Groom­ing a Made-to-Or­der Work­place

Class is now in ses­sion.

Inc. (USA) - - STATE OF HIRING 2018 - By Leigh Buchanan

What CEO doesn’t fan­ta­size about cre­at­ing a tal­ent pipe­line tai­lored to his or her spe­cific needs? That sce­nario is now pos­si­ble—at least on a small scale— with Mis­sionU, a San Fran­cisco–based startup tak­ing a new ap­proach to bridg­ing the gap be­tween, on one side, ed­u­ca­tion and skills train­ing and, on the other, com­pa­nies.

Hatched in 2016, the un­ac­cred­ited, for-profit school tar­gets two groups: fu­ture em­ploy­ees and tal­ent-hun­gry em­ploy­ers. Its stu­dents want to land great jobs in hot fields with­out rack­ing up loads of stu­dent debt. Mean­while, the uni­ver­sity al­ter­na­tive has part­nered with more than a dozen com­pa­nies— both Sil­i­con Val­ley pow­er­houses and star­tups—that weigh in on cur­ric­ula, pro­vide in­struc­tion and in­tern­ships, and get first crack at hir­ing the new grads.

From the 4,700 ap­pli­ca­tions it got for its in­au­gu­ral class, which be­gan last Septem­ber, Mis­sionU ac­cepted 30 stu­dents. Its sec­ond class, which has 25 stu­dents, started in Jan­uary. These first two co­horts will pay noth­ing up front for the year­long pro­gram, and Mis­sionU will col­lect 15 per­cent of their in­come from their first three years of em­ploy­ment (if they make at least $50,000). Says co-founder and CEO Adam Braun, who raised $11.5 mil­lion, “We are look­ing to scale as quickly as we can while en­sur­ing the qual­ity of the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence and of the out­comes for our part­ners”—which in­clude Spo­tify, Uber, and Warby Parker.

Dur­ing Mis­sionU’s first trimester, Bain & Com­pany con­sul­tants and lec­tur­ers from Stan­ford in­struct stu­dents in soft skills like col­lab­o­ra­tion and crit­i­cal think­ing. The sec­ond trimester tack­les the tech­ni­cal. In trimester three, stu­dents work as in­terns, con­trac­tors, or, in some cases, full-time em­ploy­ees at part­ner com­pa­nies, as Mis­sionU con­tin­ues to coach and sup­port them.

The school’s first ma­jor is data an­a­lyt­ics and busi­ness in­tel­li­gence, and Braun’s team com­mu­ni­cates reg­u­larly with part­ner com­pa­nies to en­sure there’s a feed­back loop. “We ask, ‘What are the tools that any hire will need to come in and hit the ground run­ning?’ ” says Braun, a so­cial en­tre­pre­neur who pre­vi­ously launched an ed­u­ca­tion non­profit. When part­ners ex­pressed a strong han­ker­ing for SQL skills, for ex­am­ple, Mis­sionU shifted some in­struc­tion in that lan­guage to trimester one. En­gi­neers and hir­ing man­agers from Uber, Twit­ter, Spo­tify, and other part­ners give guest lec­tures or speak on pan­els at Mis­sionU’s head­quar­ters. Stu­dents visit com­pa­nies like Airbnb, Square, and Ever­lane.

Hack­erOne, a busi­ness that de­tects sys­tem vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties for clients such as Gen­eral Mo­tors, has played host twice to Mis­sionU classes, stag­ing ca­reer pan­els so stu­dents know what po­si­tions there en­tail. Four Mis­sionU stu­dents have Hack­erOne men­tors, and sev­eral will soon be paid in­terns. “What’s great about the part­ner­ship,” says Hack­erOne chief of staff Ted Kramer, “is that they are tak­ing on the chal­lenge of train­ing these young peo­ple so that they can make an im­pact on day one.”

Tal­ent for the Tak­ing Pic­tured here are 12 of the first 55 stu­dents at Mis­sionU, which runs a year­long ca­reer train­ing pro­gram that em­pha­sizes skills as much as di­ver­sity. Forty-two per­cent of its first class of stu­dents—who hope to one day work for the school’s part­ner com­pa­nies—are African Amer­i­can, His­panic, or Na­tive Amer­i­can.

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