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 excited to speak to our brand-new Senior Vice President of Global Business Development, Ray Murray. For nearly 28 years, Ray has held a variety of roles across Pearson VUE’s global organization. His career with Pearson VUE began when he was hired as the third employee based at our Sydney, Australia office as a Customer Support Advocate (CSA)/Proctor. Since then, he’s risen through the ranks to lead our Global Business Development team. Having lived, worked, and studied on five continents, Ray holds a trilingual (Arabic, French, English) Arts Baccalaureate, with further MBA studies. He loves traveling the world with his family, history, studying different religions and metaphysics, along with building projects and riding his tractor on the hobby farm.
Is there anything Ray can’t do? Let’s find out.
Ray, congratulations on your new position. We’d love to learn more about you. Could you please tell us about yourself? What drives and inspires you?
Well, I was born and grew up in Morocco. My parents are both Australian and ended up there on the hippie trail, but they have always denied the hippie part of their story. I grew up speaking Arabic and French as a blond, blue-eyed Muslim kid from the kasbah. I first studied English when I was 15 years old. I have always respected the work ethic and doing things right, something I learned and continue to learn from my mother. I have always been drawn to entrepreneurship, business development and deal making.
My first sales job was at the age of nine, where I would buy a packet of Wrigley’s gum and Winston cigarettes to then sell them individually for a profit. That then grew into managing a team of sales buddies, whom I would pay and manage to do the same thing. At the age of 12, I had a chicken-raising business to sell the meat to five-star hotels in the Marrakesh region, then moved on to a water well-digging business, all as side hustles while I was attending school. Many years later, in 1994 while I was attending business school in Sydney, I got a part time job in working as a proctor for Sylvan Learning and Virtual University Enterprises, and that is how my journey started with Pearson VUE.
28 years later, here we are doing this interview! Quite the improvement I would say, going from selling cigarettes to selling the highest global standard in education and certification!
What drives and inspires me? Making the difficult happen, breaking barriers, overcoming challenges, and learning from my mistakes. Seeing others do well and benefiting from the groundwork my team and I have built, that inspires me to no end, for sure! Also seeing the difference we are making in the world, in people’s lives every day through education and certification.
(I strongly encourage everyone to watch the Certiport worldwide competition that we do every year. It’s a great reminder of how we are improving lives, one student at a time.)
Q. What are the key experiences you're bringing to your new position as the head of global business development?
Well, first off, the experience to know that without a great, hardworking, motivated, and cohesive team that trusts and motivates each other, a team that believes in the vision, a team that feels they have both pay and purpose in their daily work activities as part of their role — without all of that, then nothing great will be achieved. It’s hard to build that. It takes time, experience, and a lot of tenacity to put that all together, but we have to, it’s imperative for success.
Also, my long tenure at Pearson VUE is pretty much divided — 50% of the time, I was working out of Asia-Pacific developing the market in the region, then the second 50% to date has been growing the global IT business out of North America. I know how our international regions think and act and what our challenges are, because I did it for 14 years, and I know how our headquarters folks act and run the business and what those challenges are, I also did that for 14 years.
In my current role, I bring those two different worlds together as one, not by changing one or the other, but by respecting each other’s differences and perspectives, by learning from each other, and by working towards a common goal. We are going to act locally but think globally regardless of where we sit geographically — that is my primary focus moving forward.
Q. What past achievements are you most proud of?
Convincing my beautiful wife to marry me and stay with me for 25 years so far, it’s a miracle! And of course my beautiful children Jack and Lila, whom I admire every day.
The work achievement that I am [most?] proud of is my team. About 12 years ago I took an underperforming IT business sector and grew it by 800%, building it from the smallest sector to one of the largest at Pearson VUE!
But my highest work achievement to date was building the team I built over the years that is known now as the "IT Biz Dev team." It’s a group of incredible individuals who are legendary and unstoppable when they come together. I am looking forward to expanding and bringing several teams together to create one team again; we have already started and it’s going well.
Q. Can you share in past challenges or failures that you learned from and that helped you in your career growth?
I hate failure. I take it personally and it takes me a long time to recover from it, so the fear of failure does drive me. I have learned though that to succeed sometimes we must fail, and that is okay, if we learn from our failures and don’t repeat them.
Q. What are you most excited about as you look ahead for Pearson VUE?
I am really excited about the Pearson VUE future and how it will fit into the overall new Pearson vision and direction with Workforce Skills and Direct-to-Consumer. Specific to Pearson VUE the future is bright, it really is. I often remind my team that it’s rare for any company to be positioned the way we are today as the market leader but with so much potential growth.
Validation of skills, certification, and licensure are all growing in need. Yes, the industry is seeing transformation on so many fronts — privacy, price pressure, technology, etc. — but as long as we get those right, the market size and total addressable market will continue to grow.
Internationally, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, and we are very excited about our growth outside of the U.S. Most companies must generate the demand, for us the demand is there. We need to meet it where it’s at and greet it the way it deserves to be greeted.
Q. It’s still early days, but what are some of the short- and medium-term goals you’ve set for yourself or your team?
That’s a great question. Firstly, I need to learn and catch up. I have so much to learn and catch up on from the regions. Yes, the instincts and general regional acumen is there from my first 14 years at Pearson VUE, but some things have changed.
Secondly, I need to bring the team together. I need to instill trust and co-reliance on the team members and establish an around-the-clock team that helps and supports each other towards one common goal. We need to act local and think global.
Thirdly, we must categorize the world and the business segments into several buckets: What do they need to succeed? Is it better partnerships, is it better technology, is it more localization? We must find areas of commonality and crossover, and assign teams and effort to address those needs to position us strongly to start competing in areas where we haven’t properly done so in past.
Q. What hobbies / activities do you enjoy, and how do you like to unwind?
I enjoy building things. I unwind by building things out of wood, stone, metal. Things that are somewhat challenging that require a lot of thought and planning. I always have a building project going on, and some have taken me months to plan out. Some of my favorite projects have been a three-level tree house that my kids and I built over three summers, a floating wood platform with a slide, a zipline and 16-foot diving board for a lake, a kitchen coop, and a vegetable garden with automated irrigation. I like the process of learning the engineering, planning, designing, and drawing plans in my head as I am falling asleep, and researching the materials. What is interesting is that at the end of the project there are always mixed emotions — a sense of achievement, and a sense of sadness that the project is done.
Q. And finally, is there anything you are not good at, or that you still want to learn?
There are so many things that I am not good at, small talk for one, which is less than ideal given the profession I am in.
I previously said I like to build things, but I don’t have the patience for the refined and intricate parts of the build project. I am not good at the finer details and the finishings, and while I can force myself to learn and to do it, I simply don’t enjoy it. Others can do a much better and faster job than I can, so I usually leave it to them.
I can be impatient; I try to spin it as a strength, but we all know it’s a weakness. I am working on that.
Staying away from sweets, I am not good at that, and yes, I want to learn — tips anyone? 😊