For someone with an 11-year stint at an edtech giant on their resume, it might be hard to believe that Blackboard exec Richa Batra didn’t always know of her love for the industry.
But the current VP of student success didn’t start off wanting to work in edtech. While attending college at the University of Maryland (UMD), she told Technical.ly, she studied to become a broadcast journalist. And it wasn’t until later into her degree that she realized she was particularly interested in the public relations classes her curriculum required.
“Early on, I did a lot of the writing, and more so video and radio,” Batra said. “But once I got into the classes related to how do you pitch something or make a business presentation, I really loved that part because it was a business problem.”
Before her college days, Batra actually started off her working life with a job at retailer Nordstrom. She continued to work in retail all through college. The customer service experience she got there, she said, sealed the deal for her to pursue something in business instead of journalism.
After graduating from UMD, Batra worked at a small digital printing company, now known as C2 Imaging, that focused on the cosmetics and entertainment industries. After three years at that gig, which she said taught her a lot about being confident and setting in-person meetings with high-profile companies, she moved on to a role at the American Society for Training & Development, now known as the Association for Talent Development. There, as the director of sales, she worked with clients such as American Express and Sesame Workshop, who she helped communicate what potential employees would be doing and what their value would be at the companies.
"It's a field that I have loved. Not only do I love the business aspect of it, but it's mission-oriented."
Batra then decided to go back to school for her MBA, which she earned from George Washington University a few years later. After graduating, she joined Reston, Virginia edtech company Presidium Learning as its director of client experience. She stayed on when it was acquired by Blackboard in early 2011, as well as through Blackboard’s own merger with Florida-based software company Anthology a decade later, and moved up the ladder over the next few years. Since the acquisition, she’s held the roles of director and senior director of operations and general VP before moving into her current role.
And after more than a decade at what is now Anthology, which still maintains Blackboard’s product identity despite it technically no longer being its own company, she’s found a huge love for the edtech industry.
“It’s a field that I have loved,” Batra said. “Not only do I love the business aspect of it, but it’s mission-oriented and I think, especially now, in everything that we do, there’s a direct tie to helping students. If that’s something someone is interested in, it’s a great industry to be in.”
Batra added that while her journey so far has been partially motivated by the work she’s doing, she also has two other inspirations: her 5-year-old twins. Because of them, she said, she’s a more effective and efficient person and leader. She also always looks to them, and how she expects they’ll be learning in the future, for inspiration in her Blackboard role. She views this situation as a privilege because, as she pointed out, not everyone gets the opportunity to be a woman in the workplace and raise a family at the same time.
Heading forward in the edtech space, Batra foresees more work in the student wellness space and ensuring that students have every opportunity to succeed in higher ed, both in cost and education itself. As a first-generation college student herself, Batra feels strongly that there’s plenty of opportunity and room to grow in supporting first-gen students.
And throughout her work, she hopes to continue loving what she does while making a positive impact for students.
“Really good advice that I’ve always gotten is: Love what you do and it just doesn’t feel like work,” Batra said. “And I would say, [all these] years later, on most days I feel that way, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”-30-