In his past life, Leo Filardi used to teach entrepreneurship, innovation and digital transformation in Brazil, while building accelerator programs for big companies. After joining the team of 42 Rio in 2017, he is now the CEO of 42 Abu Dhabi.
Hi Leo! Being the CEO of 42 Abu Dhabi, what’s the best thing about your position?
One of the things that I like the most is to have the opportunity to interact with a lot of stakeholders. I have the chance to discuss with all the companies that already partnered with us. At 42 Abu Dhabi, we also have the Government looking for us, helping us, providing all the needs that we have. Being the CEO with this kind of freedom thanks to the support we got from ADEK gives me the power to build whatever I want for the students and give them the best environment to work in.
Education has not been the same since the COVID crisis. What do you think education will be in the future?
I would say the future of education will definitely be based on technology. Due to the pandemic, everyone who was studying was allowed to keep going on with their studies. On one hand, students missed one of the greatest things: the human side of the process, the interactions and collaboration. But on the other hand, thanks to technology, we were allowed to keep moving on. I’m not saying that the path is online education versus in person education. It’s not about option A or option B. What if we merge, what if we understand the ways that we can work together?
Abu Dhabi is a big city for expatriates. Did the different nationalities and backgrounds hold you back?
On the contrary, during the first Piscine, the applicants were the best part of the process. They were so eager to begin that they helped us make the best piscine we could. One of the greatest things about 42 that I got to know, and one of the values that I love the most, is diversity. It’s amazing to interact with people with different nationalities, different ages, different genders, or different backgrounds. They work together because the 42 method makes them work together no matter what. Diversity is also for me connected to freedom. When I open a school and say “we are for everyone” this is a huge and very powerful and strong statement. Being able to do that on a day-to-day basis is even greater. What we can achieve is amazing, I can’t even describe it.
Do you have a secret to share about what makes 42 Abu Dhabi special?
At 42 Abu Dhabi, we have a Chief of Student Experience: Sara. One of the things that her team does is to call the applicants who didn’t login during the Piscine the last day to know what’s happening and encourage them to come back. They are doing a fantastic job which is very helpful. In our first Piscine ever, we started with 135 applicants and ended it with 118. It’s a huge number, and it’s because we have someone to take care of our applicants when they are not inside the campus.