Getting to Know: Christopher Paucek
Do you remember that Hair Club for Men commercial from the ‘80s? “I’m not only the Hair Club president,I’m also a client!” This phrase that permeated pop culture described how a product could be so good, even the company’s president used it and saw great results. Why bring that up? Because 2U’s founder and CEO, Christopher Paucek, not only drives this company (which we lovingly refer to internally as “The Rocket Ship”), but he’s also an MBA@UNC student who raves about his experience in the program. Christopher is such an incredible force around the 2U offices, in his classes and online rooting enthusiastically for the Miami Dolphins, he was the obvious choice to kick off our interview series here on the blog.
Five years and Counting…
Christopher came to be part of 2U’s founding team in 2008 after being the CEO of Hooked on Phonics. When asked if he was surprised by the path 2U has taken in the last five years, there was a short pause followed by a resounding, “No.” Our Chief of Staff and one of the first 2U employees, Reed Talada, was also in the room and laughed at the question. Reed started thinking back to 2U’s beginnings when he thought the company was going to be this “small, low-key thing,” but even then he knew he was fooling himself.
Christopher, on the other hand, said he was the complete opposite of Reed. Christopher said he knew from the very beginning how much of an impact 2U would have on higher education if he just kept the business focused. According to Christopher, 2U is moving full steam ahead and running smoothly on course.
What’s it like working at 2U
Christopher and I moved on to chat about what he loves about working at 2U, to which he replied, “That’s easy: the people. We are actively changing people’s lives. We have a wildly interesting business built by wildly interesting people.” And for a company that is growing at an incredible rate, he has gotten to know a lot of people very quickly.
2U recently was named one of the Top 50 Best Medium-Sized Companies to work for in 2014 by Glassdoor. An award that Christopher believes is the highest honor because it was earned through positive feedback from employees.
It would be hard to say that everyone here isn’t inspired by Christopher’s drive and ambition, especially because he’s got a great open-door policy to chat with employees. In fact, when asked what his leadership style is, he just responded with “Drive.” He added that he may not be the smartest, the best looking or have the most resources, but no one would outdrive him. “I’m action oriented, a fast decision maker, and get over mistakes quickly. Because I make decisions quickly, I’m bound to make mistakes. Though you’ll rarely see me make the same mistake twice. That’s the goal.”
Christopher’s last bit of advice is for anyone at the company (or elsewhere) who’s recently stepped into a leadership role: “Lead, don’t just manage. Be candid, self aware, push the boundaries and think outside the box.”