Oleg Figlin, Beyond Technology for Learning

Christina Gómez
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London, United Kingdom

Oleg Figlin is Vice-President heading the International consultant at Blackboard.  He has held this post for a little over a year, after spending 14 years with another large software company – SAP. His story shows just how much growth is to be had in this industry, and how he has got to where he is today.

Oleg studied computer science and mathematics at university and worked for multiple start-up companies prior to joining SAP , the third largest software company in the world after IBM and Oracle. Oleg was a software engineer for four years, literally sitting in front of a computer screen all day in a job that requires very little human contact with clients. Later, Oleg went on to become a Solution Architect, introducing new products to the market and working with most strategic clients worldwide. In doing this, he was able to patent five innovative solutions for SAP.

At the end of those six years, Oleg had a strike of luck. “I was in the right place at the right time” said Figlin: he met a SAP board member, who told him he was putting together a group of 20 people to work hand in hand with SAP’s top 100 clients. Bearing in mind that SAP has over 60,000 employees and has a presence in every country in the world, this was a big opportunity. Without hesitating, he applied for the job along with three thousand other candidates, and ended up getting chosen. His job consisted of evangelizing new technologies, selling the newest solutions and providing direction and leadership to other consultants in Europe. He became Senior Consultant, and started to pave his path to Blackboard.

After 14 years with SAP and after taking a number of senior management positions in pre-sales and consulting, Oleg felt he needed a change. His professional journey will lead him to another big company: Blackboard. Before Oleg joined them, Blackboard had no international consultancy team. That is when he realizes there were plenty of future opportunities, choosing to manage it as if it were a startup, rather than a huge company, so he could mold it into what it has become in the last year.

Oleg Figlin is Vice-President heading the International consultant at Blackboard. Photo: AFP Jack Taylor.
Oleg Figlin is Vice-President heading the International consultant at Blackboard. Photo: AFP Jack Taylor.

On his daily basis at Blackboard, Oleg has to deal with new tasks and face new challenges. As Head of International Consulting, his key priority is to deliver the highest customer satisfaction and to enable institutions to successfully envision, prepare and succeed in achieving their strategic goals.

Although technology plays a very important role in what Blackboard is, having the technology combined with the right expertise is a winning factor for every institution. And Blackboard Consulting’s’ claim of expertise is not something they take lightly.  The team doubled in size during the last year and it encompasses highly specialized practitioners, many of whom joined Blackboard after holding roles in educational institutions, with personal experience in developing, managing and delivering institutional strategies to drive digital initiatives, academic portfolio development, enhancing the student experience and process improvement.

During the last year Blackboard International Consulting became one of the leading education and technology consulting organisations. Its goal is to help institutions focus on their core business of enabling the learner.

Probably that is why he is a fan of Moodlerooms, because is the right tool to achieve that. “You know, I really love Moodlerooms. It has lots of potential (…) and Moodle is such an interesting product: its key advantage is that is a product developed by the community, which makes it so attractive” said Oleg. In fact, the man behind the VP desk of Blackboard is convinced that the benefits of open source LMS are palpable and tangible. “Is not only a technology or learning system for students and employees but also to analyze results, to see what can be improved, and to provide some strategic advice on how to make it even more successful in time”.

In order to reach what he has in mind, one of the fist tasks that Oleg took on as Vice President of International Consulting was to simplify the portfolio of services. When he joined the company, Blackboard offered 250 different services. That might sound impressive, but Oleg believes that things should be as simple as possible. He reduced it to 50 services only, so that it is simpler to offer clients a solution that will work for them. Along with this, his team has also introduced many new attractive offerings.

"I really love Moodlerooms. It has lots of potential (…) and Moodle is such an interesting product: its key advantage is that is a product developed by the community, which makes it so attractive."

In terms of what he has planned for Blackboard in the future, there are three main things he hopes to achieve this year. The first is to extent the services portfolio for existing clients. Until now, Blackboard’s main focus has been to bring in new clients, but what Oleg wants to do is to make sure that existing clients get all the support they need to keep up with new challenges and market trends.  The second task for the future is to make sure that companies that work with Blackboard are totally successful and that’s why every single service in Blackboard services portfolio is to be revised to support specific institutional goal, for example increasing student enrollment, increasing student retention, increasing student satisfaction etc… The third objective is to provide ongoing support after project go live and making sure that every client has high satisfaction and high adoption of Blackboard products. Every customer to be assigned Customer Success Manager who will work with them on ongoing basis and will focus on measuring technology adoption in the institution, defining a clear roadmap for achieving the goals and supporting them on ongoing basis.

Oleg knows that being a ‘techie’ has definitely helped him reach the point he is now at his life, because you can’t be successful on the business side if you don’t understand the elementary technology part of what you are working with. “Working at Blackboard has been very challenging and rewarding at the same time”, he said, even though he is happy collaborating in an industry with so much potential and that can make such a huge impact on the lives of so many different people through something basic but complex as education.



* Oleg Figlin is Vice-President heading the International consultant at Blackboard.


* AFP Jack Taylor.

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