Growing Udacity’s presence in a region is an experience that is both humbling and exciting. Our mission to empower students around the world to learn the skills they need to shape our shared digital future.
Today, we are proud to introduce you to Brian Hickey, Udacity’s first Managing Director of Europe.
Brian, an Irish national, will be based in Ireland and build a team there alongside our existing office in Berlin. This appointment is Udacity’s first pan-European lead and Hickey will be responsible for growing the business across the region as well as developing partnerships with major employers in Europe. But let him explain in his own words…
Great to have you on board, Brian. Why did you decide to join Udacity?
I enjoy working with passionate, entrepreneurial people who are dedicated to delivering amazing customer experience. In Udacity’s case, that means our students. I love what Udacity is doing to democratize access to tech education: We are connecting education to jobs and providing students with skills to advance careers. I’m also looking forward to working with our industry partners to better prepare for the changing employment landscape.
Tell us about the first Udacity student you met.
The first Udacity student I met was a man called Arin, who works for a recruitment firm. When we met, he told me that he was keen to both upskill and have the option to take his career in a different direction. He was taking our Data Analyst Nanodegree program and told me that he found the program both interesting and challenging. He particularly liked the support available from the student community and the feedback he received on his work from our Udacity mentors. Once he graduates, I look forward to checking back in with him to see what his future holds!
What fascinates you most about Udacity students?
What fascinates me most about our students is how diverse our student body is. At Udacity, we have students of all ages and professional backgrounds, taking a variety of programmes and still they engage so well as a student community. This is because they share some admirable traits such as curiosity, dedication and ambition.
“I enjoy working with passionate, entrepreneurial people who are dedicated to delivering amazing customer experience. In Udacity’s case, that means our students”
What career changes did you make? Why?
I worked in retail for a long time and although I enjoyed it, the sector felt disconnected from the evolving impact of technology. I was interested to learn more so I looked for new challenge at a technology company called Just Eat. It took time and hard work to get up to speed but sometimes throwing yourself into the deep end is the best way to learn. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What would you suggest to people thinking about a career change?
Take advice from those working in the space you are interested in but don’t forget to do your own research too. Arm yourself with the most relevant learning tools, create some dedicated learning time and remember that there is always support available. Career changes are not easy but really rewarding and worthwhile things rarely are! Back yourself.
What will be your biggest challenge in the upcoming months?
Learning as much about Udacity as possible so that I can support and grow the team in Europe and help as many students as possible across the continent to realise their personal and professional potential.
Which trends do you expect to see in the near future in online education?
As an industry, I expect to see continued high growth as students opt for lower cost and more flexible alternatives to traditional learning models. Coupled with this, improvements in connectivity around the globe will mean access to education and careers for so many more people.
At the same time, artificial Intelligence will play a huge role in terms of how we gather data, provide customised feedback, improve instructor effectiveness and, more broadly, how education companies provide a more personalised student experience. AR/VR will also play a part once it becomes more mainstream.
More specifically, demand for tech and tech-adjacent jobs will accelerate even more as technology transforms industries. At Udacity, we will be working hard to improve and adapt our content, launch more specialised programs and continue to collaborate with industry leaders.
“Arm yourself with the most relevant learning tools, create some dedicated learning time and remember that there is always support available”
How do you like to learn?
In terms of absorbing information, I like to read/study privately, take a little time to process and then discuss my learnings with experts in the field. This helps me process new material and form an opinion on what the most relevant learnings are. The other system that works is to apply what I learn on the job. That’s why I usually choose to study topics that are directly applicable to my job and personal life.
Who do you look up to?
Tricky question. The people I look up to are not famous so names won’t mean anything! I look up to people who choose to do things differently; I look up to people who stick to their principals; I look up to people who always want to improve and achieve more in life.
Thanks for your time, Brian–great to have you join Udacity!
About Brian Hickey
Most recently, Brian was CEO of beauty on demand company blow LTD. Prior to that he was regional director at Just Eat PLC. Brian loves the outdoors, has 2 kids so spends most of the time making sure they don't grow up too fast!