Oleg Figlin’s path to Vice President of International Consulting at EdTech giant Blackboard, is a 14 year case study in corporate IT, and is full of lessons for high-achieving professionals. Among these lessons, and one which I think is the most noteworthy, or at least the most daring, is that Edtech is becoming their fashionable next outback.
Lessons In Becoming Figlin
Here are some of his discoveries, not without a fleck of luck, worth pondering among developers and Moodlers at any point in their professional lives.
Have a taste of the startup culture as early as possible. Before graduating from Bar-Ilan, a public Israeli university, with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics, Figlin secures an engineering job at a laser-based manufacturing startup. Over 16 months, he breathes planning, decision-making and optimization as he becomes acquainted with IT platforms (ERP) and artificial intelligence.
Stay at your desk only long enough to learn the ropes. Figlin joins SAP and continues his work on platforms, moving from ERP to CRM. He consolidates his skills and begins a long run at SAP, if somewhat restless at the thought of having “very little human contact with clients“.
Make friends out of management and innovation. Working at a large, multi-layer hierarchy fueled by ideas makes basic business skills all the more critical. Figlin’s understanding on several domains, from his startup years, allows him to bridge developers, managers and clients. He moves from team leader to manager to Senior Technology Consultant, to Principal Solutions Architect. Only after harnessing influence in the workplace (and moving from Israel to London) he attains his first of many patents.
Sell by doing, even if it means creating something out of nothing. Figlin is credited with building “a multimillion Service Oriented Architecture consulting practice from scratch“. He enjoys a position of privilege to lead a team of innovators servicing clients with global presence. He trades on trust, and vendor-agnostic Enterprise Architecture methodologies, to become not only SAP’s Global Director of Enterprise & Business Architecture, but a company-wide “Top Performer” honoree.
Stay hungry but beware the Peter Principle. While amassing Computer Science patents, certifications in IT architecture, project management and coaching; along with industry recognitions and awards to boot, Figlin finds himself a Global Director of Services Delivery, his last post at SAP. We can only speculate whether higher executive positions would detach him from clients and knowledge creation activities too much for him to bear. Or if by then he finds himself itching to roll up his sleeves again to create incommensurate value where there was none before. Building something to last is a priceless skill to every organization, if maybe only once.
Whether you have it all or not, always welcome great challenges fit for your very particular set of skills. Was the success of Figlin’s initiatives to support innovation and transform an organization, as measured by the number of digits in sales, revenue and margin growth rates, a one-hit wonder kind of situation? How much did he owe it to SAP’s culture and resources? The world and the Edtech industry were about to find out. Figlin applies for Vice President of International Consulting at Blackboard, a position that did not exist before him.
Tackling the Edtech frontier
His work for the last 2 years reads as the summary of Figlin life’s work. He chooses “to manage [the team] as if it were a startup“. Judiciously studies yet another platform, the LMS. Falls in love with Moodle, the technology, the community, and the seasoned learning engine. Establishes high-level partnerships with clients, gaining a new understanding and streamlining Blackboard processes and services around them. Integrates the International Consulting practice from zero and turns it into one of the most profitable divisions, with some of the highest rates of customer satisfaction. At last, to advocate for trust and open learning, joins the advisory board of the Technology Services Industry Association in February 2016.
Who should star as Figlin in the biopic? Predict with your picks in the comments!