Welcome Frank Gielen, the new Head of the Professional School

Prof. Dr. Frank Gielen

Prof. Dr. Frank Gielen

EIT Digital is proud to announce the appointment of Frank Gielen as Head of the Professional School. This position has been created to support the ongoing development of EIT Digital's newest education programme, launched in 2015.

The EIT Digital Professional School brings digital innovations to the market and supports the digital transformation of companies and organisations by creating a learning ecosystem. Its initiative is powered by continuing education courses, specially designed to provide critical digital knowledge, insights and skills to European professionals and executives, leveraging the EIT Digital Action Lines and partners' research activities.

You have a long career in R&D in the telecommunication and software technology sector. How important has lifelong learning been for you?

From the moment that I left the university campus, I was confronted with the famous Socratic paradox: "I know one thing: that I know nothing". In every new job I always had to learn: many technical subjects but also how to negotiate with customers, how to do business in Saudi-Arabia and how to prepare a company for an IPO. Today, I am trying to understand the psychology of learning. This is a big step for a computer science engineer but one that is needed if your ambition is to lead the next generation of digital learning.

You have experience in working both in Europe and America. Do you see any key differences in professional education?

Many of my colleagues in the US were always looking for learning opportunities to improve their job performance or advance their career. They were very eager to learn from peers (including from each other's mistakes), read books and take classes during time off. In the US, individuals take the initiative to learn and tell their company when and where to send them to a workshop or a class. Back in Europe, I noticed that less people take charge of their own personal development. They often wait for the HR department to send them to a course and corporate training budgets are seldom fully spent. I guess it has to do with culture and competitive nature or with the false comfort perception of a lifelong job. However by now, we have experienced that also in Europe the lifelong jobs are long gone and that knowledge workers must continuously upgrade their skills to stay in competitive in a global knowledge economy. Today, those differences between the US and Europe are fading away and the Professional School will contribute to this by offering learning experiences that meet the needs of today's professionals and executives.

What are the key challenges and opportunities you are looking forward to focussing on?

One opportunity is the digital transformation of professional education itself. Today digital education only represents 3% of the total education market. There is an enormous potential for growth and EIT Digital has the digital technology and know-how that can put us in the driver seat for shaping the future of digital professional education.

Another opportunity comes from the fact that in a digital economy, technology can no longer be considered without a business context. Businesses expect T-shaped individuals: high tech experts that understand the business impact of their technical decisions. This is exactly where the professional school wants to position itself: you will not only learn about technology but also about what this means for your business and career. A typical example is our offering in data science where we have in depth technical courses related to data analysis and visualisation combined with a business module on how to shape a data driven business.

Our biggest challenge will be to scale at a European and international scale. This means that we need to create a best-in-class portfolio, we need execution capacity, credibility in industry and a strong brand. All the elements are available in EIT Digital. I guess my job is to make them work together to make it happen.

What attracted you to the EIT Digital Professional School?

The EIT Digital Professional School is an opportunity to go "double digital". Digital innovation is transforming businesses at an incredible pace and at the same time it is also changing the way we learn similar to how it changed the way we listen to music. The professional school plays a key role in this: it needs to innovate education so professionals and executives can acquire new digital skills and know-how when they need it, where they need it to be competitive in the digital economy. I am excited to join the EIT Digital team for this challenge as we have now the opportunity to lead the transformation of professional education in Europe while supporting people and business to enter the digital economy."

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