Show and Tell: Amy Walecka

A Q&A with an IXL Product Manager

February 17, 2015

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Life at IXL

Get to know Amy Walecka, who helps design new features for IXL!


The Basics

Name and title: Amy Walecka, Associate Product Manager

Has been at IXL for: 2.5 years

Hometown and current city:  Grew up in Cupertino, Calif., now lives in Palo Alto, Calif.

Life at IXL

What brought you to IXL?

I came to IXL straight from grad school. I did my undergrad in math at Pepperdine University, then went to Stanford where I studied management science and engineering. I was looking for a place where I could make an impact on a product, and work at a company that was really making a difference in the world, especially in education. I’ve always loved math, so finding a company that was teaching math was appealing to me and it seemed like an interesting way to apply my background in a way that would help students.

What do you do at IXL? Give us a taste of what a typical day at work is like for you.

I help design new features for IXL – anything from motivational tools for students, to reports for teachers, and any other features or functionality that a student, teacher or parent might use. Part of my time is spent doing research and brainstorming, and part of it is developing beautiful images and mockups for our site, as well as working with engineers to getting things implemented. One of my favorite features that I’ve worked on is our Community tab, an area where teachers can get resources and ideas for how to use IXL. It was a fun project because it has all types of different resources and you had to think about how to synthesize all of that material in one place.

What skills/qualities does it take to do your job?

You need to be able to think critically about problems, have a strong intuition about user experience design and who our customers are, and be able to design beautiful features. You also have to have some sort of technical background or have taken some computer science classes so that you can understand how our features will be implemented and better communicate with our software engineers.

Life beyond IXL

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to do Pilates and social dance – I’m taking a salsa class which is really fun! I also like outdoorsy things and am just getting into backpacking. My first trip will be doing the Skyline to Sea Trail. It starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and then you walk through Big Basin and down to the Pacific coast. It’s a 2-3 day trip which is a pretty easy starter one, so hopefully it goes well! I’m also really interested in musicals – I just saw “Book of Mormon” in New York and it was really good. One of my friends from high school was the lead that night so it was really exciting!

It sounds like you like to stay active!

Yes. I also like surfing [see photo, right]. I started surfing in Newport Beach when I was little. My mom, sister, and I all took lessons together and we’ve been surfing ever since! My parents live in Santa Cruz, so I surf there a few times a year. My mom is turning 60 this year and she is planning on surfing 60 times in her 60th year! It’s freezing in Santa Cruz, so I always wear a wetsuit and booties… sometimes even a hat! I much prefer warm waters and have been on a number of surf trips: Popoyo, Nicaragua; Kauai; and Sayulita, Mexico.

What’s your favorite childhood toy?

It’s not a toy, but I still have my baby blanket. When I was little you could see that it had baby Disney characters on it, but it’s gotten so ratty and torn up that you can barely see faint images of them! I keep it in my dresser next to my bed.

Just for Fun

Other than IXL, what are the three websites you visit most frequently?

The Weather Channel, Facebook, and Gmail.

What would your last meal be?

My favorite food is pizza so I’d have that [see photo, right]. I really like making pizza from scratch, just a simple margherita pizza: fresh mozzarella, basil, sauce and dough. I’ve even made my own dough before! I’d also have a glass of skim milk, maybe chocolate milk. For dessert, I’d want cheesecake or chocolate cheesecake!

The Oscars are coming up! What would be your award for Best Picture of All Time?

I really like “Love Actually.” Even though it’s a Christmas movie, it’s good any time of the year! I watch it every Christmas and I’ve probably seen it 30 to 40 times.

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All Comments (13)

Krissh February 21, 2015 at 11:45 am

Can you put -fractions in third grade because i go to woodward and to kumon

Reply

The IXL Team February 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

Hi Krissh, we have a lot of fraction skills in third grade, but if you are already mastering those skills, we recommend trying out the fraction questions in fourth grade!

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Ananimous February 26, 2015 at 8:56 am

Could you put in games or other fun activities that give medals a purpose? The medals seem useless and boring besides showing which lessons are completed easily.

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The IXL Team February 26, 2015 at 9:05 am

Hi there – Currently IXL is designed to provide a distraction-free place for learning, and we’ve heard from many users that the interactive questions are fun, and the awards are motivating. That said, we’re always working to improve IXL to better serve students, so we’ll be sure to pass along your thoughts to our development team for consideration!

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Laura Hershey February 23, 2015 at 8:47 am

I would love to see you create a way for teachers to make “Skill Mixes.” Here’s why… There are many times I would like my students to work on more than one skill at once. This is more realistic for what is required of them in real life or in a testing environment. One problem I have with iXL is that when students are practicing a skill, the problems are mostly the same. I realize that this is by design to help students master a concept and I appreciate that. However, I feel that frequent use of iXL has been causing my students get into bad habits of problem solving where they don’t read the problems and think about what is being asked.

It would be amazing if I were able to create a custom assignment that randomly mixes together skills of my choosing. For example, when I am teaching my unit on “Ratios and Proportions”, I need my students to be working on a wide variety of applications for proportional reasoning. iXL provides many different skills that are useful, but they are all isolated. In order to achieve my purposes, I have to give students a long list of 8-10 different iXL skills to work on, and tell them to just do a few problems on each. This is obviously time consuming for them to have to keep switching over, and it also alerts them to what type of problem they are doing. They don’t have to read the problem and figure out from the context how to solve it. It is also very annoying for me to get data from that assignment, because all of their data is spread out over many different skills (and it looks like they never “mastered” any of them) making the reporting useless to me.

iXL has an excellent skill base, but I would suspect that many teachers would be thrilled if this was a feature that allowed you to give an assignment where you mix skills together.

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The IXL Team February 23, 2015 at 10:57 am

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing your suggestion and feedback! We’ve received similar requests from users for an assignment feature, and it’s something we are looking into creating for IXL. We’ll be sure to pass your comments along to our development team!

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Yada Zhai February 24, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Hi Amy!

Awesome to see so many happy kids in the IXL Rockstars album. They’re holding the awesome new certificates we made, so of course they’re happy!

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Zane February 26, 2015 at 8:54 am

Good job guys, I saw your Youtube ad. It is very well put together, but I could do better (I am a student and can already make ads that distract the viewer to the point where they can’t hit the “skip ad.” button because the are already so focused on the ad). Were those real interviews of users?

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The IXL Team February 26, 2015 at 9:10 am

Hi Zane – yes, we interviewed real IXL users for the video!

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Zane February 27, 2015 at 12:47 pm

That’s good. Most companies hire actors when hey make interviews (if they can afford that, of course).

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desean March 26, 2015 at 11:13 am

I love ixl.

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iinosa March 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm

hi um on ixl right when someone want to answer a question and they got it wrong does the score go to 93-80 why

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The IXL Team March 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hi Iinosa – That’s a great question! The SmartScore is designed to help students truly master skills, which means you have to answer questions correctly and consistently, including the most difficult problems within that skill. As you get closer to 100, the score drops down with missed questions so you have more time to practice the skill, and once you meet your target score you’ll know you’ve truly earned it!

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