February 10, 2020
Steve Tucker joined itslearning on February 3, 2020 as the new CEO following the acquisition of the company by Sanoma Group, a leading European media and learning conglomerate. It’s still early days for Steve, but he took some time out to outline his vision and what’s in store for itslearning.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m really delighted to be the new CEO at itslearning and moving to Bergen. My working career has been long and varied – I have spent the last 25 years with technology companies that create, manage and analyze large digital content. Prior to itslearning, I was Chief Commercial Officer at Xenomorph, a company that provides data management solutions to many of the world’s leading financial institutions and corporations. In that transitional role in 2019, I oversaw revenue growth of over 50%. Over the years, I have worked for some large companies – Thomson Reuters, RELX, McGraw Hill – but also for some very small startups. So, my experience has been twofold – from being very involved in revenue expansion and global expansion, building out new offices and go-to-market planning, and looking at how the real value that a company provides can increase revenue, usage and customers for the business.
Integrations are also something that have been very much part of my work history – very small companies that have integrated into a large one, I guess in the same way that itslearning, a medium-sized company is integrating into Sanoma Learning, and I have also been on the other side, been responsible in a large company for integrating businesses, sometimes with language, geographical and cultural challenges. The last business I integrated was at RELX and it was the China business. There were four offices in China that had been a subset of RELX, and these were then integrated into the wider business. So, that’s my work background, and I’m really looking forward to working with the wider team at itslearning and learning much more about the business.
From an officer in the British Army to CEO of itslearning. That’s an interesting career trajectory. What would you say are the 5 key lessons you have learned along the way?
The most important lesson I have learned is that the people alongside you, who you work with on a day-to-day basis, who you may manage or are responsible for, need to be your priority. That’s probably the first and most important lesson. It’s crucial to be honest – you need a level of integrity and honesty throughout your working career. I also think it is important to have fun and do things that scare you a little as well. And, it is really, really, important to have a purpose, to know why you are coming to work and what it is that motivates you, so that you can do the best that you can. Last, but not least, family. We all come to work, we all try our hardest but at the end of the day we are working for our families.
You said you have to do things that scare you a little. What scares you?
That’s a really difficult question (laughs). I quite like being scared if I’m honest. I do some fairly extreme outdoor activities and I like taking on a new challenge. In a way, you could say that I quite enjoy the fear of the unknown. I don’t have a background in education so joining itslearning has, to a certain extent, an element of the unknown. But, I think it’s ultimately about understanding the size of the challenge that you are undertaking and then working through it in a very process driven and focused way to make sure that you can do the best when faced with a challenge.
What would you say is your biggest achievement?
That’s easy, and I guess we would all say the same thing. It’s my family. Outside my family environment, if you are looking at work experiences, I think my greatest work achievement has been to be part of the team that helped manage the businesses I have been involved with to greater success, and manage in a world where everybody feels pleased and proud to work where they work.
itslearning was acquired by Sanoma Group in December 2019. How do you think this benefits us?
They bring to us financial strength, but, let me be clear – from my point of view, we are a very vital component for Sanoma. We bring a wealth of skills and know-how to the group. We bring the experience of moving into international markets, to opening new offices, to growing the business overseas. We have an amazing track record of integrating businesses ourselves, both from a business point of view and technical expertise, so we understand the challenges when you absorb a business and how you bring the business to success for the greater good of everyone. I think those sorts of practical skills will be really useful to Sanoma. Of course, as I said earlier, they bring to us an element of financial strength, an investment, and this will be really great for us in terms of some of the things that we will plan to do going forward. I see very much their role in this as helping us to invest for growth. The reason they bought us is because they plan to invest in us, and they plan to see us grow and they plan to see some of the processes and systems we have in place roll out across the rest of Sanoma Learning.
What are your first impressions of itslearning and the opportunities ahead?
Right now, the biggest challenge is mine – for me to get to know and understand the business and what motivates the people who work here. There is no doubt for me that this is a great business with a great cause. A business that is well respected by people who use our platform. The employees, too. I’ve been speaking with them and they really feel a sense of purpose in being here. So, the biggest challenge for me right now is understanding how I can support the next phase and grow the business even more. This isn’t about change – this is about taking what we do, expanding it and making sure that we do a great job so we can take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.
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