Success StoriesNovember 11, 2020

Lessons from the World’s Learning Company: Set a Strategy (and Never Waiver) with Pearson's Albert Hitchcock

Lessons from the World’s Learning Company: Set a Strategy (and Never Waiver) with Pearson's Albert Hitchcock

Inspired Execution: Pearson Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operations Officer Albert Hitchcock weighs in on how to successfully enact digital transformation initiatives, the role AI will play in the future of education and employment, and more.

In this week’s installment of the Inspired Execution podcast, DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor checks in with Albert Hitchcock, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operations Officer at Pearson.

Join Chet and Albert as they discuss:

  • What Albert believes are the critical components of successful digital transformation initiatives
  • How well-established companies have their work cut out for them when it comes to competing against digital-native organizations
  • Why Alfred believes the average CIO’s tenure is too short
  • How digital transformation is more of a marathon and less of a sprint
  • How having the right talent on board makes digital transformation easier
  • The role AI plays in supporting education and helping people get the skills they need for particular roles
  • How AI will transform education in the future

When Albert moved from Vodafone to Pearson, he noticed that the challenges businesses face are more or less the same regardless of the industry.

“It's interesting that you can work in different industry verticals, but the same challenges are still there, And I think every company is trying to move to be a great digital business right now. And digital customer experience is at the center of a lot of the success of the companies right now. It doesn't really matter what industry you're in.”

For Albert, successful transformation is only possible when the right people are in place.

“Each of my roles has been in organizations that have wanted to transform themselves or have been rapidly transforming. And it's always the people element. It's the culture, it's how you change people's thinking. It's how you embrace a new type of culture.” 

One of the main reasons businesses struggle to successfully enact digital transformation is because the leaders steering the ship don’t stick around long enough to see projects through to completion.

“One of the things about my peer group, CIOs, CTOs, is they tend to go into companies for a relatively short period of time, like one or two years, right? It's the average lifespan of a CIO, it's not long enough. I mean, if you're going to start the journey and you're going to do a company wide transformation, it's a five-year journey plus, right?”

Currently, Pearson is in the middle of following the footsteps of companies like Netflix and Spotify and becoming a platform company.

“If we can get a billion learners on our platform, if we can help to rescale society, that's our end vision. Our platform construct allows that to happen. And of course underneath that, there's the sort of the technology. We build on microservices, it's in the cloud, it's on AWS, it's in multiple availability zones around…”

When the transformation is complete, Pearson will be well-situated to help learners pick up new skills faster.

“We create courses that are highly personalized to engage you with the richness of a computer game, but rather than playing a game, you're learning stuff, right? You're learning stuff, it's going in-depth. The pedagogy is part of this, the learning science is part of it, but it's a fun, engaging experience. And we're going to prove to you that you're going to learn skills faster, doing it that way than if you were reading text.”

Listen to this episode of Inspired Execution to learn more about the journey that brought Albert to Pearson, tips on how you can make your company’s digital transformation process smoother, the impact COVID-19 has had on education and what that means for digital learning, how companies like Uber, Amazon, and Netflix have raised consumer expectations around digital, and more.

The story behind “Inspired Execution”

Interested in learning more about the genesis of the Inspired Execution podcast?

Remember to listen to previous episodes of Inspired Execution with:

Also, check out Episode 0 to hear DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor speak to what inspired the series and what listeners can expect from his interviews with CIOs and tech leaders from the world’s top enterprises.

The podcast series is available on, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.


One-stop Data API for Production GenAI

Astra DB gives JavaScript developers a complete data API and out-of-the-box integrations that make it easier to build production RAG apps with high relevancy and low latency.