Laureate Leadership Perspectives – Aimee Leishure, Senior Vice President Business Transformation, Laureate Education

This month we had the privilege of talking to Aimee Leishure, Laureate’s Senior Vice President of Business Transformation, who talks about her 19-year leadership journey at Laureate, the vision and values that have kept her motivated through the years, leading through change, and the importance of having the students at the center of all we do.

 Aimee, you joined Laureate back in 1999. Do you remember what drew you to Laureate originally?

Transformation, change, impact, growth and opportunity!   The same professional benefits that attracted me to Laureate 19 years ago give me hope, optimism and vision for Laureate’s future today.   I arrived at Laureate in August 1999, about four months after we acquired our first university: Universidad Europea de Madrid in Spain (UEM).  At the time, Laureate was focusing on growing through acquisition and investments in international institutions and the opportunities were endless.  While Doug Becker’s vision was clear, the mission or how it was going to be accomplished was still being developed and I had the opportunity to be part of it from the start. Laureate has always had a leadership team which values and encourages individual growth, contributions, teamwork and collaboration and those are principles that I truly value to this date.  Throughout this time, I have tried to take full advantage of all the opportunities provided to me at Laureate.

What has kept you motivated and engaged throughout the years?

During the past 19 years, Laureate moved into 29 different countries and acquired 70+ institutions, – by my count –  impacted approximately 15M students and at times, we grew revenues by approximately 30%.  We’ve been public, private and public again.  We have grown from an $80M business to a $4B business.  I knew the first 200 employees and now we have approximately 65K employees.  I was able to help build and positively impact all of it.  Even more important to mention, I’ve been impacted and motivated by the students who travelled the halls of our institutions, who, thanks to the education options we’ve provided, will have a positive impact in their communities and possibly the world. I have been inspired by students and their families, whose dreams are bigger than I can imagine.While I love to transform our business, the favorite part of my job is visiting our universities, strolling through the campuses, interacting with our students and witnessing the amazing visions and work of our staff and academics.  Through the passion of our communities, I truly gain a sense of accomplishment that keeps me strongly motivated.

You lead the Business Transformation Office (BTO). How would you describe the BTO organization and its main objectives?

We are the change champions of the organization who help Laureate remain competitive by responding to market pressure and turning it to actionable change. The vision of the Business Transformation Office (BTO) is to effectively enable Laureate’ transformation journey by developing and leading the alignment of current and future initiatives with the strategic vision set by senior leadership.  At the BTO we implement solutions to ensure successful large-scale and enterprise-wide transformation.

In 2014, we initiated the largest transformation to date at Laureate. Known as Excellence in Process (EiP), it transformed the Finance organization by vertically integrating, establishing a scalable operating model with standard processes, optimized systems, automated controls, and efficient reporting capabilities. Following EiP, the BTO has led other major transformation initiatives to standardize our support functions and reshape our organizational structure. To date we have generated over $200M in total savings for Laureate, established Shared Service Centers and Centers of Expertise supporting 46 institutions across the world and deployed PeopleSoft to over 20,000 users worldwide.

You have played a key role managing large transformation initiatives for Laureate. What are the most important considerations when leading change and innovation? 

Through these large-scale change processes, we have learned there are key pillars when leading change and innovation to achieve a successful transformation. First, encouraging collaboration, communication, engagement across all levels of the organization and leveraging the power of the Laureate network. Also challenging the status quo, asking ourselves “why now” and daring to step into unknown territory. And last but most important, focusing on our end customer: our students; we must always understand how transformation is ultimately benefiting the lives our students.

The Enrollment to Graduation (E2G) initiative is a strategic priority for Laureate. What are the key elements of this initiative? What are the key benefits we hope to achieve? 

E2G is a transformational movement with a new student-centric operating model that offers an unsurpassed, seamless student experience enabled by an innovative platform. Under the E2G model, institutions provide our students with a powerful digital experience that allows them to navigate the student journey with ease such as registering for classes, accessing student records, managing student finances, and receiving 24/7 student service help. At its core, E2G leverages the latest innovation in digital technology with the highest standards in student service, giving our institutions the competitive advantage to differentiate themselves in their marketplace.

Your leadership journey is an inspiring example for many women leaders across Laureate. What would be your advice to the next generation of female leaders at Laureate?

I would encourage young women to recognize their strengths early on in their careers and most importantly embrace their differences as female leaders. As young professionals, women sometimes feel they must fit a specific stereotype to advance their careers, and many times stay away from taking risks and challenging the circumstances around them. I want the next generation of female leaders to break paradigms and grow fearless and proud of who they are as women and the transformations they can make.  In addition, pick a support system, pick leaders and mentors who support your success and growth and who are true to you and you can trust.  Surround yourself with good people who will always challenge you to take it to the next level, who challenge you to take risks, who challenge you to dust yourself off and get up when you stumble and celebrate with you when you succeed.

When you face change and challenges as a Laureate leader, what encourages you to continue and overcome these barriers? 

First and foremost, belief in our mission.  Many things keep me strong after almost 20 years at Laureate but our students and our incredible, hardworking academics and staff, from our headquarters all the way to our campuses they are the reason for overcoming any challenges and obstacles, especially during times of change. They are the beating heart of Laureate and as leaders, we owe them our biggest efforts to continuously provide the best place to study and work.

What would be your final message to our audience of +65,000 Laureate members worldwide reading this interview?

I would like to invite everyone to embrace transformation, not only at a career level but also in their personal lives. Change and transformation can be intimidating, after all, it requires us to step out of our comfort zone, but only then can we really discover our full potential.