Business Strategist and Market Researcher turned entrepreneur with a huge passion for lifelong learning, Stephanie Darvill holds a BSc in International Management and Spanish as well as more than 9 years of experience managing and developing teams abroad. Stephanie, who is originally from London, has lived abroad for the past ten years, five of them in Sweden, where she cofounded Aline in Stockholm in 2021. Since then, she has moved to Malmo in southern Sweden and is still doing remote work for the business. She likes to exercise and go on runs in the woods.
Prior to joining Antler, Stephanie worked in the travel industry’s Consumer Insights division, where she oversaw the growth of the four Nordic countries and made sure that every product and business development was founded on data and insight.
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Stephanie Darvill:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I am a curious person who never stops asking why, I am caring and focus on helping others, I am adventurous and enjoy taking on challenges, whether they are professional, personal, sporting, travelling etc. I am someone that knows how to have fun but can also be very ambitious and focused when in the right setting.
Tell us about the inception of the company. How did it all start?
In September 2020 I had the opportunity to participate in a 3-month programme seeking potential entrepreneurs, I was between jobs at the time and decided to take a leap of faith and thought the worst case would be to learn a lot and build out my professional network, best case I would find a mission I really believe in, find my cofounders and create a startup. The best case happened.
I also figured that Stockholm is very good for startups, some of the biggest unicorns are coming out of here so it would be a great place to start!
I met my two cofounders, Innocent and Emanuel and it clicked straight away. Innocent had been building this idea for the last 2 years and once he presented it to us, we started brainstorming and developed what is now Aline.
Aline is a learning platform that allows individuals to align their online activity with their learning goals, and companies to align their employees’ desired learning to the company goals.
What has made you successful? What do you value?
I value strength, and above all learning, I value people most when they challenge mine and the company’s ideas and business decisions. If they come with the reasons why they think it would be the wrong direction and a suggestion for how to improve it, I always say don’t just come with problems, come with solutions. I learn every single day, at no point in my life will I ever know everything, and that is the joy of it, it’s a journey I will continue.
Which are the major services of the company and how do they the company to get ahead in the competition? What value-added services does the company provide?
We have a mobile first learning experience platform, this means we allow individuals to learn in their flow of life and work. Our value comes in that this behaviour is happening already, people are constantly learning through informal sources, but it is not being captured, nor is it tied to learning goals. So through our app, you can find content, add to the community, tie it to your goals and get evidence of it. (It can be tested now through www.alinebetter.com/access)
We are revolutionising the way society validates learning, many people miss out on key professional development opportunities simply because they do not have a formal education, or it is outdated. With The Great Resignation and The Great Reskilling, companies and individuals alike need to update their skillset and knowledge continuously, and our app makes that easier to do.
What are the most important aspects of a company’s culture? What principles do you believe in and how do you build this culture?
As a company we value curiosity, adaptability and growth and it is something we remind ourselves of daily.
- Constant learning and curiosity – we aim to run learning sessions to share our knowledge, set our own learning goals (we call these Objectives and Learning Needs) and then tie them to business objectives.
- Adaptability – willingness to change and adapt quickly, be prepared to kill your darlings, help each other out when necessary
- Growth – make sure you’re always making progress, it doesn’t need to be in leaps, but 1% better each day leads to a huge amount of growth and development.
- Aligned autonomy – something we believe very strongly in is having aligned autonomy which means the ability to own your own projects and run with them in the way you deem best – but be aligned on the same objectives and goals.
What is the significance of innovative ideas in the company?
It is the core of our company, everyone has learnt throughout their life, anyone can find an article online and learn from it, our success absolutely has to be rooted in innovating how we learn and develop today. We need to move away from t
Give us your opinion on; do organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes?
Team processes without hesitation, as much as you want to believe in the fairytales which focus on heroics, we are tribal beings, our ability to survive is rooted in our social structures that we created. One of the core drivers in all human actions are to achieve social belonging or avoid social rejection, so it has changed shape and evolved since we were hunters and gatherers in the savannahs but the principles are the same. Success is rooted in your ability to collaborate and raise others, and it’s what drives our most happiness and fulfilment: when we can be of service to others.
So, start with the individuals and what roles they want in the team processes but by raising one person above the rest, you are ultimately stamping on those below, and meritocracy normally results in unconscious bias.
What are your responsibilities as the Founder/CEO of the company? What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
Syncing with the team, I get a lot of energy from interactions with people, so those are my highlights and it puts my brain in the right state to be productive. Being a founder is all-encompassing. Even if I don’t lead a certain project, such as the development of the app, I am heavily involved in every aspect of our app launch. In terms of the areas that I consider primarily on my table (and ones I have the most experience in) are the people and operations of the team, sales, business development, and client and learning engagement. My role is primarily cofounder where the three of us split responsibilities between ourselves and our teams. Naturally, as COO, I take on more of the operations of the company.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Don’t worry if you mess up; we all do, and it’s OK to make mistakes, just don’t make the same mistake twice. Also, be aware of your own boundaries and what you need to maintain and preserve your own energy. It is very important to not just switch and assume you now serve the team and need to answer every question as quickly as possible. To be a great leader, you need to start with yourself and your responsibilities and ensure you have the energy to be
giving out to team members. Always remember why you started this mission. What is your cause? Your product will evolve over the years, but when you start to not be faithful to your original mission, you are starting to lose your integrity.