ETS Reflections & Timeline

by Bilaal Ahmed

Reflections on ETS

Below are three journal entries I’ve shared related to my interests and thoughts around working with ETS. Click the triangle (▶) to read an entry.

Education as a Calling

Like many children of immigrants, I grew up believing I should pursue a conventional career in medicine or engineering. My own dreams and passions didn’t enter the equation.
Yet I was always drawn to mentoring students and teaching, even if I didn’t acknowledge an inner calling. In high school and college, I started programs to tutor younger students and served as a volunteer substitute teacher. After graduating, I in Pakistan and partnered to host weekly workshops. I then that served as a learning and sharing platform for policymakers and advocacy practitioners.
Looking back, these experiences were clearly driven by a desire to empower learners. But it took the shock of the pandemic for me to finally re-examine my path.
Working remotely and spending more time with family, I realized I wanted to align my career with my core values. I was concerned about the influence of technology on education and started consulting on product ethics and operations. Yet, I felt stifled. Tech companies are still heavily driven by growth metrics, not necessarily ethical considerations for humane technology.
I knew affecting real change requires an organizational partner who truly understood the learning experience.
Discovering ETS provided that opportunity. Here was an organization with decades of research and commitment to learning, not just profits. I immediately felt drawn to contributing my skills and passion to innovate merit and evidence-based educational solutions.
Rather than seeing ETS as resistant to change, I believe my technology sector experience can catalyze creativity grounded in your mission. By valuing both continuity and thoughtful innovation, I want to help empower students for the future while building off the company’s strong core identity.

Reframing Testing

Standardized tests have challenged me my entire life. As early as elementary school, I struggled with major test anxiety that led to poor performance. Rather than helping me understand my strengths and areas for improvement, tests made me feel like a failure and left me doubting my own intelligence.
Without the right support and guidance, my struggles with testing continued to plague me over the years. I never had a strong mentor who could help me properly interpret test results to unlock my potential. Instead, I judged myself harshly and internalized feelings of inadequacy.
These challenges with standardized testing made me feel like I didn’t fit into the system. Here I was, a creative, divergent thinker with diverse interests and skills. But the limited snapshot that tests provided labeled me as just average or below average. It was incredibly frustrating and disheartening.
Ironically, through these experiences, I’ve gained insight that I hope to leverage to help other students facing similar struggles. Standardized tests will be a reality for the foreseeable future. But they don’t have to be sources of anxiety and self-doubt. I believe we can reframe tests as opportunities for useful feedback – tools to help students and teachers better understand strengths, areas for growth, and optimal learning approaches.
I hope to advocate for the mindset that tests should open gateways to opportunity, not close them. With the right community of support, including educators, mentors, and counseling, we can equip students to see assessments as informational resources on their journey.
My dream is to ensure no student feels defined or limited by test scores. Instead, tests can empower students with self-knowledge to pursue their dreams. Turning my own challenging history with tests into an ability to help others is part of what draws me to ETS.

Beyond Transformation at ETS

In times of change, how can organizations evolve while retaining core identity? For ETS, the key is nurturing a spirit of creativity and innovation rooted in a mission.
Differentiation in the future will come from leveraging technology and data strategically, while staying grounded in proven learning methodologies. For example, new test formats that combine writing skills with visual elements can enhance assessment relevance. Or interactive score reports and mentoring that help contextualize results into insights versus just numbers.
My background straddles education and technology. I understand the power of technology to transform and also risks of prioritizing disruption over grounded research. ETS has immense potential to drive change ethically by valuing continuity alongside thoughtful innovation.
This requires giving creative license to imagine yet also fostering rigor in execution. By starting small with pilot programs, you can introduce new ideas while mitigating risk. Innovation is a journey of progress through iteration.
At its best, ETS can develop solutions that uplift learners’ growth without compromising identity or standards. But this depends on making space for creativity across the organization.
I believe my multifaceted experiences can help spur this shift as an insider. By combining fresh thinking with your formidable expertise, I aspire to fulfill the promise of empowerment through assessments.

ETS Interview Timeline

“...time is the longest distance between two places.”
– Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
Initial Applications & First Contacts
11/7/22: Applied for two roles - Product Manager Lead (351111) and Road Map Planner (348895)
11/15/22: Resume referred by recruiter for Road Map Planner role (348895)
First Round Interviews
12/15/22: Interviewed for Road Map Planner role with T.J., J.C., C.J., and K.T.
Pivot & Second Role Consideration
12/19/22: L.M. suggests applying for Product Owner, Director role (348788)
12/20/22: Interview for Product Owner, Director role with L.V. and L.M.
Second Round Interviews & Follow-Ups
12/21/22: Second interview for Road Map Planner with C.J., C.N., and A.R.
1/5/23: Resume referred by recruiter for Product Manager Lead role (351111)
1/6/23 to 2/17/23: Multiple touch base calls and follow-ups with C.J. about delays and next steps; no response after two follow-ups
Fresh Applications & No Response
2/28/23 to 3/9/23: Applied for Lead Product Operations and Product Portfolio Specialist roles; reached out to L.M. but received no response; eventually received automated rejection notices
Renewed: Connection with R.K.
5/31/23 to 6/16/23: Outreach and positive initial response from R.K. followed by delays in hearing from N.K.
Promising Lead: Dialogue with N.K.
6/20/23 to 7/10/23: Introductory call with N.K. about product roles in Global Languages; interviews scheduled based on N.K.’s assessment of potential fit
Role Engagement: Case Studies & Interviews
8/4/23 to 8/18/23: Further interviews including creation and on TOEFL Primary and product roles
Silence Again: Waiting for Updates
8/25/23 to 10/24/23: Sent additional , followed up with key contacts; sent note to N.K. regarding notice, await further updates. No response from recent follow-ups.
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