Welcome our new GM of Udemy for Business, Darren Shimkus!
This week, we announced the arrival of Darren Shimkus as our new vice president and general manager of Udemy for Business. Now, let’s spend a few minutes getting to know him a little better.
I met Dennis (CEO Dennis Yang) earlier in my career, and I began following Udemy when he joined. At the time, I thought the online learning marketplace was such a fascinating idea with tremendous potential — if it could achieve critical mass. Obviously, I believe Udemy’s gotten there!
What about the opportunity to lead Udemy for Business attracted you?
Corporate training is the last great frontier to embrace the digital age. In every other area, communicating knowledge has gone digital and peer-to-peer. In the first wave of innovation, we will assist organizations as they move from periodic, sparse, in-person training to on-demand, on-device engagement. In the next and arguably more interesting wave, we have the opportunity to turn anyone in an organization into a trainer, and help create learning cultures where teaching happens peer-to-peer. That’s a long way of saying that just as we’re changing the way individuals can learn to enhance their life, we can fundamentally change the way organizations teach and learn.
How will your past experience inform your work here at Udemy?
My involvement with training and development goes back to my time at the Corporate Executive Board, which focuses on executive education and training. I wore a number of hats there, from creating our product lines to sales management to running part of the business. Our model was to yearly subscriptions to our training and content services (ring a bell?). In the course of my job I did a ton of speaking engagements all over the world. As much as I loved delivering our content in person to teams in Madrid to Istanbul to Singapore to Johannesburg, the model of traveling around to deliver training doesn’t translate to how we work today. Technology affords us opportunities that were unthinkable 10-15 years ago, and I’m excited to educate businesses about that. Because people are hungry for knowledge; they’re asking for it. But industry is failing to provide that information in a way that it can be digested and used. To most, corporate training means those mandatory compliance modules, and no one likes that. But they do crave real knowledge they can use.
Udemy’s offering is incredibly relevant: the most up-to-date content, the expert instructors, the ability to create your own content. Plus, we’re building a discipline around learning science so we can better understand how and why people learn. And then, with Udemy for Business, we help companies determine WHAT their people should learn.
What are your first priorities to tackle? How will this be different from your past roles?
The team is ready to scale. We’ve done some great market validation and know that we have interest in customers ranging from the very largest to the very smallest organizations. Now we are working to focus on an initial market segment, produce a product plan to meet the needs of that market, and build the sales and marketing funnel to generate interest and bring on new customers.
In the past, I was more vertically focused, working just one or two disciplines at a time. So over the course of a few years I’ve managed sales, business development, marketing, and product strategy, but never all at the same time. Here, I will draw upon a mix of all those areas in order to drive the business.
Okay, enough about work! What do you do for fun?
I’m in the process of relocating my family from Orange County back up to the Bay Area, where we lived a couple of years ago. Not sure that’s what you’d call “fun,” but it’s taking up a lot of free time for sure. I’m also an avid cook and home-brewer; I just made my last Southern California beer, in fact. It’s a Belgian blonde ale and will join my IPA and English mild in the fridge. I’m really looking forward to rediscovering the San Francisco food scene.