Interview with Sam Schofield, VP EMEA at Udacity


Tell us about your business.


Udacity’s mission is to train the world’s workforce in the skills and careers of the future. We help close the technology skill-gap that has become the critical and one of the top-most priorities for business leaders. We also assist governments to retrain their citizens for more productive and lucrative careers in the modern global economy and provide individuals with upskilling to get new and better paid jobs.


What challenges have you overcome?


We help businesses meet the “people” requirement of their digital transformation initiatives. It’s an unfortunate truth that 70% of digital transformation fails. Of the £960 million spent on Digital Transformation last year, around £660M went to waste. The number one reason: the transformation is not aligned to the business strategy and technology is purchased which may not ever hit the target.

Udacity has focussed on assisting executives deliver measurable, metric-driven outcomes in some of the most challenged sectors. Our pivot to aligning to CEO-driven initiatives ensures our focus on the biggest, most complex, and critical business challenges in our customers.

At its founding in 2011, Udacity was initially focussed on re/upskilling the individual. In 2017 we realised that many organisations were purchasing our product on behalf of their employees and creating their own transformation programmes. We worked closely with organisations such as AT&T and Shell to design best-practice programmes based on high quality engagement, linked directly to the critical tech-forward skills these organisations need to fill to drive innovation. This pivot from “great product” to “great outcomes” has been our biggest, and most critical challenge of the last few years.

In the past few years we’ve also worked with governments who face a demographic challenge of a large young adult population without the skills to get better-paying jobs in the civilian economy. For example, the government of Egypt has commissioned us to train 100,000 Egyptians over the next two years in software programming so that Egypt can become the next “destination” for offshore outsourced software development.


What are your plans for this year?


Firstly, we will continue to support individuals and enterprises to address the dynamically changing skill sets required in the workplace with the roll out of more new Nanodegree programs, in new fields such as Cyber Security. We’ve also heard from our customers that a vital enabler of digital transformation is that managers and directors are familiar with the potential and the pitfalls of technologies like artificial intelligence and data science, so we recently introduced executive programs in AI for Healthcare, AI for Business Leaders, and will add additional executive programs this year.

Secondly, we are investing in working with Corporate Social Responsibility programs and Government training and scholarship programs to give underserved communities access to technical training via Udacity. Governments around the world recognise that the digital economy is a legitimate answer to unemployment and economic progress. Innovation and the knowledge economy are core components of dozens of national plans.

Finally, we will be continuing our regional expansion across Europe and the Middle East based on demand.


What are your predictions for this year?


Data-driven decision making, and the desperate hunt for skills to support it, will drive huge disruption across almost all Enterprise sectors in 2021. Economic expectations are an increase in 4-4.5% global GDP, covering almost an entire recovery. We expect this to fuel entrepreneurial growth, and thus competition from new entrants in the Fortune 5000 companies. This will drive substantial growth across Finance, Telco, High Tech and Manufacturing and organisations will know more than ever that innovation to compete is more critical than ever.