“I’m doing what I was meant to do. I’m aligned on mission and purpose. I can’t stop.
Ruben Harris, CEO of Career Karma, knows a dirty little secret about online education.
What is it?
Nobody does it!
At least, very few people do it without accountability and help. That insight, along with other lessons learned by Ruben and his co-founders Artur & Timur Meyster through their journeys breaking into tech, led them to found the career guidance platform Career Karma.
Career Karma gives people support through groups of 5 to 20 people called “Squads,” which consist of peers, coaches and mentors. These people check in on users as much as every day to get an update on their progress.
According to Harris, Career Karma is “essentially a social network that helps people do what they love.” One of the primary functions that the community serves is to help people select coding bootcamps that suit their needs.
Bringing community to online learning
When Ruben and Career Karma first created squads, the groups were based off of the boot camp users wanted to attend, or their geographic location. Now, the app includes a quiz to help people come together in a more meaningful way.
If you visit careerkarma.com/quiz, you’ll see something akin to a “16 personalities”-type quiz that breaks people down into categories like risk-taker vs. risk averse, busy vs. lots of free time, lone wolf vs. collaborative, and more.
“It’s a powerful thing where we’re not just grouping people based off where they’re located and what bootcamp they want to do, but how they do well together,” Ruben said.
The most powerful staffing firm ever – How Career Karma’s mission guides decisions
A clear company mission guides many Career Karma decisions, both for product and marketing.
This has led Ruben and Career Karma not only to create guidance through squads, coaches, and mentors, but also helpful resources.
The Career Karma blog shares guides on important topics, including:
The big-picture strategy behind Career Karma’s content, Ruben says, is to not just educate people but to lead them to take action. This strategy is part of Career Karma’s higher-level vision, which is to, as Ruben says, “build the world’s most powerful staffing firm of all time.”
“People in power kept people under their rule by not giving them access to information,” Ruben notes. “The printing press was invented and people started taking charge in their life.”
Ruben sees how education was based on the industrial revolution. However, the promise of going to college and getting a job allowing people to pay off their loans and make a good living has largely passed us by.
He notes that we might return to a time where college is more of a “finishing school,” where people go to become more well-rounded or become a good leader.
Leading from the front to show what’s possible
Ruben and his team make it a point to be accessible and all over the media. This is because they want to show people what’s possible.
“When someone comes to me and they’re like, Oh, well, it’s not possible because I’m black. Well, I’m black. Right? Well, it’s not possible because I didn’t have good grades. Well, I didn’t have good grades,” Ruben said.
Although Ruben and his team don’t personally fit every criteria for people from tough backgrounds, he points out that the Career Karma community has so many backgrounds covered. There are communities for moms, dads, veterans, even a senior citizen community called “Code Gray.”
Much of Ruben’s philosophy around learning comes from his own experience breaking into investment banking. He discovered the well-paying the industry and decided to educate himself on how to get a job in the competitive field.
He found free content online and eventually paid for a course outlining the steps he needed to take. And, eventually, as someone without the typical pedigree of an investment banker, he got the job.
At the time of this writing the Career Karma community has over 40,000 members, and when it comes to growing his impact, Ruben is truly a man on a mission. “We know that what we’re building shouldn’t just exist in the world it needs to exist in the world. This is going to happen regardless.”
Bouncing back from rejection from YCombinator
Ruben and his team got an interview for YCombinator last year, and were feeling good about their chances. After the interview, the team received an email.
“I thought we crushed the interview. So I thought we were going to be moving to the next steps. But when you get an email after the first interview, most people know that that’s a rejection,” Ruben said.
When Ruben figured out that the email was a rejection, it left him devastated. “When it happened, I essentially didn’t let any of the tears show, and then I did the work.”
Ruben called a meeting, made a plan, and got his team back to work. The team re-applied in December and earned a spot in the program. Ultimately, Ruben has a deep understanding of his life’s work, and an understanding of the perseverance required to manifest his vision.
“The thing that drives me through this, and I know without a shadow of a doubt, is that I’m doing what I was meant to do. I’m aligned on mission and purpose. I can’t stop.”