// . //  The Alumni Network //  David Blake

David Blake, who began his career as a consultant at Oliver Wyman, is now the co-founder and CEO of Degreed. This lifelong learning platform assists individuals and organizations in finding, tracking, and recognizing all forms of learning. Having raised over $30 million and boasting more than two million users, Degreed goes beyond traditional academic backgrounds to capture what individuals are learning on a daily basis. Based in San Francisco, David believes that learning is too crucial to remain static and has dedicated his career to innovating higher education and lifelong learning. Before founding Degreed, he helped launch a competency-based, accredited university and was a key member of the founding team at Zinch, which was later acquired by Chegg.

David has been recognized as a Top EdTech Entrepreneur by the Stanford d.School EdTech Lab, sponsored by Teach For America and NewSchools Venture Fund. His insights have been published in Business Insider, Techcrunch, Getting Smart, and Huffington Post. He has spoken globally on the future of learning at various forums, including Deloitte University, ASU+GSV Education Innovation Summit, Close It: Skills Gap, Future of Learning and Working, EdTech Europe, Next Generation Learning: Europe, Work 2.0: Australia, and TEDx.

I look back to my first projects in consulting as the root of my interest in tech and building new businesses in emerging areas
David Blake, Oliver Wyman Alumni

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path since you left Oliver Wyman?

I have held a longstanding passion for education and the belief that it must change and will change as it encounters the forces of technology. But there was no singular university program or career path that I believed would prepare me to affect the kinds of change I hoped to see.

I chose Oliver Wyman as an extension of my personal education — because I believed it would give me the exposure to big problems, great leaders, and the skills and toolkits to framing and working big problems. And while nothing I worked on at Oliver Wyman directly related to the field of education, it served well that purpose of equipping me with the foundation to address the problems in education.

While at Oliver Wyman, I did a sabbatical with an EdTech startup that in time I would go on to join full time. That startup, Zinch, was like LinkedIn for high school students. It was a recruiting platform for universities to recruit students. We grew that business to serve five million students per year, with 700+ universities on the platform, over the course of more than three years before being acquired by Chegg. That start gave me the up-close exposure to the roles and the requirements to scale a business. I held positions in product, operations, and marketing giving broad exposure to several parts of the business.

That path enabled me to be well positioned to succeed in starting Degreed.

Have there been challenges in your career that surprised you? How have you met those challenges?

One of the surprises that I never heard (or hear) people talk about is the delegation of emotional work. Being an entrepreneur, it can be a journey with lots of up and downs, and you experience a broad range of emotions.

You hear plenty about delegation, about hiring the right kind of people, how you know when you have hired the right kind of people, and how to load balance tasks across teams, but almost exclusively the conversation is oriented around tactical work. If you frame tasks in terms of time or skills required and delegate based on those dimensions you get worked balanced along those dimensions. But often the work that has the highest emotional weight do not take the most skill or the most time. So, leaders and managers often keep that work for themselves — the justification for delegating it are low when you frame the world by skill and time.

But, what I have found over time, is it is often the emotional work that becomes the constraint to growth and progress. I have found to really scale business at the highest rate, you must also frame tasks by their emotional weight, and add that dimension to time and skill, and make sure that is accounted for in how to balance and delegate work.

What are you reading?

I have held the goal this year to read a book per week. The experience has led to new habits — mostly shifting the time I spend on my phone and on social media for reading.

Much of that reading has been history and politics: biographies on Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, JFK; commentaries on shifts in our political environment, The American Spirit, A Generation of Sociopaths, The Course of Human Events, The Concise Untold History of the United States, The Righteous Mind, The Fractured Republic, Hillbilly Elegy, The American Vice Presidency, and The Post-American World.

Taken together, it has given me a feeling that this moment in time has precedence — it is less singular than it has often felt personally. It has also given me an understanding of the ways culture and demographics affect our political system as well as optimism for the ways it can improve.

This page was originally published on February 22, 2018.