Pablo Rivas: The Happy Entrepreneur Transforming Higher Education

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Why must working professionals halt or put a break in their career to enroll into a traditional learning program? Why should language be a barrier to education, and upskilling? They needn’t be, decided Pablo Rivas, before embarking on a journey that offered solutions to these questions, as well as support more than 25,000 professionals across the US, Latin America, and Europe through his EdTech company – Global Alumni.

“Technological revolution, globalization, and high-quality education are the three passions that inspire my professional life. I founded Global Alumni by combining technology and education, with the goal of bringing top-tier postgraduate programs from the world’s most prestigious universities to professional profiles all around the world, regardless their mother tongue, both in digital and blended learning formats,” explains the young CEO and Founder of Global Alumni.

Honoring the Digital Revolution

Claimed to be the first Euro-American EdTech platform to offer professionals the opportunity to study at some of the world’s most prestigious universities in the comfort of their homes, or offices, Global Alumni promises a ‘revolutionary digital experience.’ The organization has tied up with reputed universities such as MIT, the University of Chicago, Chicago Booth, UCLA, and Esade, offering a wide range of courses that are designed to help workforces in furthering their career to ‘successfully face the challenges of the Fourth Revolution.’

The courses offered include subjects such as Blockchain, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Sustainability, Circular Economy, Digital Marketing or Data Science through B2C professional certificates, executive masters, open programs and blended programs.  They also offer leadership and soft skills as well as B2B services for reskilling and upskilling groups of employees within companies, build educative platforms in various languages including English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish as well as Chinese in the near future.

Pablo believes that providing top-quality education online does not necessitate in-person learning, strongly supporting the positive and inevitable impact of the ‘digital revolution.’ “Education, ongoing innovation, the globalization of the economy, and the technological revolution, are my greatest passions. I have tried to put my ideas about entrepreneurship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and professional excellence—inspired by our slogan “Excellence or nothing”— into practice in every corner of Global Alumni since the company was founded. I try to spread these ideas beyond the company in different forums around the world, thereby providing others with the knowledge needed for their businesses to thrive in the face of the digital revolution.”

Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, Global Alumni was founded in 2014 to fill an apparent gap that bridged working professionals to universities using digitization as its core vehicle. Following time spent studying at UC Berkeley, Loyola University Chicago, and Harvard, and after earning an executive MBA at IESE in Spain, Pablo mused over the shortcomings that professionals faced in accessing and attaining a university degree while still maintaining a job.

“I often wondered about how the education sector is not digitized? If the internet and technology are transforming the world, why isn’t education experiencing that too? If we can search anything we want to know with our mobile phones, why are people forced to move to other places and interrupt their jobs for months to learn? Why should language and location be a barrier? Why do professionals need to put their jobs on hold for months in order to enroll in limited, conventional training programs that do not meet the needs of the new digital economy? Why maintain obsolete learning methodologies?

I guess these kinds of questions drove me to found Global Alumni. I felt we had to do something, and I knocked on the door of some of the world´s best universities. And, so far, we have managed to help them in their digital transformation journey,” explains Pablo.

When the idea developed in Pablo’s mind, and began exploring the online education sector, he received several raised eyebrows. However, he persisted and in good time, began to reap its benefits. “It was almost eight years ago, and we all now see it as an easy journey, but back then people wondered if you were crazy. When I explained that my desire was to train professionals all around the world in different languages and in the world´s most prestigious universities, breaking down all the barriers, people would stare at me in a strange way. During those years, without a doubt, I experienced what persistence can achieve. However, I was focused on the idea. I believed it was possible. Finally, after believing so much on it, it became real.”

The Road to Success

Global Alumni was founded in the living room of Pablo’s home, with only five members. It soon grew to an office space in the center of Madrid, to accommodate the rapid growth it witnessed. However, during the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, things changed. The office space suddenly seemed to have shrunk in size. A wave of new demand for online learning brought the need to move to a bigger office space. “Since 2021, we are in a wider and well-connected office built in the early 20th century, which is part of the History of Madrid.”

Global Alumni has today secured a top spot in the EdTech sector and has a workforce of more than 400 people, from around the world. “The growth we have experienced at Global Alumni is outstanding, and doubtless, it is a sign of the relevance the sector has gained within the last years. To become a reference company in this sector we needed an incredible team, made up of content creators, translators, marketeers, and many other different professional profiles. And we have made it without losing the opportunity to embrace cultural awareness, which is key in any 21st century multicultural organization,” elaborates Pablo.

A key component of Global Alumni is its teaching methodology, which is fully adapted to the digital environment. The expertise in teaching, the fully adapted methodologies for digital ecosystems, and the quality of the content they provide has drastically improved over the years. The team remains committed to constantly update and improve on the content, through feedback of previous participants and their focus on providing them the ‘best learning experience possible.’

“At the end of the day, success is about doing what you love, surrounded by the people you like. It is also important that the market recognizes you as relevant, because that proves that what you are doing is having a real impact. Success is essentially temporary. The day you stop pursuing it, you lose it. It is about achieving it every single day. Today´s success does not guarantee tomorrow’s,” explains Pablo.

Challenges were, however, part of this success story. Pablo feels that being an entrepreneur above all is about taking risks. “If you are not willing to take risks because you are afraid of failing, you cannot be an entrepreneur. We could name a few of them. First, the challenge of making up a solid business idea. After that, obviously, funding. Without a real business model, there is no business possible. Later, you face different organizational challenges: how to expand, how to build up a team, how to delegate within your leaders, or even how to restructure. That being said, I insist that the biggest one is to self-interiorize that you want to become an entrepreneur, with all that it entails. Waking up early in the morning every single day and overcoming certain states of mind. I always stress, ‘entrepreneurship is about dealing with bad days and, occasionally, a good one’.”

“The day-to-day work with world´s best universities can be a big challenge, but it also brings our team´s motivation to the highest level. What really encourages Global Alumni is the fact that we are transforming the world by helping the labor force to move from an analogue world towards a digital one. Thanks to our educational offerings, more than 25,000 professionals around the world have improved their working conditions and have managed to update their resumes to the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

Furthermore, there has been increased competition in recent years, as more actors acknowledge the current gap of skills in the labor market. “We have managed to remain competitive enough to grow because we focus on quality rather than on quantity. Free higher education is no longer feasible. We must be clear about this. The content we deliver, as well as the faculties and learning facilitators we rely on, are of the maximum quality. Global Alumni´s motto is ‘Excellence or Nothing’. Therefore, we are constantly in the pursuit of excellence.”

Pablo explains that the goal for Global Alumni is to digitalize higher education for professionals to transform the best universities in the world and offer professionals the adequate knowledge to develop key skills of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by life-long learning, regardless of where they are located, or what their professional background is. “I want Global Alumni to become the most boutique EdTech in digital transformation of the best universities in the world. I do not want Global Alumni to become the biggest company, nor to achieve the highest number of students enrolled. I only want to lead the company which offers the best services for both universities and students.”

Staying Grounded, Human, Happy

Pablo Rivas has made a mark. Significant milestones in his journey include being honoured with several reputed awards including Entrepreneur of 2021 (La Razón), Best Education Initiative in 2020 (elEconomista), one of the 100 economic leaders of tomorrow in 2018-19 (Instituto Choiseul), and in the top 5 world´s best startups in 2018 (EnlightEd). Although a recipient of these accolades, Pablo has been a driving force in bringing Global Alumni to the forefront of the global EdTech sector due to his absolute passion and belief in the field. “I think I´m a very lucky person, my job is my passion and my hobby. I really enjoy knowing that we are being part of the transformation of the higher education sector. Before Global Alumni, my life was much more peaceful, and boring, to be honest! I used to work in the public sector, mainly focused on developing digital and tech projects. Currently, I spend my time taking care of our clients – that is my top responsibility. The second one is organizing the company. Thirdly, I consider it very important to transmit our culture. And our culture in Global Alumni is – Excellence or Nothing.”

Pablo believes in the balance of life and work. “I’m always available, but when I’m not working you will find me spending time with my family or my dog, or learning about the latest tech devices. I’m one of those, who believes that to find the best ideas you need to find unique moments out of the office. The best way to define me in two words: happy entrepreneur.”