Redefining “We” in Career Education

Andreas | Bernal Heights, San Francisco

Like many of us in career education, I chose this profession because I truly believe where you come from doesn’t have to define where you go. College is often that differentiator — providing opportunity and guidance in ways that help students reach their full potential. Now, as all of us in higher education grapple with the changing student demographics and the future of work, I believe we need to redefine the “we” in student success by continuing to broaden our ecosystem and challenging our thinking to embrace new ways of increasing access to opportunities for all students.

I recently came to a big crossroads in my career and made the choice to pivot into a new role as Handshake’s Vice President of Higher Education & Student Success. As a member of the leadership team, I’ll have the opportunity to direct the strategic vision of Handshake’s expanding university division, shape future product development, and continue speaking, presenting, and creating content around the future of work, career education, higher ed, employability, and student success.

While it’s equal parts thrilling and daunting to partner with 700+ colleges and universities that support 14 million students and alumni, this next step continues to put me on the path to advancing the one goal I stated long ago in my graduate school application, “to make a difference in the life of at least one person.” While this goal has never changed, how I approach it has, particularly the scale at which I’ve set my sights.

When I first started my career, I had direct 1:1 access to students on a daily basis. As I advanced into leadership roles, I realized I had the opportunity to indirectly reach more students by providing strong leadership, creating a compelling vision, and inspiring culture change. This new role at Handshake continues to be a natural progression in expanding our ecosystem, allowing me to consider an even broader reach and scale by working collaboratively across the entire higher education community. Below are 3 main reasons I’m most excited to make this move and why I hope you’ll join me in redefining “we.”

Practice what we Preach

As an educator, I have spent countless hours telling our students to take risks. To be curious. To look for connections between seemingly disparate ideas. And to recognize that solutions are not siloed within particular disciplines but rather a result of creative fusion between multiple areas. We encourage and remind them that the future of work will require agility, adaptability, and resilience.

As I considered the trends that I so often write and talk about, I realized I also needed to embrace the future with the same level of courage and consider how this new role at Handshake will provide opportunities to attack the same problem from a different angle. We all want student success and to see our students find and create meaningful work, the question is how do we, in edtech, partner with higher education to do that at scale?

Belief in the Mission

As the daughter of two immigrants and a first-gen student myself, I believe at my very core that where you come from does not have to determine where you go. But it does take a village. Handshake’s mission to democratize opportunity for all students strongly aligns with this belief.

I’ve worked at public and private institutions, large and small, and have witnessed firsthand how our first gen, low income, and underrepresented students don’t always believe they can reach for the same opportunities. They worry about their lack of connections, wonder if they’re asking the right questions, and often have a much smaller margin for exploration or error due to financial constraints.

I want to join a team at the forefront of building solutions that will expand the ecosystem and give students the opportunity to create community not just at one institution, but across the country and around the world. Let’s find ways to break down these barriers to information and increase our students’ access to connections and communities. I want to help all students see the potential that exists within them and provide the tools they need to reach for opportunities they can’t even dream of yet.

Opportunity to Change at Scale

Those who know me, know I love change…leading change, embracing change, talking about change! For the past decade, I’ve diligently led change within the institutions I’ve had the fortune of working at, and I’ve dedicated my time to giving back to my profession in supporting colleagues as they figure out the appropriate changes to make at their respective schools. I care about higher education, about career education, and about how we will continue to gain relevance for our students. When I consider the rapid evolution that’s occurring in every field and sector, it is clear that technology plays a key role in the future of work.

As I’ve often said, technology alone is not the solution. Technology must be combined with a vision and in partnership with higher education in order to provide greater reach, greater insight, and greater opportunity. I believe the efforts we’ll make at Handshake can continue to push the boundaries of our collective thinking and further support institutions as they embrace new ways of increasing access for students, rapidly scale services, and continue to navigate the changing landscapes of both higher education and the world of work.

The Time is Now

Many of us are familiar with the theory of Planned Happenstance, to turn chance events into meaningful opportunities, and for me, this moment could not be more perfect. With the close of their Series C, I am particularly excited to join Hanshake’s team now, as they continue to grow and have the resources to truly make an impact across higher education. The opportunity to work with social impact partners such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, Reach Capital, and many others is one that’s not lost on me. With the significant financial support Handshake’s been able to secure, our students and our teams will have the backing of some of the world’s leading education and philanthropic organizations.

As I reflect upon my own career and consider the ways I want to continue making a difference for all students, I invite you to join me in redefining “we.” We’ve already spent the last decade integrating career education into the fabric of our institutions and connecting more deeply with our academic, enrollment management, student life, alumni, and advancement colleagues. These efforts have allowed us to strengthen the support our students experience and to recognize that student success does not happen in a silo. Let’s continue to uncover the benefits of opening up our higher education ecosystem. It’s time to dream a little bigger, reimagine more collectively, and democratize opportunity for all.