary skill set to myself. After twelve months of working on Kimberlin and obviously converted it to a proprietary limited company and did all of the checks and balances there, we were just absolutely blown away by the amount of support that we received from individuals that didn't know us, had nothing to do with us. Had no motives in terms of gaining anything. And we had a conversation about at one company how many people want to help us at this beginning stage of our journey. So as an aside to Kimberlin, we wanted to try and give back because we felt really fortunate that we had been in a position where people were willing to give up their time and their energy and take an interest in us, and we wanted to do the same for others and particularly women, because we did find and we've had quite a few stories, ideas of not being taken seriously in business, which is a another conversation.

Rob: Sure. Yep.

Naomi: But we wanted to give back to women in particular. So we decided to create an online platform that matched female mentees with male and female mentors. And the idea was that, I mean, there's plenty of mentoring programs around, but we didn't really feel as though just because you were given a mentor, you asked somebody to be a mentor, it didn't necessarily mean that that personality fit was going to work. And so we decided to develop an algorithm that matched the personality of each of the mentors and the mentees, as well as all of the other criteria in terms of the outcomes and the industry that they were in. So logically, it sounded fantastic. We did do some research in that we went out there to mentors and asked them whether or not they would be willing to give their time for free on a platform that wasn't a typical face to face interaction. So that mentor mentee relationship is normally very much a sit down, have a coffee, ask me some questions, pick my brains. Where as this was a slightly different approach. It was done for an online platform. The mentors two phenomenal, I think within four weeks we had five thousand mentors sign up to the site, which was absolutely. And we're talking kind of C suite executive level. And they just wanted to give back where we found the difficulty was mentees actually realising that this was not too good to be true and actually getting them to sign up and then looking at how we were going to commercialise that platform.

Naomi: I won't go into too many details, but essentially that was a really hard lesson for us. We poured a lot of time and energy and capital into developing a platform. We had all of these incredible mentors ready to go and then we couldn't commercialise it. That was a really hard journey. We had an amazing lady who Glennis Caroll coming through with the XMD of RSVP to look at how we could potentially try and commercialize that. She spent six months with us and eventually we came to the conclusion that we just we had to make a decision between Kimberlin and propel her. And Kimberlin had always been ticking along in the background. It had bootstrapped propel her. And obviously I hadn't finished with Kimberlin. In fact, we hadn't even really started with Kimberlin and the potential that it offered. So we made the difficult decision to put propel her to bed, although we made some incredible connections over that time. And we still have relationships with the mentors and I've been able to support back in other ways. They support via Kimberlin and offering help with education, resources and other contacts. But it was it was a couple of years worth of passion and energy that didn't really eventuate the way that we'd foreseen.

Rob: No doubt it was a really tough decision to make to to wind that down ultimately as well. And especially when your time and resources become divided through this kind of parallel effort that's happening. If you if you look with the power of hindsight, is there something distinct you would have changed or can you still not see the you know, the what would have changed that outcome?

Naomi: That's a really challenging question because I feel as though. If we hadn't gone through the journey, if we hadn't made mistakes and if we hadn't failed, we wouldn't have been able to apply those learnings to many instances across Kimberlin over the subsequent seven years. I wish I hadn't lost money and the time at the beginning. I mean, that that certainly in hindsight, I wish I could have changed that aspect. But look, going back to what I said in your previous question, I think we probably should have just done a lot more research in and around how we would commercialise it. The idea was fabulous. The volunteers were there they were chomping at the bit, ready to go. But it was a huge amount of maintenance work. So it was not so we could just sit and forget and let it run. And we just didn't have the funds to be able to have it registered as an organized charity and have and have that all running along in that respect. And run Kimberlin at the same time and Kimberlin was absolutely the priority for us. And I mean, it didn't help with me getting pregnant towards the end of that as well so that kind of also, helped to make the decision for us because Danielle would have been left running Kimberlin and propel her in my absence, even though it was a short absence, it was still a real challenge.

Rob: Yeah. Definitely sounds like it was bittersweet, but, you know, fairly satisfied with the decision overall. But one thing that really stands out there is and what you did manage to prove with that endeavour was the power of mentors and how willing they are to actually engage mentees in terms of help and support. What was some of the lessons that you could take away from that in terms of just how willing some mentors can be?

Naomi: Good question. The biggest learning I had was that if you don't ask, you don't get it. And I'm a pretty polite person and I don't like to ask for something if I don't feel as though I've got anything to give back. And I think I was plagued by that at the beginning, not feeling as though I had enough value to give back to a mentor. So why would they want to spend time on me? What could I possibly have that I could give back to them as thanks for them giving me all of their insights in and around, starting a business or, you know, going down a certain pathway. What I learnt over time was that mentors invest their time in you because they see a spark. They see a particular energy or just something there in you that they want to be able to help you bring out and they want to grow and explore that with you. And most mentors have got a genuine interest in supporting their mentees from that angle. And so I quickly learned that if I asked even sometimes asked people that I just thought they going to be too busy, they're not going to have time for me. They won't even ahead of me. Why would they give me their time? But if you ask and you position it in a way that you're really passionate about what you do and you've got something to give back to the community or whatever it happens to be, most people are willing to at least have an initial conversation with you. And if they're not the right person, they'll point you in the direction and provide a connection with the person that did so. My two learnings out of it would be if you don't ask, you don't get and understand your value and self-worth because you've always got something that you can offer, even if it's just a conversation peace. The mentors are genuinely interested in you and supporting you and your growth as a professional.

Rob: That's amazing, that's it. Hey, if that's all you learnt from that period. It sounds like it was probably worth it. So what role has mentor-ship played in your career path? And, you know, you speak from experience, not just, you know, from anecdote. So can you give us some are some of the information on how that's been pivotal to what you guys are doing?

Naomi: Yeah, I've always had mentors. Right from the get go. My very first mentor in my professional career was the first school principal I ever had, and she taught me something that I bring from a HR of perspective, now to all of my stuff. To. You're a professional. I would treat you as a professional. I would trust your judgement and I'll allow you space to move and to grow. And if you make mistakes, that's okay. I'll help you through them. But you need to learn from them, which again, all sounds really obvious, but from my experience, just does not happen that often in the workplace where you are given enough rope, enough line to be able to invest in an idea. Explore it, make mistakes, but then bring all of your learnings to the table. And so my first school principal, my first boss was instrumental in developing a sense of confidence in myself that if I make mistakes, it's okay to be there to support me as long as I can justify a rationale as to why I've done what I've done. And I'd take that approach with all of my staff. Now, say you're a professional, I'll treat you as a professional. You don't need me micromanaging you. Go out there, explore an idea. Come back to you with what your thoughts are and then we can flesh it out together. So my first mentor was really instrumental and I've taken that approach my entire career, which has made it really difficult when I was employed. If that approach wasn't been applied to me again, I found it really challenging to be micromanaged. And with all of the main tools that I've had since then, they have they will really harness that philosophy. That's the reason that they work with mentees. It's because they see something in them. And they really want to encourage them to explore that idea, that spark, that sense of individualism. And I've been able to position myself so that I've had business mentors or I've had mentors for aspects of my personal life so public speaking, for example, or whatever it happens to be that I feel as though I need to be able to sound ideas off of or really learn one on one from their experience. And so I don't think there's ever been a time in my career where I haven't had a mentor. Sometimes I've had a few going at the same time. I had some incredibly amazing mentors in tech and development in and around the time that we started propel her.

Naomi: I mean, I had I'm not a developer. I have zero background in technology and what I needed to do to start a tech platform. So I was fortunate enough to have a mentor there that was really able to say, look, take stock. What are you doing here? You can scale this. I didn't even know what the word scale meant back then and really be able to support in the journey. So mentors have been really powerful. Some of the mentors I've just found access online have just found an email and reached out to them. That way are the mentors I've met through social circles. Other mentors have been introductions, friends and friends. But I would say that, you know, really trying to harness your network and grow your professional network is the best way to find mentors because somebody can introduce you to somebody like a mentor in a really authentic, incredible way. And you probably more likely get it to get a little bit of airtime if you do it that way. But, you know, if Tony Robbins is the guy that you want to mentor you, then why not reach out and send an email? What's the worst that can happen?

Rob: Can't hurt, right? Absolutely. So we've spoken around the role of a personal mentoring. But I know there's this real big place for institutions to provide mentor-ship, to really drive growth for companies. Have you had any experience of that with Kimberlin?

Naomi: We have and we've been really fortunate, again, there are so many organisations out there that want to support startups in particular. And we've been so fortunate over the years to have a huge amount of support from an organisation called Heads over Heels, which supports female founders of high growth startups. And they have been really instrumental in providing us with connections to CEOs and executive levels that open doors for us so rather, then starting at the bottom and trying to work your way up. You start at the top. And, you know, just having access to incredible female startup founders, seeing their journeys, watching their progress, you know, sharing war stories and learning from mistakes, that's been amazing. So heads over heels has been wonderful. And also EY really sorry, fortunate that EY took an interest in us from a fairly early stage of Kimberlin's life. And they have provided a phenomenal amount of support to us. Look from individuals coming out and sitting in our office and spending six weeks with us looking at program development right through to we were the lucky recipients of being EY accelerating entrepreneurs in 2017, which is a cohort of startups or founders of organisations that would set for high growth. And they took this over to Rome and we went to conventions and we did design thinking workshops with them. And we could not believe that we were actually the recipients of this incredible amount of support. And it was all very much done with no hidden agenda. They were just there to support. There was nothing asked of us. They were absolutely amazing. And it goes back to what I was saying before. Seek out what's out there. And don't be afraid, even though even if it might look as though it doesn't quite fit you or you think that you're not big enough yet. Give it a go. Apply for grants, apply for sponsorship, whatever it happens to be. Just give it a go. And we were pretty surprised when we got in to the EY accelerating entrepreneur program. We were there for twelve months and it was just a phenomenal growth journey for us.

Rob: Amazing. So we are coming up on time. But I've got a few quicker questions. I wouldn't mind getting out just before we wrap up. For a company who's developing a an education resource that they would love to get into the school curriculum. And there's a single piece of standout advice that you have for them. What would that be?

Naomi: Again, I go back to what we said before. Look at why you'd like to develop that piece so that resource and then flesh that out and come to come to Kimberlin and have a chat to us and we can work out what the best delivery mechanism is. What you came messaging is whether or not there's something already in the marketplace is doing that and whether we feel as though teachers will want and need it in the classroom. So flesh out an idea. Really ask yourself why it is that you're looking to get into schools and speak to students and teachers, then come to us and run your idea past us and we'll give us. We'll give you an honest opinion. Always an honest opinion.

Rob: It doesn't have value if it's not honest. Absolutely. And so obviously you have a really thorough understanding of educators, the education system, the curriculum. Is there something that you see as something that they need support with? That still isn't being fulfilled by standardised curriculum or third party?

Naomi: Yes, the real life learning piece is missing. In my opinion. What we have tried to do recently is to harness the power of expert knowledge and bring it into the classroom. That's the piece that's missing, connecting real life authentic experiences into the classroom and the outcomes or the curriculum outcomes that teachers are trying to teach to. And that's a huge issue because, you know, students are graduating high school with very little understanding of the real life practicalities of what they're learning. And that's a huge piece missing. So where the opportunity lies at the moment for organisations is to take a look at your industry experts and your professionals, look at the value that they have, the wealth of knowledge, and with it, how you can actually present and deliver that into the classroom to support the teachers in meeting those outcomes, to really get the students excited and engaged in their learning and say, oh, I understand. Well, you know, my teacher's been trying to teach me about this. This is what it actually looks like out there in the real world. And I didn't realise that that particular concept could take me in this direction or this career path is just opened up to them, because I've heard somebody talk about an industry that they're in where they started off with a completely different qualification and they found a way into it utilising their skill set. So I would suggest harnessing the power of experts and bringing experts into the classroom is where we need to all be at the moment. And that's what we're really excited about at Kimberlin today.

Rob: Be interesting to see what happens in that space. And so is there anything else that you'd love our audience to know about Kimberlin or what you guys are doing right now?

Naomi: Well, the thing I'm really excited about is a new offering that we are spearheading called the expert classroom, which follows on from what I just said. And we have got some amazing experts lined up to talk to students right around Australia. So we kind of pre-recorded video really getting into the nitty gritty of what they do, what they know and how they apply it in their job or in the virtual world. And then we do a live Q&A session every Friday where we have a half an hour live stream with the expert and students can actually ask questions in real time. Using, we zoom platform and we live stream to YouTube and Facebook, and they can ask the expert anything. So we launched last week. We had an incredible, awesome Matt Stanton. And the questions that the students were asking from schools right around Australia were phenomenal, really engaging and stuff that they just wouldn't really have the opportunity to ask unless you were in the environment where you could actually see them, and ask in real time. So they learnt all about how these books were published, a way he gets his ideas from and how he comes up with the ideas to draw his characters, which really brings a huge amount of meaning to what they're doing in the classroom when they come down to write narratives or you know, whatever happens to be. So being able to connect a real life expert directly into the classroom, utilising the technology we've been chatting about today is an amazing opportunity. So that's what Kimberlin's doing at the moment. We're really excited about it. And we've got some incredible experts lined up for the rest of the year.

Rob: That's amazing. And that that Q and A would certainly add a an amazing dimension for the students having that direct access.

Naomi: It sure does. It is moderated.

Rob: Of course, yeah.

Naomi: Yeah. Yeah. Look, it's it's an amazing opportunity for them. We've had some brilliant feedback.

Rob: That's great. And so for someone in the audience who wants to reach out to Kimberlin, where can they find out more about you?

Naomi: If you're an organisation and you want to chat to us about potentially developing some resources or, you know, getting one of your experts featured, go to Kimberlin education .com.au. If you're a teacher and you're listening and you want to access those resources, go to KEteacher.com

Rob: Amazing. I'm sure some people will be checking that out. Naomi Lindermeyer from Kimberlin Education. Thank you so much for your time. It's been amazing.

Naomi: It was an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Rob: Thank you. There you have it. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please like it, share it or leave us a review on your favourite platform. It helps us show more of this content to people just like you.


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