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Jets, Japanese Swords, & Degreed: Getting to Know Our New CEO

This is a time of big change at Degreed. Our products are rapidly evolving, especially with the launch of Career Mobility late last year. Our workforce is expanding weekly. This month, we announced $153 million in Series D funding, valuing the company at $1.4 billion.

And we have a new CEO, Dan Levin. 

We’ve been getting to know Dan, and we’ve learned he’s a diligent listener as well as an accomplished leader who’s deeply committed to product innovations that will push Degreed to an even higher level. Along the way, we’ve gotten a peek at some of Dan’s personal interests, a sense of how he values client relationships, and a feel for how he thinks about the business challenges ahead. 

A new CEO is big news, so we thought we’d help you get to know Dan too. First, a bit on his background: Dan spent the last three years mentoring CEOs at rapidly growing, mid-sized companies. Before that, he spent seven years as the COO of Box, growing the company from $10 million to $500 million in annual revenue. Prior to Box, Dan held various senior leadership roles at Intuit, including Senior Vice President and General Manager of the (then) $650 million Quickbooks Group. 

Q: What are some fun facts about you? What’s Dan Levin — the human being — like?

A: Well, I studied the Japanese martial art aikido for many years, and that got me interested in old Japanese swords. I collect them now, mostly 15th and 16th century. Also, not many people know that I’m not only a pilot but that I’m certified to fly a couple of different small jets by myself.

When I went to college, there was no computer science degree in the Bachelor of Arts program at Princeton, so I ended up creating my own independent concentration, which was entitled “Application of Computer Graphics to Statistical Data Analysis.” How’s that for a mouthful to put on your resume?

Q: What excites you about working at Degreed? 

A: It’s the opportunity to build on the amazing foundation that the Degreed team has established, and to fulfill Degreed’s promise of creating an incredibly powerful and innovative upskilling and career mobility platform. This is an impressive company that has accomplished amazing things, and yet the future’s so so bright.

I see many of the key ingredients of a really world-class company at Degreed, and at the same time, I see lots of room for us to grow, improve, and become even better than we already are. I’m excited by the opportunity to participate in that maturation process, in the scaling of this company into a truly global organization that delivers unique high-impact value to our clients each and every day.

Q: What are your thoughts on our product direction?

A: Companies want to do a better job of retaining their critical and very expensive talent, and that is pushing learning and talent leaders to develop their people faster and in more innovative ways. Employees who are learning and feel encouraged to grow are more engaged, and much more likely to build a long career rather than switching jobs in search of new opportunities. Skill data is becoming more important to businesses, especially because the skill landscape at just about every organization keeps shifting. Making sure that each opportunity is filled with the right talent is critical. Leaders need new tools and strategies to keep up. And that’s where Degreed has an important role to play.

I want to see us create a platform to help HR, learning, and talent leaders not only find and collect skill data but to understand that data and push the boundaries on how to use it. So they can connect their workforce to new internal opportunities, which helps their people grow and stay satisfied in their careers. And, of course, it benefits the business as well.

Q: You grew Box from $10 million to $500 million in annual revenue. How?

A: By delivering an innovative product that made Box admins heroes and made every employee more productive and engaged. At Degreed, we’re a bit further down the road than Box was when I joined, but it’s the same kind of sensation — a vast opportunity with a very strong foundation to build on. I see a very direct analogy.

What we did at Box is we listened to our clients when they asked us to take this sort of consumer- and then small-business-oriented product and turn it into something that global organizations could use to run their businesses every day. And that turned out to be an incredibly wise strategic decision.

The thing that really made Box successful was we had this extremely easy-to-use product for the end user, and we had this wonderfully capable administrative interface that the end users never had to see. But it gave IT organizations a huge amount of capability. And the ideas for that all came from our clients. I think we really effectively blended listening and responsiveness with a real visionary component around the future of work.

Q: You’re taking the helm without prior experience in the learning technology industry. How does that affect your approach? 

A: I’m coming up to speed on the industry as fast as I can, and I’m looking forward to synthesizing my experiences with lots of different offerings to help Degreed continue to be a visionary. I’m a product person at heart, and I was drawn to Degreed because of the amazing product it’s built. 

I take a lot of inspiration from Scott Cook, who co-founded Intuit. The Scott Cook mantra is to build a product that is so good, so compelling, that once a customer uses it, they can never imagine going back to the way they did things before. That’s the kind of mindset I want to bring to Degreed.

I’ve worked on some of the most interesting, successful products in technology. I care about scaling the business, and I’m also really focused on delivering an amazing user experience. Some of the companies that have the most success using Degreed do so because they bring in functionality from other parts of their business to partner with L&D, so I’ll be taking some inspiration from that as well.

And I’ll be relying on my experience as a leadership mentor, as a teacher myself. Organizational development, leadership development, individual development — these have all been a very important part of my personal journey for the last 15 or 20 years, and areas that I have a tremendous passion for.

Q: What type of partner can our clients expect Degreed to be going forward?

A: I want to follow the example that [previous Degreed CEO] Chris McCarthy so artfully established of being very client-facing, being very engaged with, and very open to input from, the customers that we partner with. And I really look forward to building amazing relationships with our clients around the world — in large and smaller organizations. This all comes down to being a good listener first.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I would just add that I know people — employees, our customers, and others — are going to have a lot more questions for me. I’d just like to reiterate that I’m very much looking forward to each and every one of those conversations. 

Want to learn more about Dan? Rock out to his playlist of personal anthems below!

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