Our new blog series, CoffeeBreak Conversations is meant to be read in less time than it takes you to enjoy a cup of your favorite break-time beverage. We'll be interviewing members of the career and education technology ecosystem and sharing their different perspectives, experiences, and predictions for our industry. Stay tuned!
First up in the series, we interviewed one of our very own, uConnect founder, David Kozhuk, based in Boston, MA.
Want to nominate someone for a CoffeeBreak Conversation? email us.
You founded uConnect 5 years ago in 2013, tell us the story!
I wasn’t trying to be an ed tech entrepreneur, it all happened organically, and over time.
My interest in career pathways started in high school. My sister, who is 10 years older than me, went to Boston University and launched a career in Investment Banking upon graduation. I was 12 or 13 at the time but totally fascinated by her job. I started grabbing the WSJ from our driveway before my dad could get to it and started following capital markets.
When I went off to college, I knew I wanted to follow in my sister’s footsteps and launch a career in finance. When I got to campus, freshman year, that vision encouraged me to be very purposeful in my engagement. I joined the Finance Society freshman year, I was meeting with Finance professors who were teaching classes I wasn’t able to take yet, and I was definitely leveraging the resources and alumni networks in the career center. By the time I graduated, I had 5 internships and landed a full-time job with a private equity firm.
It wasn’t until 2013 that the idea for uConnect started to crystalize. I was tasked with recruiting a few Jr. Financial Analysts for my firm, so I immediately thought to call the head of career services at my alma mater to set up a recruiting event. Much to my dismay, when I arrived on campus for the event, only three students showed up and only one of those three knew what I did.
It was then, I realized that not everyone had the same career-aligned college experience that I had. Many students weren’t thinking about their career and many of the valuable resources living in the career center were going overlooked and underutilized.
After the event, the head of career services and I went out for lunch and she shared that engaging students, especially younger students, was her biggest challenge, and she didn’t have any marketing tools to help her. It immediately occurred to me that the lack of engagement with career services was not only having an impact on student success but institutional effectiveness.
I really liked my job, so I wasn’t as eager as you might think to jump ship and launch a start-up serving higher ed career services, but upon reaching out to 100+ institutions to ask them how engagement was with their career services, I found a true market need.
In November of 2013, I officially quit my job in private equity to launch uConnect as a career services marketing solution.
Since then, what shifts have you seen in higher education career services (or higher ed in general, related to career services) AND if you could wave a magic wand, what changes would you want for career services?
We have seen career services become more of a priority. Awesome research from folks like Strada Education and the Gallup-Purdue index has surfaced important trends such as more than 80% of students citing career advancement as the primary reason for enrolling in college.
We've also seen a trend toward more urgency, autonomy and strategy from career services leaders - if I could wave a wand, I'd want leaders at every institution to prioritize career services for their students.
How have these industry shifts inspired you, and the work you and your team are doing at uConnect?
As it becomes apparent that making career a bigger part of the campus culture and student experience will be the norm going forward, schools are integrating the work of career into other parts of the campus ecosystem.
The work we’re doing at uConnect has evolved in the sense that we are helping schools seamlessly integrate career pathway resources into other parts of the student experience, like enrollment, advising and campus life.
We assume you spend a fair amount of time talking to higher ed leaders, what’s up next? What will 2019 be the year of?
I often hypothesize that the last 10 years of innovation in higher ed has been about making education more accessible. Curriculums are online, critical student success tools like the LMS are mobile, scholarships are more attainable, etc... These are all critical to improving higher education. The next 10 years is about making higher education worthwhile, and helping schools prove ROI to a growing market of prospective learners who, more than ever, need continuing education, but are perhaps more skeptical than ever before.
More practically, I believe that there will be more transparency in the admission process. Prospects and parents have been asking about outcomes and pathway data for decades. In 2019, there will be a trend towards a tighter connection between career services and admissions to give prospects more insight into the career possibilities at every schools. We’re starting to see a little of this already as schools are refreshing their career center brands, updating their websites and even publicly presenting career outcome data to highlight the possibilities.
Who's someone you'd like to sit down with for a CoffeeBreak Conversation?
I just listened to an interview with Patty McCord, Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, and author of the famous Netflix Culture Deck. I think a lot about people operations and would love to pick her brain.
Thanks David, keep fighting the good fight!
Stay tuned for our next CoffeeBreak Conversation featuring Rick Delvecchio, Director of Career Development at Quinnipiac University College of Arts & Sciences.