Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 283. Today we’ll be talking to Martin from CareerFoundry about the use case or business case for why his customers choose CareerFoundry.

CareerFoundry’s programs are built around proven learning principles, first‑rate technology and immersive exchanges with industry experts; everything you need to transform your career.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.

Show length: 29 minutes

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Martin Ramsin
Founder & CEO CareerFoundry Follow

Announcer (00:02):

Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast. A show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR Tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.


William Tincup (00:25):

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Martin on from Career Foundry and we’ll be learning about the business case for why prospects or customers, et cetera, why they use Career Foundry. Of course, we call it use case, but it’s typically called the business case internally by HR and TA professionals. So Martin, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Career Foundry?


Martin (00:53):

Sure. So thanks for having me. It’s great to be on the show. So yeah, I’m Martin. I’m from Sweden, which is up north in Europe.


William Tincup (01:05):

Americans are horrible at geography, Martin.


Martin (01:09):

I know.


William Tincup (01:10):



Martin (01:13):

Right. And I moved down to Berlin, Germany, where I live now about 15 years ago. And yeah, I’m kind of a techie person. My background, I lived a year in San Francisco back in 2000 when the bubble burst about that time. Yeah, that was pretty cool.


William Tincup (01:39):

You got to see the implosion. Yeah, that was nice.


Martin (01:42):

I got to see it as an intern in the company, so I had no skin it or anything else, but that was my first experience of the tech world. And I’m kind of a product person, so I’ve always thought about creating good product and eventually I always wanted to start own company and do something cool in product. And ended up starting Career Foundry, which is a education company, online learning company, in 2014, so about eight years ago. And it’s been a really interesting ride to learn about what matters in education, how you can make education better with technology, all those kind of stuff. So I’m sure we’ll get into that more in detail.


William Tincup (02:42):

100%. First of all, online learning, especially at that time, it was probably dominated by LMS, corporate LMSs on the corporate side, which were great, but also kind of failed a lot of the times at implementation because there wasn’t enough content. Either the users couldn’t create content or didn’t know how to create content, or they didn’t subscribe to content or just wasn’t enough content out there. They’ve always been on the corporate side, again, not education, but on the corporate side. LMS, they’ve always been really good at compliance, that type of training, that type of learning, if you will. But not as much on some of the other things like social learning or micro learning and things like that.


Martin (03:29):

Definitely, I mean, there was a big, I guess big hope, that the MOOCs, as they called them, would make education very democratic and available to anyone on the planet, which is a beautiful thought, really. But as you said, it didn’t quite work. And I think the reason was that the way education, how people actually learn, is a bit different. You can’t just stare at a couple of videos and then be able to use those skills properly or it’s very difficult to do that.


William Tincup (04:12):

Yeah, I’ve always been fascinated with, as we get into these discussions, learning styles. I know you know, you’ve studied this stuff so you know this better than I do, but the different learning styles and also learning differences, kind of impediments to learning. I’ve always been fascinated by both those two and they’re different obviously, but stylistically, I don’t know the official name for it, but I’m one of those people that I like, if you give me a new software app, I don’t want to read about it. I don’t want to even want to look at video about it. I just want to get into the app and just start pushing buttons and seeing what goes on.


Martin (04:51):

I think we’re all like that since we were children. Learning by doing is how we actually learn. Trying stuff out and then fail all the time, but then doing it slightly different next time and get a little bit further. It’s kind of like a video game. A video game you’re trying, you’re failing, you start from beginning, you try again, again, again, eventually you get it.


William Tincup (05:15):

It’s fascinating because I say that and I know that other people learn different. I know that people learn differently. I know that the world’s bigger than that. And what’s fascinating about Gen Z, the younger generation, is both my kids, respectively 17 and 13 now, they watch YouTube to watch people playing games. You and I would’ve probably just played the game, Fortnite or whatever, Minecraft, whatever the bid is. We would’ve just opened it up and played and failed, played and failed. But they’ll get on YouTube and watch other people play for hours. And they’re learning obviously. It’s just a different way of learning.


Martin (06:09):

Yeah, no, that’s a very cool trend. And I guess completely different generation to mine. I thought it was very weird when I saw that the first time, but I think it’s actually, there’s something to it, right? Yeah. People like doing it and they actually learn, as you say, they learn from doing that. So yeah, they take away something.


William Tincup (06:35):

They take it back into the game. I mean, I’ve seen both of them do this with the games that they play. They take their learning. I mean, they observe and the people are narrating. So what’s really fascinating is these YouTube stars. They’re playing the game, but they’re also talking about playing the game. So they’re talking about playing and this is why this is so important. You need to make sure you do this and then they take that knowledge back into the game. So instead of experiential, a try and fail, like some folks would do, they watch videos and it’s got music, it’s got narration, it’s got all kinds of stuff. They’re inside, they feel like they’re inside the game, someone else’s instance, and then they take it back to theirs. So I find it fascinating. What do you see, what other types of learning trends or learning things are you seeing now with Career Foundry?


Martin (07:27):

Yeah, so maybe first need to explain a bit what Career Foundry is and who are our customers. So people that come to us, they are typically stuck in their career. They’ve started the career and they feel like they don’t see a future for themselves in that career. Could be that they can’t be creative enough or they don’t have the flexibility that they need in their lives, or they’re not just earning enough money. Can be many reason for them feeling stuck or maybe they just don’t see a future for themselves in that profession. And yeah, they’re looking at to get into tech jobs because that’s where there’s a lot of flexibility typically in tech jobs. You can work from home or from anywhere really. You are pretty well paid typically, and you can be creative in many of those jobs too. And so you can have a lot of impact typically if you work in a startup. So a lot of people are looking for that, but they might not want to go back to school in the traditional sense.

And they might not be able either to do that, because now maybe they have kids. Maybe can’t spend eight hours a day in a classroom. So they’re looking for other solutions and they find Career Foundry. And what we offer is then this career change program online that can take on your part-time weekends and evenings, whenever it sort of fits you. And you do that together with a mentor who guides you along the way. And we design these programs to be career change programs. So you come out of it, you know the basic skills in order to land a job in that profession. So that’s what we do and it’s been super interesting and very rewarding to see a lot of people change career. And when it works, then they’re so happy. And that’s just the best when people are sharing those stories.


William Tincup (10:03):

Yeah, yeah. So first of all, I love it. A lot of people years ago would’ve probably here in the States, they would’ve probably went and earned a master’s degree, and while earning their master’s degree kind of figured out what’s next. They use that as a pivot, if you will, especially if you’re younger in your career. In fact, I saw when I did my MBA, a lot of the MBAs, a lot of my peers, they were pivoting. So they maybe been working in consulting, but they knew that consulting wasn’t their future. So they did their MBA and then they came out of it and did investment banking.

Because it’s similar but different. So younger in one’s career. Yeah, I can see that. I love this. And the first question that comes to my mind is, what if they know they need to make a change? They don’t know to what. I think I could speak for a lot of the audience, I don’t know what I don’t know, but I know that what I’m doing right now, I’m running into either a wall or I’m bored or for whatever reason, just I need to make a change. But I don’t know to what, I don’t know what direction. How do you help there first?


Martin (11:24):

Yeah, so we have people who you can get in contact with who can help you with what are the different professions, how are they different and what are their strengths, and how can you apply those strengths? So for example, there is web development where if you’re into computers and you are into, you really want to be a programmer, that kind of stuff, then you can become a web developer. But of course that’s not for everyone. If you want to work more with people but you still want to be in tech for example, then you could choose a career path to become a UX designer.

A UX designer is somebody who works as a tech at the tech company, but does a lot of user research and talks to a lot of people basically to figure out what they need so that the team can build products for people and make sure that they’re meeting those needs. So that’s a very different type of profession where it’s actually not so much about thinking logically and actually more about understanding people. So there is a lot of different kinds of professions. So it’s just talking with career advisors that know this stuff.


William Tincup (12:52):

So dumb question alert. Do you see a lot of folks coming out of non-tech and going into more technical types of roles?


Martin (13:02):

Yeah, we have, I think about 55% of our students come from non-tech related backgrounds. So can be like taxi driver and becomes a developer or nurse who changes into data analyst.


William Tincup (13:24):

Well, and what’s beautiful about that is we need more tech. I mean, we need more people in tech. It’s also if you feel like you’ve stagnated in whatever career you’re in or whatever jobs you’re in, it’s a wonderful way to kind of learn. And you mentioned it, new skills in a profession that’s needed. So tell us a little bit about the skills development part. How often do you kind of redo the curriculum? As you mentioned, web development. Web development 22 years ago would’ve been different. I-frames and all kinds of languages that probably don’t even exist anymore. So refreshing that, right? You just want to make sure that it’s current as to what’s the need in the market today. So how often do you find yourself and the team going back and looking at the curriculum to make sure it’s what the market wants?


Martin (14:28):

Yeah, so the answer is we make updates every day to the courses. Yeah, because it’s changing so often. There’s new tools to use, there’s new frameworks, whatnot. So we have a whole team that works on constantly updating. But what we also do is once a year we do a whole benchmark on, we look at a lot of jobs, job sites and job openings and see what skills are mentioned in those job ads. And we make sure that we are covering for all the skills that employers are looking for. So that’s kind of a work that we do once a year, just kind of benchmark, make sure that our courses are still up to date in that way.


William Tincup (15:18):

Oh, that’s super smart. Well as you said, the market’s changing basically in seconds and minutes and hours. Skills are changing in much of the same way. So you got to have a finger on the pulse. And I love that. How long, you mentioned mentors, so I want to talk about that, but I also want to talk about how long are they, the programs in general? Are they dependent on what program that they’re trying to enter into?


Martin (15:44):

They’re 10 months all of our programs. And then there’s a period afterwards where we’re helping our students get a job. So we have a career services team that during six months after course supports people to find the next job. So that’s how it looks like. And in terms of the mentorship that you mentioned, we have a support model where there’s a senior mentor that might have 10 years of experience, works at Facebook or Twitter or something, and is kind of quite senior person. Then we have also a tutor that is somebody who helps you along every day of your course. And then we have a career specialist that helps you towards the end of the course and prepares you for the job market and those things.

So when you start the course, you have basically these three people who follow you along the whole journey from start to finish. And we’ve done it that way because it can be quite scary and quite challenging to change career. Because you start from scratch, right? You might have had a really nice career, but then you decide, okay, I actually want to become a UI designer and you start from zero. And that’s super scary. And that’s why a lot of people also want to come to us because of course it’s possible to do it on YouTube as well. Like you mentioned, you can go pretty much all information is out there. But to do this in a structured way with people who are supporting you every day of that program is something that’s different and has a higher success outcome than doing it yourself.


William Tincup (17:56):

Well, and what I love about it is it’s a different type of university or learning experience. So it’s career oriented, which all universities experiences are. But this one’s towards a specific aim, job, job title, et cetera. Do you find yourself with students wanting different degrees, not different degrees, different levels of expertise? You mentioned UI and UX so if they’re a UX person, if they’ve come out of nursing, which we’ll just use that example and they want to be a UX person, they start digging into it and they’re like, they just really, really, really love it. Is there a way to either go faster or go and get, I’d say deeper skills or a different level of skills?


Martin (18:50):

Yeah. We have something we call specializations where you can specialize in an area and we typically provide two or three of those choices and that’s the last two months of your course. You specialize in an area and for example, for a UI designer, it might be that you want to go into more sort of graphic type of design or maybe you are into motion design so you can select between different things. Or voice design is also something that’s popular right now. So yeah, that’s definitely to specialize in an area is an important piece, because when you get out and you need to find a job, it’s really great to have not only the base skills, but also to have an ace in your back pocket you can pull up so you have this specialized skill as well in an area.


William Tincup (19:57):

I love that. And you mentioned you have a career service, because I was going to ask you about placement. You’ve got kind a career services area. How do you work with employers on the other side of the equation? You putting this great talent, they’ve pivoted, they’re learning new skills, the skills are absolutely desired and needed in the market. Now, how do you work with the corporate side, if you will?


Martin (20:22):

Yeah. So because we started online, so back in 2014, we’re online and so we’re always an online school. That meant that we have students everywhere and so we’re spread very thin. And that has been a bit of a challenge then to actually engage on the corporate side for us because there was never enough Career Foundry students in any one given city for an employer to be interested. So that was always kind of a weakness, I guess, of the model. But what happened with COVID and after everyone started working remote, at least in the tech world that’s very common, is that nowadays the employer starts to hire remotely and then of course they can choose any of our students. So I think that’s super interesting because it opens up so much opportunity for us that we can work with remote companies that hire from everywhere. So that’s what I’m hoping to get to, working with remote companies on a level and yeah, we’re hoping to do next year.


William Tincup (21:58):

I love that. Well, I mean, first of all, it’s a great talent pool. If people are, as they listen to this, one of the things to think about is this is just an untapped group of people, that they’re there and they’ve learned new skills and they’re fresh, they’re new skills and they’re excited about, obviously they’re excited about this career path. Let me ask you on your favorite kind of customer story and what student story, a corporate story, et cetera, without names and things like that, but just maybe somewhere when you’re telling the story of Career Foundry, you’re weaving in stories about real people and real change in their lives.


Martin (22:43):

Yeah. There’s so many. I think what I’m most proud of is those that made a career change against the odds kind of thing. And when I think about that, then I think about those that made an extreme jump, for example, from something like taxi driver to web developer or nurse to UX designer. Or they are in the location where maybe there are not that many great schools or may not be that many great companies available. So we had a group of students in the Middle East, for example, who got together and got a group discount with us to career change into become web developers. And that was really, really cool. So I think there were 30 or so people and they were very successful finding jobs afterwards.

I thought that was really cool. And then also people who, for example, in the US and there are places in the US where there are not that many great companies to work for or there are maybe not that many great schools around. And when people find us and they say like, oh wow, it kind of opens up whole new possibilities for them, because all of a sudden, they can learn a whole new profession and they can actually work remotely from where they are at. That of course can be life changing for people. So I love those stories.


William Tincup (24:36):

So two questions real quick, Martin. One is the program length is 10 months. Does it start historically, especially universities here in the states, it’s a August to May type thing. So there’s a semester and then a break and then a semester. I would assume, well, I don’t want to assume anything. What is the two months? Is it when they want to start?


Martin (25:00):

Yeah, it is. So actually it’s quite different from school as you know it. And that was when I started thinking about how to do education online, what I realized was basically that it doesn’t have to be the same. And so there is no classroom, for example. And you can start, every Monday we have start dates. I hope we can get it so you can start every day, I guess we will soon, but right now we have every Monday. And you can go at your own pace. You can study as much as you want to. Maybe one week you don’t feel up for it. Next week you double down and you work double as much. Totally okay.

Yeah. So it doesn’t actually look like school in many ways. It more like looks like you and you have the curriculum and you have your sort of support group, people who are going to check in on you, making sure you’re making progress, making sure you’re learning the stuff, making sure you’re actually building something along the way. Because one important thing is that at the end of the day, what matters is actually what you have produced during the course. So your portfolio, we call it. That’s the piece that you go to the employer at the end of the day and say, hey, look at what I can do. Right?


William Tincup (26:39):

And it’s kind of your name. It’s your name on it. So you want it to look. Yeah.


Martin (26:44):

You want it to look good. And that’s what you’re going to be tested on in job interviews to see if you can actually do the job. There is also a certificate that you get when you complete the course, of course. But to be honest, it’s not the main thing. The main thing is really that you know how to do the things. So yeah.


William Tincup (27:08):

I think that’s interesting because degrees here in the US, there’s still schools that have a lot of sway, obviously, that got a cache of Harvard or something like that. But still, what I find on the recruiting side, the HR side, and especially at the hiring manager side, they just want skilled people. They don’t really like the certificate or the degree. They care, but they don’t really care. Can you do the job? Are you passionate about the job? Sometimes it gets even past skills. It gets into, do you want to wake up in the morning in UI and UX, you want to wake up in the morning and think about this all day long and work on these projects and do all those skills?


Martin (27:55):

And we hire our own graduates in the team as well. And that’s really cool. Yeah.


William Tincup (28:02):

Well Martin, you are doing amazing work. I love Career Foundry. I love it on so many levels just because it’s a different way for people to learn and at different stages in their career. I can see young people doing this, so it’s not necessarily age bound, but I see a lot of people, especially in my own life, that they want to change but they don’t know how to change. If it’s just a four year degree, that’s a massive, first of all, it’s a lot of money involved and all the other stuff, but it’s just a massive commitment where, this is a commitment too, but they can still be doing the other job while doing this, which I really find wonderful. So hey, thank you for building what you’ve built. I love it. And also thank you for being on the podcast.


Martin (28:53):

Thank you.


William Tincup (28:54):

And thanks for listening.


Martin (28:55):

It was fun.


William Tincup (28:56):

No worries, no worries. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.


Announcer (29:02):

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The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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