This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life'' series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. This article celebrates one of our 2020 No Back Row Award winners—an employee recognized for embracing one of 2U’s nine Guiding Principles. Pat Knight was one of two 2Utes selected as the winners of the Be Bold and Fearless award.
Pat Knight isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get creative when it comes to risk and ambiguity. As a senior business systems analyst at 2U, he has spent the last three years analyzing, testing, and even “breaking” things in innovative ways to build something better than any iteration that has come before.
Early on during the COVID-19 outbreak, Pat was given the responsibility of helping to develop our 2UOS Essential solution so that universities could quickly migrate their programs online. As 2U’s VP of Engineering Chris Conlin puts it, “Pat handled every curveball with aplomb, and the company was well-supported in making this new endeavor happen on time because of his fearless and diligent work.”
Read on to learn how Pat’s risks have resulted in lasting rewards—and how a combination of community and creativity has helped him thrive at 2U.
Pat in "Robin" costume for our Halloween 2UBoo party in 2018
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
I chose 2U over other opportunities in part because of what 2U promised to be, but also because of what 2U very clearly was not. I was based out of the Brooklyn office prior to the pandemic, and the New York area tech space includes many financial firms and flashy startups that simply didn’t interest me. I wanted to know that my work was really helping those who needed to be helped. Plenty of places make a difference, but it often feels like technology helps folks who are already doing pretty well for themselves. When I first started, I felt like 2U made a difference with those who might be underserved by conventional institutions and models of learning by increasing access to quality education. I’m happy to say that still rings true!
I also remember that I was immediately charmed by the 2Utes I met during my interview. Their thoughtfulness and wisdom was evident in their questions, and in their answers to my own questions. Memorably, one of my interview panelists video-called from the passenger seat of his family SUV, on the way up north with everyone all bundled up to go skiing. His commitment to the interview despite the circumstances, and his clear effort to make it work, left an impression that helped make my eventual decision an easy one.
Pat in Japan joined by some really scary-looking crustaceans at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in 2017
How would you describe your role as a senior business systems analyst at 2U?
My role is to help guide and propel the development and implementation of 2UOS Essential, a more “streamlined” bundle of the technology, people, and support services we offer university partners. To that end, I work to bring together folks from a number of different teams to ensure that the technology platform is purpose-built to provide tools that help instructors create and teach their courses and support students as they learn.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
A lot of what I do is rewarding! At a high level, it’s incredibly gratifying to know that the educational offerings we’re working on and the services we provide have both immediate and long-term benefits for students in 2U-powered programs. More selfishly, I find it rewarding to work with so many vibrant and thoughtful people in a cross-sectional slice representing every part of the company.
The most challenging aspect of my job involves balancing the needs and desires of different stakeholders and users as they revolve around our educational offerings and platforms. While we’re all working toward making the 2U experience better for our partners, their faculty, and students, it can be a delicate task to determine ways forward that all parties find agreeable with their own goals, resources, and timelines.
Pat and his wife Jill on the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower "Skydeck" in Chicago, 2019
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what gives you the most pride?
We launched an undergraduate learning platform for two partners in 2020 with more in the works—and that’s not nothing! Admittedly, much of that was already well on its way by the time I officially moved from quality assurance specialist to my current role, and it’s impossible to heap enough praise on those 2Utes on the short course side of the company who lent their technology, processes, and expertise to support our efforts with these undergraduate offerings. It would have been a major achievement in any other year, and I think anyone who had a part to play in getting the fall term up and running should feel an enormous amount of pride given everything going on in the world in a time that can be conservatively described as “unrelenting.”
Each of 2U’s 2020 No Back Row Award winners were recognized for their commitment to one of the company’s nine Guiding Principles. What does this honor mean to you?
While it’s absolutely an honor to be selected as a winner of a No Back Row Award, I’m perhaps most honored to have been nominated in the first place by people who work with me day-to-day and who thought I should be recognized for what I do. I admire so many folks here at 2U for their talent and tenacity, and it’s fulfilling to be recognized by others in turn. It’s important for an organization to have principles we can look to for guidance and inspiration, and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to realize them in word and action.
Pat and one of their two cats, Juniper
In your own words, how would you describe the guiding principle you epitomize: Be Bold and Fearless?
Being bold and fearless means taking risks and allowing yourself to be surprised by how well things might turn out, hoping that what is new and unknown can be much more than what is safe and familiar. It’s not always such a simple thing to tell someone to “be bold”—it can be as unhelpful as telling a sad person to “be happy”—but it helps foster a culture of creativity, exploration, and support, reinforcing that failure is just a temporary precursor to success. I’m not sure that I’m necessarily fearless, but if I appear that way to others, it’s only because of the support I receive that helps me feel confident in taking risks.
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