Having taken the reins as Managing Director for Pearson VUE in February 2022, Dr. Gary Gates now reflects on the challenges and successes of the past year, and what he believes the business should focus on in 2023 and beyond.
With your first year behind you, what would you consider your greatest achievement and your biggest challenge?
I think my biggest challenge in 2022 was making sure the business did not miss a beat when I stepped into the shoes of Bob Whelan, who had run the Pearson VUE business very successfully for over 20 years. Time will tell if I have been successful in meeting this challenge, but so far, so good.
One of the greatest achievements this year has been working as one great team to make sure the business keeps on a path to growth. We’ve demonstrated this by securing many new contracts along with retaining all major contracts that were up for renewal. We also made some significant strategic investments, most notably a minority stake in Prepona (a leading computer-based testing company in South America), as well as signing an agreement to acquire Personnel Decisions Research Institutes (PDRI), a trusted provider of workforce assessment services with significant expertise in the U.S. federal government space.
Looking into 2023 and 2024, what are the top three objectives you want everyone in the company to work toward?
- Be laser focused on our customers and provide a great testing experience for each and every test-taker
- Make sure we hit our financial targets – this is key to every successful business
- Continue to drive and live our open, honest, and inclusive culture
What do you see as the major industry changes going forward into 2023-2024?
- Testing organizations increasingly see candidates more as consumers who demand greater access and convenience. This is a valid point, and something we continue to focus on, but we also need to be mindful of serving the greater consumers who receive services from the [nurse / physician / financial professional, etc.] candidates. Balancing the needs of access and convenience versus a fair and valid exam experience will continue to be an important part of meeting industry challenges in 2023 and beyond.
- There is also an “existential” challenge faced by certain testing programs to demonstrate their value, relevance, and necessity. All programs will therefore need to be data-driven to demonstrate how their testing and credentialing programs protect the public, add value for consumers, employers and employees, and increase the quality of services overall.
- With so many programs operating globally, another ongoing challenge is ensuring all players who are caring for or handling candidate data in any capacity are complying with the ever-changing cybersecurity, data protection, and data privacy laws (GDPR, PIPL, FedRamp, etc.). We’ve long prioritized this important business dynamic to manage with, and on behalf of, our customers. Still, regulations continue to become increasingly pervasive by individual countries, resulting in an extremely stringent and onerous operating environment for organizations, further adding to the complexity of managing global testing programs.
- AI broadly: The recent emergence of tools like ChatGPT has already begun disrupting academic assessments, so as an industry, we need to be alert to the threats and opportunities of AI. While AI can certainly enable new forms of cheating, especially for essay questions, perhaps it could also be a powerful tool for content developers or aid in exam security to analyze large sets of exam responses to detect anomalies, possible misconduct, etc. AI is here to stay, and we are sure that there will be many more developments in this field that will cause disruption. As an industry, we will need to keep pace with the advancements and identify how AI can provide opportunities, but also where it might introduce risk in order for our sector to improve and grow.
What qualities do you want everyone in Pearson VUE to demonstrate that will help the business achieve its objectives?
I would like us to all continue to work collaboratively as one team with an open and inclusive culture – we are only as good as the sum of our parts. Stay focused on our customers and candidates, be curious and open to new ideas, and always use your best judgment!
How can everyone at Pearson VUE contribute to the success of the business?
We are only successful if we all work together as one team. What we do is help people make progress in their careers via gaining a certification (what we refer to as “turning learners into earners”) and there are many steps in this process – so whether you’re writing code for a new piece of software, answering a customer query, publishing an exam, or proctoring a test, these are all important parts of making sure we provide the services that our customers need.
Also, we are all involved in the sales process whether it is providing services directly to our customers, doing sales calls, or talking to our neighbors or people we meet about what we do.
How do you see Pearson VUE attracting and retaining the best talent, and remaining an employer of choice?
One of the things I would say is that a company does not own an individual, and it is up to us all as a team to create the right environment and culture in which people want to work and feel valued. So, for me it is about having the right culture; being open, inclusive, and having a mission that inspires the work we do. After all, what can be more inspiring than helping people develop their careers, whether that is becoming a nurse, doctor, accountant, cybersecurity specialist, or getting their driving license? We do really help people make progress in their careers – turning learners into earners!