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Providing the Fuel For People to Shine: Meet Adam Drudge, 2U’s New Chief People Officer

Written by Christopher "Chip" Paucek on Mar 31, 2022

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, Leadership, Life at 2U

Humbled. Honored. Those were the first two words Adam Drudge articulated to me when accepting his new role as 2U’s chief people officer (CPO). In his six months as senior vice president of people, Adam has come to care deeply about the people and culture of our organization, and he vocalized that clearly to me: “I feel this enormous sense of purpose to do right by the people of 2U,” he said. That human-first mentality is how we’ve built our strong, resilient culture at 2U.

Since the beginning, 2U’s culture has been the bedrock of our continued success. That’s why, at this transformative time in our history, finding the right leader for CPO was critical. We needed a thoughtful and effective leader who could navigate us through a pandemic and industry-redefining acquisition of edX, and set us on the path to expand and accelerate our impact. After a comprehensive search, we discovered Adam is that CPO for us.

Adam brings more than 20 years of experience in human resources leadership roles, including nearly a decade at Capital One where he was most recently vice president of human resources for the card servicing and platforms organization. While his resume speaks volumes about his qualifications, his drive and dedication to relationships are what make me confident that he’s the right person for the CPO job. He stops, listens, and takes the time to get to know all who surround him. I know he will help us, as a company, unlock our potential.

I sat down with Adam to dig deeper into what inspired his interest in 2U, what it means to be CPO, and learn what he believes makes our culture shine bright. Get to know Adam in our interview and, hopefully, you too will see the opportunity that lies ahead.

Adam, I’m thrilled to have you as a part of the leadership team. Let’s start from the beginning: You have spent nearly the entirety of your career in HR roles. What drew you to the field?

Honestly, I’m super nosy. I like to know all the stuff. In my first job as a product manager, I noticed that my HR person always knew what was happening before it even happened. I loved the idea of that—an opportunity to be a part of everything from start to finish.

I was also an industrial/organizational psychology major in college. I’ve always been drawn to human relationships, especially in the workplace. I enjoy exploring how we relate to each other, how we think about talent, and how we think about investing in people. HR felt like an opportunity for me to not work for one line of business or one department but to impact culture and people on a much larger scale. I craved the ability to have a broad, positive impact on an organization and culture in myriad ways. That’s what led me to where I am today.

Before joining 2U in 2021, you spent more than a decade at Capital One in multiple HR capacities. What would you say is one of the greatest lessons you learned there?

I stayed at Capital One for so many years of my career for two primary reasons: The first is that I had the opportunity to work with—and learn from—so many amazing people, and the second is that I never felt like I had to check my own values at the door to do my job. That alignment of my own values with corporate values was really important to me and not as easy to come by as you would hope. So when 2U reached out, and I began considering life outside of Capital One, I knew that I would never let myself sacrifice that sense of belonging that I had come to cherish. The combination of our guiding principles and the opportunity to work with so many talented people is what drew me to 2U.

Why did you make the jump from Capital One to 2U? What was it about 2U that made you feel like you belonged?

I had an incredible career journey through Capital One over 10 years that led me to the role of vice president of HR, a job that entailed my team supporting over ten thousand people across the globe. While it was the role I had been working toward, I didn’t feel completely fulfilled. It wasn’t about the job itself but more of a personal void I knew I needed to explore.

I began soul searching and was introduced to 2U, which easily checked off the value alignment box. It had a great purpose, a mission I believed in and could really get behind in my core, and it was an organization that would allow me to have a true impact on people’s lives. The interview process was also so telling for me: The people I spoke with clearly cared about the company and had built their careers at 2U for a really long time. That opportunity for professional growth and the staying power of 2U resonated with me. Since I joined last year, I have continued to be impressed by the incredible talent we have and the passion they bring to their roles every day.

This week, we announced your promotion from senior vice president of people to CPO. What excites you most about the opportunity you have as CPO?

So many things! I’m the most excited about the opportunity to impact change on a larger scale and be a steward of the company. I am absolutely committed to our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey, and this role represents an incredible opportunity and responsibility to continue to champion this work at 2U. As CPO, I will be in a better position to represent the needs of our employee population at scale, elevate our people, and partner with others to set the go-forward direction needed to continue to advance our culture.

Let’s get personal: What motivates you? What gets you going?

To me, making a positive impact on people’s lives is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I come to work every day to partner with amazing humans, and seeing them find success—whatever that definition means for them—is what really motivates me.

One analogy that has always resonated with me is that managing talent is like managing stars in the sky. Stars burn really brightly, but they take a lot of fuel to burn. My role—and the role of leaders more broadly—is to provide that fuel for people so that they can continue to shine and do their thing. I want to cultivate and promote a culture of inclusion, learning, and development that enables individuals to grow and succeed in their careers at 2U.

As a champion of 2U’s culture, let’s wrap with your favorite 2U guiding principle.

We have so many guiding principles that I identify with, but I have to go with “Relationships Matter.” I feel like relationships are foundational to everything we do as leaders and as an organization. People inspire me. I get so much energy from meeting others and learning more about them. I could have a day packed with one-on-one conversations and still walk away energized by the power of those connections. I’m so excited to continue to build these relationships at 2U!

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help partners thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.