A typical corporate training program for Brian Buckley, Vice President for Enterprise Architecture at Dublin-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, consists of taking time off work, flying to London and spending thousands of pounds on expenses–all for an excessively expensive program that squeezes in too much material in too short a time.
He’s not a fan.
“We just can’t do that,” he said, explaining that executives like him cannot afford this sort of a disruption to their schedule on a regular basis. He thinks corporate training, in its current form, is inflexible and antiquated.
After frustrating experiences with traditional professional development programs, Brian choose to independently take a course on Coursera. He chose Stanford University and Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning to learn about a topic important to his software job. In fact, he was in the process of negotiating contracts with companies providing machine learning services for Houghton Mifflin. Admittedly, he was not well acquainted with the nuances of machine learning, and joined the course as a way of familiarizing himself with the processes and applications each service offered. “It was very hard on those due diligence calls for me and for architects and engineers to say ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’,” he reflects.
Brian was ultimately thrilled with the results. After the course, he saw “a much more equal dialogue with partners, which was absolutely fantastic”. Describing a particular module of the course, Buckley said, “if this was a traditional course, it would have taken at least a week…and there’s no way in the world I could have taken a whole week off.” He was impressed with the “spectacular” quality of the course, and its flexibility. Brian feels he’s proven professional training doesn’t need to be regimented and inconvenient, and Coursera is a viable alternative: “I really do think this is the future of learning”.
As a result of Machine Learning, he can look past marketing and promotional-jargon to deeply understand exactly what each service promises to provide. “I’ve had much more intelligent conversations with people when we’ve discussed relationships and the business. For me personally, I can look at their marketing, and can ask very good questions to them, and that dialogue becomes much more open.” Stanford’s Machine Learning helped him get an advantage in the deal and he was able to secure more competitive rates.
Brian is now a Coursera evangelist, promoting the platform to his colleagues and talking to different stakeholders in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to implement Coursera courses for training in other parts of the company.
Big thanks to Brian Buckley and best of luck from all Courserians!