The exams we deliver at Pearson VUE have a direct and positive impact on communities around the globe, driving progress and helping our clients deliver on the promise of their industries. In this series, we’re taking a deeper look at the ways we make that happen, by speaking to people from around our business who are making a lasting impact in a particular area of assessments.
This time we’re speaking to Craig McFarlane, Vice President of Australia and Southeast Asia. Based in Australia, Craig leads our business in this strategically important region, with a team of over 150 Pearson VUE employees across all functions including test centers, corporate support, and client services.
Q. Craig, can you briefly describe your role within Pearson VUE?
My role is multifaceted and different every single day. As a senior leader for our region, I work cross-functionally within the Pearson VUE business, and the broader Pearson group to support the best outcomes for our clients, their candidates and programs, and our business, while also fostering a supportive and developmental culture for our hardworking Pearson VUE teams.
Q. What about your region, in terms of opportunities or advancements, excites or inspires you?
I have spent the past 15 years working across many countries, but I have spent most of that time in Southeast Asia, where I have seen dramatic changes unfold. The dynamism of this fast-growing region should not be underestimated. COVID has accelerated a rapid evolution to an online approach for engagement, learning, and assessment, and this, coupled with the increasing professionalization of sectors and industries, creates a very exciting time for Pearson VUE.
The speed of development in Southeast Asia has always inspired me. The sheer determination of the healthcare and medical sectors to continue to ensure an adequate supply of professionals in the Australian and New Zealand market during COVID greatly inspired me and my team.
Partnering with our medical and healthcare clients to successfully deliver exams to every candidate possible during COVID was of course challenging, but achievable thanks to such a robust client service and support model coupled with market-leading technology and industry know-how. Our region has approximately 725 million people, larger than the USA, Russia, and the UK combined.
Q. Briefly describe a typical day.
There really isn’t anything such as a typical day in my role. I am here to respond 24/7 to the needs of our clients, our business, and our team. There may be a need to solve a problem for a client or respond to a new regulatory change that affects our clients or our business. Aside from this, there are multiple discussions with clients, and internally each day I will have meetings anytime from 5:00 a.m. through until after midnight as needed to connect with our teams globally. I could be on a plane en route to meet with clients or to visit a PPC, or at a conference with our business development team, or developing long-term strategy for our clients and our business. I work closely with all our program managers to ensure I’m aware of progress with client programs and can support quickly as needed. Two activities are consistent each day when I’m working from home: exercise and time with the horses on my farm in regional Victoria.
Q. Your region has experienced a number of challenges over the last couple of years, but you’ve managed to steer the ship through the storm. What have been the most significant / important lessons you have taken from this period.
A reminder from my Cub Scout days, “Be Prepared!” comes to mind. However, during the height of the COVID pandemic in the region, despite our very best efforts to prepare for every conceivable eventuality, we quickly learned something unexpected will always come along.
We have adapted to be extremely fast to respond to changing environments, and I am extremely proud with how our whole team has collaboratively worked with our clients to deliver every single exam to every possible candidate throughout the pandemic.
During the lockdowns, just one of the many governments in our region had 45 changes to regulations in just 60 days that affected our delivery of exams. Multiply this by the number of government bodies across our region and you will begin to understand the complexities experienced by our clients and our teams. Quickly engaging with our clients, making collaborative decisions, and taking actions to successfully deliver such important exam programs is something that brings me immense pride.
Q. Briefly, what do you hope to achieve over the next couple of years?
My role is to very much steady the ship out of the whirlwinds of the pandemic and realize the growth potential left in the pandemic’s wake. I will work collaboratively with every client, providing a service and engagement that is transparent, accessible, and of the highest quality possible. Our client’s growth is in turn our growth and as a client-centric leader, I will push our teams to achieve the very best for our client’s programs. I also hope to bring the Pearson VUE service and products to more Southeast Asian countries, along with new partners in our Oceania markets. We have some really exciting developments planned and in progress, and I can’t wait to bring these to our region.
Q. Your role oversees a very large market with a tight and highly responsive team. How do you lead these teams to ensure we continue to deliver excellence for our clients?
To start with, it’s important to recognize we are all on a journey: each market, other Pearson divisions, Pearson VUE, every VUE team member, every client, client program, client team member, and candidate… and the list goes on. How do we help accelerate every journey? How can I work collaboratively to understand every situation and every journey, and how we can work together to realize acceleration and achievement of goals? This is essentially the basis for my leadership. Understand, respect, and align journeys.
Every journey is different. I have had a challenging but extremely rewarding journey in my life and I understand the value of the small things, and how this drives overall excellence and in turn, how excellence drives the realization of full potential.
I have worked with many different leaders, some good, some not so, but with every step of my journey I learn, and this is the basis of my approach. I guide, I support, and I make decisions that balance the best interests of all stakeholders involved.
Q. What achievement on behalf of the business are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the value each and every Pearson VUE team member supporting our region brings to our clients and candidates. I know how hard our teams work, day and night, to ensure successful delivery of every client’s exam program. The level of support and service is unparalleled in our industry. We will do everything in our power to make a program a success. This consistent hard work is what I am most proud of. Consistent hard work delivers growth and success.