Listen. Learn. Lead.

Listen. Learn. Lead.

By Laura K Ipsen on Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern, an account executive, a VP, or yes, even a CEO. The first few weeks at a new company are always the most exciting and the hardest. It’s like drinking from the fire hose on a high-speed race track. New people. New customers. New mission. New competitors. New products. New processes. It’s both a sprint and a marathon with little time to come up to speed.

So, to keep your bearings, you ground yourself in things that look and feel familiar. When I started as President and CEO of Ellucian last month, I was fortunate enough to have at least a few. I was returning to the Northern Virginia community where I grew up. I had left the Oracle Marketing Cloud for a company and customers that are in the midst of their own Cloud transformation. As the daughter of two parents who worked in higher education all their lives, I had a built-in affinity for customers comprised entirely of colleges and universities.

But perhaps what grounded me most is a philosophy I picked up from one of my earliest mentors, and that has been reaffirmed at nearly every step of my career. To lead, you have to learn. To learn, you have to listen. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but when you resist the urge to jump right in and take the time to ask questions, you shorten the acclimation process and accelerate your own time to value.

Even better, you find sources of inspiration and excitement you might have missed otherwise. For me, that inspiration and excitement has come in the responses I’ve heard to the simplest of question of all: “Why Ellucian?”

Some of our people talk about the sense of purpose that comes with serving higher education. Some describe meaningful customer relationships that span decades. Others gush with excitement about the cool projects they’re working on. Many are just eager to talk about their children – many of whom are embarking on their Freshman year at college, like my son, Lucas, who is now back for his second semester at NYU.

No two responses are alike, but each conveys undeniable passion for what we do and affirms that I’m in the right place. At the same time, they’ve left me with three key takeaways that fill me with optimism as I embark on this next chapter of my life and career.

Ellucian recognizes this critical moment in time.

In recent years, higher education has had to confront all forms of disruption. It’s seen the need for better results in lagging retention and graduation rates. It’s seen shifts in consumer behavior and evolving expectations of the student experience. At the same time, institutions are not only facing increased competition in a crowded marketplace, they are contending with notions that higher education isn’t worth the opportunity cost of tuition and student debt.

Our people don’t see despair in these disruptive forces; they see a moment in time that is ripe for evolution and growth. To Ellucian, disruption means colleges and universities are poised for transformation, and that they are turning to Ellucian as a trusted partner to help navigate what’s next.

Ellucian embraces change.

We’re well-positioned to be that trusted partner because our roots are deep in higher education and our mindset is all about innovation – and those key attributes led us to disrupt ourselves in anticipation of this critical moment in time. With foresight, investment, and buy-in from employees with an incredible capacity for change, Ellucian transformed its offerings to meet our customers evolving needs head on. The result?

New solutions for targeted student recruiting. New systems for monitoring and enhancing student performance. New innovations for managing capital campaigns. New personalized analytics for roles across campus. New SIS, HR, and finance applications that streamline workflows and operations. All mobile-first. All Cloud-ready. All tied together with a first-of-its-kind data model and technology platform that breaks down silos and enables the free flow of information anywhere, anytime.

This is Ellucian’s answer to disruption in higher education. Enhanced efficiencies. Better decisions. Improved experiences that keep students engaged and on the path to success.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead to ensure these innovations make a tangible impact on more campuses around the world; but they never would have existed had our people not anticipated our customers’ shifting needs and changed course to see those needs met.

Ellucian is equipped to lead.

Our people were able to anticipate those evolving needs because they take the time to listen as well. A rich legacy spent serving higher education – and higher education alone – meant that Ellucian had the early insight it needed to prepare for this moment in time. Those close ties also show a commitment to building real relationships and the trust necessary to guide our institutions through the complex process of digital transformation.

Our people take the time to understand each institution’s unique environment, requirements, and goals before making technology recommendations or selling solutions to problems that don’t exist. They are dedicated to engagement throughout the migration process. They strive to stay in lock-step with the customer every step of the way. They get that leadership requires understanding – and that their leadership is needed now more than ever.

Learning never stops.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway of all is that I’m surrounded by people who believe higher education makes a difference in our world – and that Ellucian makes a difference for higher education. This level of respect for our customers, coupled with the sense of responsibility it brings, means that we are never done listening and never done learning. I learned the imperative of lifelong learning from my parents (my mother who worked full-time and received her PhD at the age of 58). It is what has propelled me my entire career.

As I continue to listen and learn from our employees, partners and customers, I’ll be sharing much more about Ellucian’s approach to helping higher education execute its mission in 2018 and beyond. I cannot think of a better mission or time to Listen, Learn and Lead than here at Ellucian. There is no other company that has the people, passion and portfolio to enable our customers to change the future of education around the world.

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About the Author

Laura Ipsen

Laura K. Ipsen

President and Chief Executive Officer, Ellucian

Ms. Ipsen has more than 25 years of experience as a technology executive, working to drive transformation in the public and private sectors and spur adoption of comprehensive solutions in high-growth industries.