May 8, 2023

Tech Leaders Hiring Well featuring AllCampus


Episode Highlights

Who is AllCampus?


Pranu Bhargava's path to Executive VP of Tech at AllCampus


Technology at AllCampus


How AllCampus has scaled over time


Technology Team at AllCampus


Exciting Tech Projects at AllCampus


What AllCampus looks for when hiring


Why technologists enjoy working at AllCampus


What is AllCampus hiring for in Tech right now?


Culture at AllCampus


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With raising costs at universities and so many options available it’s a tough landscape for universities to navigate. Let me introduce you to an impressive company who is successfully building programs to address just this with universities. AllCampus teams up with universities to provide online education programs at more affordable prices. They’ve been successful in their mission and now offer hundreds of programs across different academic areas.

Recently, Zac Colip from Hirewell chatted with Pranu Bhargava, EVP of Technology at AllCampus, to talk about the company’s background and future technology plans to aid them as they continue to grow. Hirewell is currently partnering with AllCampus on some key tech hires including a Data Architect. Tune in to learn more about AllCampus’ technology team and what they look for when hiring.

Episode Transcript

All right. We’ve got another episode of Tech Leaders Hiring Well. I’m welcoming Pranu Bhargava. He’s the Executive Vice President of Technology over at AllCampus. Welcome to the podcast, Pranu. Hey, thanks Zac. Happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me to this.

Yeah. Of course, of course. I’m really interested today in learning a lot more about AllCampus. I’ll tell you what, can you start us out by just telling us a little bit more about AllCampus. What they do and kind of what their mission is. Sure. Yeah. So AllCampus, we are an education marketing firm.

What we do is we help universities market for a recruit for their online degree offerings, predominantly master’s programs. But the key difference for us is our mission is essentially to help provide education to more people in more places at as low cost as possible. So we really want to focus on, what can we do to enhance the ability for people to get to school and not necessarily break the bank, right? All of us at AllCampus pretty much strongly believe in this notion that education helps raise people. So we want to be really focused on that. So our whole philosophy is can we find the right match for

learners to the degree programs that they’re looking for that can help them have successful career outcomes. Okay, fantastic. And now, the programs that you guys are building out, are they primarily like online programs? Are they onsite? So we don’t build out the programs. What AllCampus does is we partner with universities.

They’re the ones who build out the programs. They’re the ones who run the programs. That is all, to the technical term IP that belongs to them. That’s on the universities. Where we come in is we help spread awareness about their programs. We help find people who are looking for such programs. We help people learn about the programs, we learn about people’s motivations, see if this is a right fit.

And where we come in is we help people find that perfect match for them so that- then the university has the students that they’re looking for. People have the right program that they need at this point in their career. So that’s where we come in. Fantastic. That’s amazing. Now, looking at your career, it looks like you’ve been at AllCampus for nearly 11 years.

Super impressive. Can you kind of give me the background on kind of how you got there and like kind of your career at AllCampus? Sure. Yeah. So I started my career early as a developer and as a what used to typically call an IT consultant.

I went in and worked with a lot of different organizations. I had experience from working for charitable organizations to Fortune 500 companies. Kinda saw the whole gamut of different businesses. Funnily enough, I think this was after the bubble burst. I was involved with a startup and we were quickly made redundant by Google, so that was a fun experience too.

So yeah. I did all of that and along the way, one of the consulting projects led me to consult for one of AllCampus’ predecessor companies. So it’s consulting for them and the way I’ve been is I’ve always want to learn the business. What’s going on? Where can we help? What can technology do to make a business more efficient?

So I kind of got to know people. People liked what I was doing, and one thing led to another. Ultimately became an employee of the company. And then from there, I think back in 2011-2012, our CEO Joe wanted to spin out and start this thing called AllCampus with the business model to try and help universities recruit for students.

And some of us spun out from this bigger company and we started AllCampus. And kinda the mission and what we are doing and the culture we’ve built has been so amazing that a lot of us that spun off from then, we’re still here. And we’ve just loved it and the company’s grown over the last 12 years now, I guess.

And it’s been a fun ride. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So you’ve been there since the start technically, so that’s amazing. And 11 years, you don’t often see that in the technology industry. So I think that says a lot about AllCampus, huh? Yeah. I think what’s definitely kept me here is the culture, the people, and

the feeling that we are doing something to help people. It’s been really fulfilling for me. As far as technology and its role at AllCampus, what role has technology played within the business? Sure. So we feel that technology is one of those foundational rails that really helps everybody do what they do.

So traditionally we’ve been a services organization, right. Where we are talking to prospective students, we are talking to universities, maintaining relationships, making sure we are making those connections. Well, even in the services side of the business, for people to do their job, to have the information that they need,

technology plays a key role. So there were tons of tools that we developed. How do we track where we are spending money? How are we getting people who are interested in these programs raising their hands? How are we tracking them? How are we making sure we are following up with them? What we’ve since done is as we’ve grown, we’ve realized that we can provide a lot more efficiencies here. And what we did is we embarked on a pretty large project to get a purpose-built CRM that really helps all our different departments, whether it’s enrollment, whether it’s marketing or finance, to get at what they really need to do and be able to perform their jobs more efficiently.

But at the end of the day, if we want to lower the cost of education, everything that goes into getting people into education needs to be done as efficiently as possible. So that’s where we come in. And my team, what we do, I’ve got a product team and an engineering team and the whole idea is, can this team understand the business well enough and construct that layer of technology that makes everybody else’s job and life a lot easier and happier?

We just hit a big milestone where we were able to migrate everybody over to this new CRM as of early this month and now the whole business is going to be able to start moving ahead a lot faster. The technology team really did well to have the successful migration done. Wow. That’s great. Congratulations. What was that like growing out a team and how did you go about it?

I’ve had these discussions with my CEO and my CEO, like for me every day this business is a bigger business than I’ve ever seen before. As I’ve grown with this business, right? So a lot of things we learned at the job. When we first started it was probably me as a team of one, taking care of a lot of different things. Over time as the business grows, the kind of people that you need also changes. So yes, initially me. It was me running the technology, developing, doing all of that. Then we started to add few people. Over time, what I’ve seen is we need to have people who are skilled at what they do. So initially, you can be a jack of all trades trying do everything because you are that small and you have to do that.

But then as responsibilities grow, you need to have more specialized roles. So now I’ve got a product team. My director of product, and she’s amazing in talking to the business and making sure we understand what needs to happen. I’ve got my director of engineering, Ben, you know, he’s managing the engineering team.

And within the engineering team, what we focused on is having the right engineers who are interested in learning both sides, whether it’s front end or back end. We want to have people who collaborate together at this point. We want to have people who really want to understand the business and solve the problems for the business.

So it’s been interesting. When we were early on it was like, all right, just go, go, go. Bill, bill, bill. Now it’s more like, well pause. Let’s see what is it that the business needs, understand their needs, and then kind of go from there. We are still an agile team that can turn things around quickly, but we do have good processes in place to ensure there’s security, to ensure there’s quality all of those things up.

It’s been an evolution. Okay, great. And you guys are at 170 employees now? That would be about right. Okay, awesome. I don’t know the latest count as of today. And I guess what is the makeup of the tech team kind of look like or the IT team?

So I guess within my organization, the way I’ve got it is, I’ve got engineering, I’ve got product, I’ve got IT which is our desktop support and the like. And then I’ve got compliance. So within product it’s a team of three people right now, led by Anne, my director of product. And then on the engineering side,

we’ve got I believe at this point, seven engineers, seven developers and one QA engineer working for us. The IT side is a couple of folks and an outsourced firm. And even on the compliance side where we look at privacy and security and all those fun things that I’ve got as a outsourced, virtual CSO operation

going direct today. Okay. Awesome. And I know you mentioned that you guys were working on this big CRM project. What other types of projects are you guys typically focused on?

Yeah, great question. So yeah, now with the migration over, there are tons of things that we can focus on.

So there are two big initiatives going on at this point. So with the CRM now with everybody migrated over, my product team led the charge. And what they really want to do is, okay, what’s the next evolution of this? How can we make people’s life even easier? So, and she led the project to help us figure out what design changes can we make from a user experience perspective to make our advisors’ lives, our marketing folks lives a lot easier. So that’s a project that we are really excited about that will go towards making things more efficient in the business. So once we develop the stories for this and the engineering team starts to work on it, those will be incremental changes that come in.

But then separately, there’s a whole other platform that we’ve been working on. And this is really exciting because this goes towards the mission of the company to lower cost. We’re trying to bring together a marketplace of employers, employees, who we call learners and universities. And we’re trying to see how we can use the employer benefits, how we can use scholarships, tuition discounts that we can bring to the table to help these learners find the degree programs that they’re looking for at low to no cost to them.

So that’s another project. And then the third thing that is also exciting is I want to bring all of this together, which is kind of where I’m looking for somebody in the data space to help me bring together a lot of this data so that we can start to build a foundation for what the data structure at AllCampus should be like.

So that all the business stakeholders can get the data, the information that they’re looking for from all of these different systems that we’ve got going on today. So yeah, there’s lots of excitement, lots of work ahead for us. Yeah, that sounds like some game changer projects. Really stuff that will, keep real technologist really ingrained into what you guys are doing.

So that’s fantastic. Awesome. And then as far as like when you guys are hiring for your team, as the ultimate hiring manager, what do you typically look for in candidates to join your team? What characteristics fit best?

Sure. So At AllCampus, number one most important to us is somebody who really is a good fit for our culture. We really value what we’ve got here at AllCampus. People stay here for a long time. As Joe, our CEO likes to say, we hire nice people. That’s kind of what we want. And so when we interview people, we are always looking to see how do they identify with some of our core values that we’ve got at AllCampus.

So our core values, which we established sometime back, we kinda went around the room as a leadership team and we were like, all right, what do we think our core values are? We picked up a few. And then we were like well, these are aspirations. This is not really who we are. And ultimately we just, all of us, it was actually a conversation where we had to be vulnerable about ourselves and it was fun to see the core values that came out organically were we like to exceed expectations, we embrace curiosity.

We like to just say it, we show kindness. We are resourceful, even scrappy to some extent, and we persevere. So these are the six core values that are really critical to us. So in interviews, we look for that. We look for people who are just eager to learn. There’s a movie that I watched, which was interesting the way they said it.

“See a need, fill a need.” I like people who think like that. And so it’s not that you are being hired to do just this one particular thing. Yes, that’s a specialty that you have, which is great, but we want people who are always willing to learn and grow and see where else they can contribute and make a difference.

Okay. Cool, cool. Sounds like a great place to work. How do you invest in your team? Do you guys do any training, any people development? How do you guys handle that? Across the board as a company, we do have a professional development budget that every employee has that they can access.

People have access to all these partner schools that we work with, all their education programs, with benefits. So I guess significant discounts that are available to our employees. On the engineering team, I know my director of engineering, he runs a weekly meeting where they can talk about architecture issues, they can talk about new technologies.

We have various Slack channels. Like one of the hottest Slack channels right now is all about AI that’s going on right now. So just encourage people to get together and discuss. We have employee resource groups who have various events from something like having Excel trainings to meeting other people in terms of, well, how do you present? How do you interview? Things like that.

So the ERG teams do a lot of those kind of professional development opportunities as well. So lots of opportunities here at AllCampus. Very cool. Very cool. And from a technologist point of view, why do people like working there? I think the exciting thing about us at AllCampus is there is significant amount of work.

We are a mature company. There’s significant amount of work and we are working with a lot of new technologies. So we are completely in the AWS ecosystem at this point. We use React, Python. We are starting to look at and see how any of these new chat GPTs and Auto GPTs of the world,

how can they help us enhance our own productivity? So there’s lots of new things that you can play with, and candidly, we encourage that. Let’s see how can we do things even better? How can we do things even more efficiently? Technologists have the independence to investigate, come to the table, provide solutions, do a lunch and learn that, hey, this is kind of how we can do a new thing. Let’s talk about it. So we are inviting to new ideas, and candidly, we always want to be a place where people feel that there’s a play in their work, that they can have fun with what they’re doing. And I know you guys are hiring right now. I guess what’s on the forefront of hiring for you? What are some hiring initiatives that you guys have planned? Or what types of people should kind of perk their ears at kind of hearing you talk about all of this? Sure.

No, great question and thanks for that. So we always are looking for smart, intelligent people, right? Whether it’s engineers or DevOps folks or folks on the product side. When there are smart people out there, we definitely want to be open and available. One of the key things right now is I am

hoping to find a brilliant data architect. I’m looking for somebody who is strategic enough to think about, “Hey, as AllCampus, this is the business today. These are the business processes that happen for us to enable efficiencies in these business processes. This is the kind of data that you would need today.

This is the kind of data that you would need two years from now. So how can we set up a data infrastructure to provide for that?” Somebody who is tactical enough to be able to roll up their sleeves right now to help the business immediately. So that’s a kind of data architect position that I’m looking for in the really short term right now.

And candidly, it’s an exciting position because this is a greenfield opportunity here. Somebody can come in and really set the course for how we should do things. I’m the type of person, I have my folks who report to me. I know they’re the experts in their field. I want to listen to their ideas.

So this data person can really come in and set how we should do things. I’ll question them about, “Hey, so why this or why that?” But then as long as they can convince me this is an opportunity for somebody to really lay their mark on how AllCampus operates over the next few years and have a great impact on the business.

So I’m excited for that. Awesome. I mean, that sounds like a super impactful position and a spot to really put your fingerprints on the whole company really, so. Right. Fantastic. Wrapping up here, Pranu, was there anything else you wanted to cover? Anything that we didn’t hit on yet? I just want to recap on the fact that at AllCampus, we really strive to have the right work-life balance for everybody.

It’s a place where people feel that their work is really having an impact. You can see how changes that you make really impact your coworker’s life. And then as a result, we impact the life of people who are looking for an education.

And in a lot of ways, this mentality really helps go a long way where you want to do more. And as a result, you’re always exceeding expectations. And that’s the kind of culture we have.

Well thank you so much for joining me, Pranu. I mean AllCampus sounds like a great place to work. Really excited to see what you guys do here in the near future. But excited to be working with you here at Hirewell. And thanks for joining the podcast. Thank you Zac. Thanks for having me.

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