In this episode, Mike Gardon chats with Tom Brunskill. Tom Brunskill is the co-founder and CEO of Forage, a job simulation platform that helps students bridge the gap between education and work opportunities. On a mission to make education-to-workforce pathway more equitable, Tom co-founded Forage in 2017 to provide the ability to preskill through virtual job simulations produced by the world’s top companies, including J.P. Morgan, Lyft and Walmart, to name a few. By breaking down barriers to gaining workplace-specific skills, Tom hopes to level the opportunity playing field and empower anyone to pursue their dream career. Tom started his career as a corporate lawyer at a multinational law firm in Australia before moving to San Francisco and has been featured in Business Insider, Financial Times and TechCrunch, among others.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:
- Tom’s background
- How Tom realized it was time for his career pivot
- The people who influenced Tom’s career and career decisions
- Forage - how it works, the specific problems Forage solves
- Online job stimulations that Forage uses - how you can test careers and build skills before applying for roles
- How universities are using online job stimulations from Forage
- How Forage is also working on the issues within the education system
- Tom’s thoughts on resumes and portfolios of work
- What you can expect from using Forage
- All online job stimulations are free
- You can start by viewing a catalog of courses to match your passions and skills
- Majority of programs take 5-7 hours to complete
- When you finish the online job stimulation, employers can reach out to you and encourage you to apply to jobs
HELP US OUT!
Help us reach new listeners by leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts! It takes less than 30 seconds and really helps our show grow, which allows us to bring on even better guests for you all! Thank you – we really appreciate it.
BOOKS AND RESOURCES:
- Train first, get hired second - how Forage thinks about careers
- Connect with Forage on LinkedIn, Twitter and their website.
- Connect with Tom on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.
Hello, hello, welcome to another edition of CareerCloud Radio. I’m your host, Michael Gardon. I’m on a mission to help people break the drudgery of work and build a career of their choosing. Today’s guest is Tom Brunskill. He is the CEO and co-founder of Forage, a job stimulation platform that helps students bridge the gap between education and work opportunities. Boy oh boy is this sorely needed today. He’s on a mission to make the education-to-workforce pathway more equitable. Tom cofounded Forage in 2017 to provide the ability to pre-skill through virtual job stimulations produced by the world’s top companies including JP Morgan, Lyft, and Walmart to name a few. By breaking down barriers to gaining workplace-specific skills, Tom hopes to level the opportunity playing field and empower anyone to pursue their dream career. Sounds a lot like our mission! Tom started his career as a corporate lawyer at a multinational law firm in Australia before moving to San Francisco. He has been featured in Business Insider, Financial Times, and TechCrunch among others. I hope you enjoy this amazing conversation with my friend Tom Brunskill.
Mike Gardon (00:01):
Tom, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Tom Brunskill (00:03):
Awesome. I really appreciate you inviting me on today. I'm here in, uh, very rainy during summer San Francisco. So, which is kind of part of the course here.
Mike Gardon (00:14):
Well, good. Yeah. Great to have you, um, really excited to get into the topic of really what your company does. The listeners just heard an intro about you and, and what the company is. So I'm really excited to dig into that, but as I kind of kicked off to you before we started this podcast is really about kind of discovering what people wanna do with their lives and, and creating change. And so in, in that vein, I, if you could just start by giving us a little bit of backstory on you, uh, where you're from and how you kind of got to San Francisco.
Tom Brunskill (00:46):
Yeah. You can probably tell from the accent that I'm not a native to San Francisco by any stretch of the imagination and my backstory isn't particularly unique, but it is critically connected to what I do now at Boge. Um, so I'm Australian, I was raised in a small regional town called Wagar Wagar, which is a funny-sounding town. I had the opportunity to go off to school in one of the big cities. And then I ultimately decided to study law, which you study undergrad at one of the big universities in Australia. Now I didn't come from a family of kind of accountants, bankers lawyers. And so some of those critical, like early life decisions, I had some pretty poor proxies as to why I was choosing, uh, particular career paths. So I decided to study law because my parents said that I had a real pension for arguing as a child.
Tom Brunskill (01:36):
And that was the natural next step for me. And when I got to the end of my law degree, despite having a great education, I had no real idea where I wanted to start my career. And at that time I often joke about it, but unfortunately, it's true. I was up to my neck and watching Suits and Boston legal. And instead of using any sort of meaningful data point on where I should start my career, I literally used, uh, Boston Legal and Suits as a decision to go in and become a corporate, like an M and an attorney and shock horror. That is not a great reason to choose a career. Unfortunately, I wasn't Harvey specter or Lewis lit walking around my expectation around what the role was going to be. And the reality of the role was two very different things. And what I kind of noticed was that there was this significant information as the symmetry between what I thought a career, uh, entailed and, and what the career actually entailed.
Tom Brunskill (02:31):
And so I did that for a couple of years. I was a really bad attorney, which meant that I was even more miserable in my job, my skills and interests weren't aligned with it. And I kind of reached this inflection point where I, you know, I'd come from a family of small business owners and I thought, you know, like, why don't I go and try to solve this problem myself? In retrospect, I kind of lost my breath thinking about how reckless I was in terms of leaving this great job and the great career that I'd worked hard to get into, basically starting again and building a company from scratch. But we started building this company, which will, I'm sure we'll get to in a moment around how to help young people make more informed and deliberate career decisions started that with my co-founder Pasha, it was just two of us started building the company in about 2017 and then decided that we like the pain points that we were solving were acutely felt in the US.
Tom Brunskill (03:24):
And my wife was also a technology attorney. She's Australian. She wanted to move over to the US as well. And so, yeah, we came right into the heart of it. We moved over to San Francisco in, uh, 2018 and have been here for the last four or five years, uh, building the company. And we started with two people in the company. As of last week, we just crossed, uh, a hundred employees. So it's, it's grown really quickly in a short period of time, but yeah, that's probably too much information, but that's how I ended up sitting where I am now. So
Mike Gardon (03:54):
You just said San Francisco is where it's the tech hub of the world. That's where we gotta be. That was your, thinking there.
Tom Brunskill (04:01):
Yeah, I think that's changed even in the five years that I've been there. I think COVID accelerated the internationalization of like where you can build a company and like where external capital can come from, where like a venture-backed company, we're a tech company. And so like historically San Francisco and the bay area is the place to come. I still believe that it is the best place in the world, to build a technology company, but I don't think it is as important that you're in San Francisco today as it may have been pre-COVID. So when we moved over, it certainly was a place to be. But I think people now have a more open mind about where great founders and great companies can come from. And there's not as much pressure to build tech companies from the bay area compared to, you know, the pressure that there used to be.
Mike Gardon (04:47):
Got it. So a couple of just interesting similarities, I think between our stories, one, I almost became a lawyer or at least got, almost got a JD. I come from family lawyers. My dad's a lawyer. My uncle is a very successful lawyer. We got a few doctors in the family, so very career paths and are smart people. And as that guy who was like, God, I don't know what I wanna do. Like there's too much out there. That's interesting that kind of, that just natural inertia of having a path. I almost kind of succumbed to that. And I had a moment where I was gonna go to school and get a joint MBA, JD. And I, I just, for whatever reason, I said, that's not for me. And I can't explain it other than it was just a feeling. You obviously went ahead with it, but, we had that similarity.
Mike Gardon (05:35):
And then I think the other one is really what you're doing today is, was born out of your experience and kind of your frustration, and to go down the road of being corporate lawyer, and then, you know, years later, deciding not to like, there's a big cost associated with that in terms of time and experience, and maybe the, maybe the lessons, you know, necessary. But I think that there are obviously a lot of people who feel like you did, and I was one of them. So there's gotta be a better way to sort of aligning people with work. That's one of the reasons why I just really wanted to talk to you today about what you guys are doing, and, we will definitely get into that. So was there a particular moment that stands out in your pivot from a corporate lawyer? You kind of detailed how maybe you weren't very good at it but was there a particular moment where you woke up in the middle of the night and just said, I can't do this. Or how did that kind of unfold?
Tom Brunskill (06:33):
I could tell that my focus like any career being, uh, a corporate lawyer was incredibly taxing. It requires an incredible amount of time, effort, and dedication. And if your heart's not fully in it, you can start to just tell like really easily. Like if you're sitting there at like 11:00 PM, midnight, 1:00 AM like toiling away doing work that you don't enjoy, that misery's kind of like exacerbated. And I could tell that I was starting to get distracted by things outside of my role. So I thought, you know, as I kind of mentioned earlier, I came from a family of small business owners. And, uh, certainly it was like looking at like what other opportunities I could do to like build a business. But quite honestly, I actually tried to get a job in kind of early stage investing in an early stage startup, but no one would hire me because the only reason they would hire me is that I like, oh yeah, we need a lawyer in our team.
Tom Brunskill (07:29):
And I was like, no, but I don't wanna be a lawyer. And they'll be like, yeah, but you are a lawyer. And so I actually found, I was like really pigeonholed into being a lawyer that gave me job security, but it also was almost quite suffocating in terms of like my ability to kind of break free of the shackles of like the legal profession, cuz I'd been pigeonholed into that. Someone gave me the, I forget exactly who gave me the advice. But when I started trying to apply for these jobs, I started getting feedback. Like, why don't you just go and like build something yourself? And I had been on the side working with my current co-founder, we'd been building a network of young people to have been mentors, to students from kind of broad and diverse backgrounds that didn't have access to young professionals to kind of help them guide them through the job application process.
Tom Brunskill (08:15):
And we started building some tech around that and it kind of just snowboard. And then we quite, fortunately, bumped into these, uh, two guys who were so enamored with what we were building and why we were building it in our spare time that they offered to invest the equivalent of 45,000 Australian dollars, which is pretty much the equivalent of like $30,000. So not like a ton of capital, but it was like something to start with. The only condition was that we left our jobs in seven days and started working full time and we'd work in the office next to them. And so, you know, I'd never said to my wife or anyone in my family that I was going to, uh, had been considering leaving my job. And quite honestly, I came home and said, Hey, I wanna talk to you about something.
Tom Brunskill (09:03):
You know, I've been doing this thing on the side. Well, I've got this like opportunity, a little tiny bit of capital to like go off and get started. But it means that I've gotta like leave my job, leave the law and start from scratch, and credit those closest around me, including my wife. They were like, go for it, like have a crack and see what happens. And so it was like a very, it escalated very quickly from one day. I wasn't thinking about doing this full time, I'd been doing it as a hobby, and then it's like a little opportunity came up and I just took the plunge, and yeah, that was that seven days later, I was like, you know, in my t-shirt and jeans with a backpack on, uh, walking to a different part of the city with, you know, no salary, no nothing. Yeah. Kind of had that challenge, of building something from scratch
Mike Gardon (09:50):
Takes a certain amount of confidence to make that kind of decision, I think like in seven days. And, and it, you know, it's a pretty drastic decision. Where do you think that came from? Was it an innate sort of confidence in your abilities? Or was it more, I just got to get how like this, this site full sucking and I gotta get out
Tom Brunskill (10:11):
There are, there are different inputs. Like there wasn't like one single reason. Certainly, I didn't, I certainly wouldn't say it was cuz I had innate confidence. Like I never thought I'd be a founder. I never thought I would kind of build a business. I thought I was like competent enough to do that. But it was a mixture of, I was miserable in my role. I was super passionate about the problem that I wanted to solve. So I didn't know what the solution was, but I was really passionate and, and they were inter lean. So my misery in the role was connected to my passion to like, how do I help other people make more informed, deliberate career decisions so that they're choosing the jobs which align with their superpowers and passions earlier. So they may be avoiding the mistakes. I didn't know how to solve it, but I was really passionate.
Tom Brunskill (10:55):
Like there's gotta be a better way to solve this cause traditional education doesn't do a great job of doing that. And then it was also an input of not so much the faith in myself that other people around me were placing in me. And I wanna acknowledge not everyone could do what I did in terms of like, I was privileged enough to have a spouse at the time who had a salary who could support, you know, pay the bills, pay the rent. And it would've been a lot harder to do if I didn't have someone, uh, kind of supporting me that way. But it was a combination of the faith that was showing in me from my family and my wife and those close around me, my passion, uh, for solving this problem, and my misery in the role that I was in, they were the three driving things that were, when I, when I made the decision, honestly, I didn't really St on the decision. I just knew. I was like, all right, I'm gonna do this.
Mike Gardon (11:48):
Okay, cool. So you mentioned your wife who, and maybe it's her or who else maybe has influenced you the most in terms of your career in your life or, particularly around that specific inflection point.
Tom Brunskill (12:04):
So obviously spoken about my wife, but my parent's cliche answer, but my parents, uh, a small business owner from, you know, spent most of their career building a small business in regional Australia. And I often like, look back, you know, I was just talking to you before about how I've got an 18-month-old son. And I think about like, what is the type of parent that I want to be? If I could be half the parent, you know, half the parent that my parents were to me, I will be exceptionally proud of what I do. And like what my parents did is they gave me, uh, they gave me the tools to succeed. They invested in my education and they gave me the tools to succeed. And they gave me the space and like a license to fail, to go off and do things that maybe they didn't like or agree with deep down or they thought were risky.
Tom Brunskill (12:53):
But ultimately they're like, they ultimately they're like, Hey, you gotta go and carve your own way. And like, you should have a crack at these things. Even if they may have had some reticence around how risky the life decisions I was making were. So, and also just kind of seeing the way that they built small businesses and they treated their staff and they treated their customers. That's been like hugely influential in the way that I aspire to be as like a business owner and as a manager and as someone who works closely with our customers, I certainly try and internalize like their sense of, you know, service and their sense of humility in the way that I live my life. And as I said, I've got a long way to go kind of get to the standards that they've hit, but they've been incredibly influential and I wouldn't be able to do what I do, but for, you know, their contribution to, to my upbringing.
Mike Gardon (13:43):
That's great. And I feel very similar to my parents. I was fortunate that they invested in my education and gave me the tools. And I think like the number one thing I would say very similar, like, you know, again, my father was a lawyer, had his career path and I went out and did a bunch of, you know, weird things. And I'm sure they thought were risky and you didn't quite know I was gonna make it or whatever, but they, you know, they were supportive, go for it, try it. And we're here if it doesn't work out like that kind of thing. And then I think the number one thing that they did was, or at least my dad was cuz he was a lawyer. He just helped me think through the problem from all angles. And I think that was almost his need.
Mike Gardon (14:23):
Like he needed to know that I could think through it and if I could, it didn't matter what I did cuz I was cognizant and aware of all that. So I like, I've often thought about that in, and then in the context of how I want to parent my kids and what I wanna do and I kind of boil, it down to like, I'm a coach like I'm their coach. Yeah. And so that's how I think about it. For like I wanna be supportive. You need to give 'em the space to shoot for the moon and you need to be able to be there with advice and guidance when they need it. And so that's like how I view my role with my kids and, and employees is I, I'm not an employer and I'm not really a dad. I'm a coach.
Tom Brunskill (14:59):
Yeah. I love that. I love that analogy.
Mike Gardon (15:01):
I wanna dig into forage now. So your company's forage, we kind of talked about your, like the inspiration for it coming out of, you know, really your just deep-seated feelings about figuring out careers and making better, better, uh, decisions about it. So how does forage work? What is the specific problem that you're kind of trying to go after, I guess, and, and what was the light bulb by, you know, the moment where you've kind of figured out it was the flywheel is gonna work.
Tom Brunskill (15:30):
Yeah. So fundamentally the problem that we're looking to solve is there this very obvious gap between the world of learning and the world of work, traditional forms of education, don't do a great job, of giving young people the skills or the tools to make, I can inform and deliberate career decisions. So what ends up happening is they end up in roles like I did where you're miserable and we've kind of popularized this idea that, you know, as a young person, you need to bounce around a couple of jobs first 10 years of your career. And you, you kind of hate some, you like some until you figure out what you're good at. And I'm like, that's just like a dumb way of doing things. Like why do I have to waste 10 years of my career to find a job which aligns with my skills and interests.
Tom Brunskill (16:12):
And if traditional education isn't gonna focus on that then who can focus on it. And we actually think employees actually have a lot to gain from young people, having that career readiness and making better career decisions. Because ultimately that means that they're ending up with talent, which truly is aligned with their roles and interests. So one of our like fundamental insights of porage is like rather than employees hiring first and training second, how do you get employees to train candidates or students first and hire them second? And the way that we do that is through, uh, online job simulations. So these are like five to 10-hour simulations, which replicate what it's like to work in a particular company. These simulations like living on forage and allow you to road test different careers, build skills, build confidence, and understand if I'm sitting at my desk in this particular role in this particular company, what are the types of things that I'm going to be doing?
Tom Brunskill (17:07):
So we work with companies like Lulu lemon, electronic arts, Walmart, BCG, and Goldman Sachs PWC, and these companies are creating these simulations that allow any student. There's no cap on involvement to build those skills and confidence. So if you enrolled in our electronic art software engineering job simulation, for example, you'd be learning how to build a fictional new game called VAX. Man, you'd be learning how to use, uh, Python and C plus you'd be learning how to mitigate cybersecurity risk as you develop that game. The whole idea is like, yeah, if I'm sitting at my desk in this particular company, what are the types of tasks that I'll be doing? And let me get my hands dirty, let me have a crack at those tasks before I actually like apply for roles that these companies do so I can make more informed career decisions. So we've got 150 employers who have posted about 270 job simulations on forage. We've had 3 million students go through these simulations over the last two years. And we work with 700 universities around the world, 400 here in the US who actually integrate this catalog of simulations into their coursework. So now universities are starting to use this content themselves to help prepare their students for the world of work.
Mike Gardon (18:24):
So that makes a lot of sense. Like there's this sort of, you know, design, when you go through like human-centered design, there's this conference full it's, like diverge then converge, right? Like diverge and see a whole bunch of different options feel what they feel like relative to another, to each other and then converge on the ones that make the most sense. And college is the exact opposite. It's like, well, we're gonna train, give you some basic skills, and then go, go, just go pick something randomly and then go figure it out. It's like, no, that, that doesn't make sense. How do we diverge converge? And so when I came across forage, I was like, man, this is to be a one really good way to do it. Like as a student, I'm assuming I can go on there. I could, I could take 10 15 of these things and really get some, some insight quickly in a couple of hours on what that job's like and what I'm gonna do. And then, then do, do you also work on, is there any, um, I guess perspective on a career path from the job? Or is it, or is it, is it pretty job specific?
Tom Brunskill (19:27):
Yeah, so it's pretty job-specific at the moment, but we are figuring out how to support it. So we're starting in early talent right now, but we're, and I know a lot of your audience is career changes or whatnot, but that idea of like training first and getting hired second works with students. We don't think that's the only place that it works. We think wherever there's information as the symmetry between a candidate and an employer, it makes a ton of sense for that employer to take the time to pre-training that talent or we call it Preki that talent through this job simulation. So we are just about to release a new program with, uh, quite a large employer, which is focused on helping parents who wanna reenter the workforce or other examples is a lot of our partner companies are in the process of creating programs for military personnel who are transitioning into civilian life or high school students that are thinking about corporate apprenticeship programs as an alternative route into professional work, as opposed to doing the four-year college degree, which is out of reach for so many people here in America and globally.
Tom Brunskill (20:30):
So we think that the idea of this kind of train first, highest, second, doesn't just have application in its early talent. There are different inflection points within a candidate's, uh, a career where they can be using these simulations to build skills, build career visibility and make those more informed, deliberate career decisions as they go along.
Mike Gardon (20:51):
Yeah. Make. So that makes a ton of sense. I spoke with the CMO of the Americas of Google and talked about, you know, their certifications and things like that, that they have going on in partnering with universities around the world. Similar thing, are there certifications that, that come with this, that people can use on their resume? Or how does that all work?
Tom Brunskill (21:14):
Yeah, so we absolutely love what Google has done with the group with Google kind of, uh, digital certifications, which they do alongside course era. So it is similar. I think the subtle difference between what they do and what we do is that our programs aren't so much focused on like building a generic skill. It's about building skills in the context of like a very specific role at a very specific company. And so unlike other online learning providers, what we're fixated on is how you create online learning content, which is a direct path into employment. So it's not like I do a certification, I have a certificate. I then go to an employer and hope that they like to care about that certificate or they place some weight on it. It's like, no, the employees themselves are creating, crafting these curriculums and they're using it as a way to build a talent pipeline with the intention of hiring those people into their organization.
Tom Brunskill (22:10):
So if you finish our programs, you do get certificates, you do get certifications, and you can use them on your CV. You can use it in your application process. But most importantly, our partner employees, there are looking at the candidates and wanting to bring them into the recruitment process and like ultimately with a view to hiring them. So it's some of our largest, uh, customers here in the US who are hiring one, two, 3000 entry-level hires each year. We're now seeing up to 50% of those hires coming from their co their job simulation on forage.
Mike Gardon (22:43):
Yeah. Okay. That makes a ton of sense. Like there's so much talk, especially at the, at the entry-level, you know, coming outta college, like, what's your advice for college students getting a job? How do they stand out? How do they get their resume seen, you know, and apply for these jobs? It's like, well, here's an option.
Tom Brunskill (23:25):
Exactly. And we, and we think that the resume to be honest is a not great artifact or not a great indicator for future success. Like where we think the world of hiring is moving is towards this idea that you need to build your own portfolio of work, which is relevant to a particular industry, an employer, and showcase your potential and showcase your skills. But uh, through that portfolio of work, you'd never hire an architect. You'd never hire a graphic designer without like looking at the work that they do. You'd never look at their CV or what school they went to. What you'd be looking at is like, show me some of the work that you've done is that aligned with what we're looking for is that aligned with our brand, our business. And so we think that that's gonna happen in professional services in entry-level roles in corporate roles is that we're gonna move towards, when you talk about skills-based hiring, we're gonna move towards this world where candidate, the best thing that candidates can do is build a portfolio of work, which showcases their intent, showcases their skills to specific roles in specific industries.
Tom Brunskill (24:28):
And forage does that. You can build that portfolio in forage and employees have access to those portfolios so they can make more informed hiring decisions rather than looking at what school you went to, and what your GPA is. Things that we don't think, uh, correlate to long-term success and things, which aren't great drivers of upward social inability, either.
Mike Gardon (24:50):
Bingo. The value prop makes a lot of sense. I think that's where the future's going. And like I said, I just keep coming back around with this idea. You're in the funnel.
Tom Brunskill (25:28):
Sure. So firstly, all of our simulations are completely free and open access, whether you're a student or not. So any listener can jump onto forage and interact with our content for free. So we would highly encourage anyone. Who's interested to go and check it out, but you would jump onto forage. And there's like a catalog of different courses. We do a little bit of like upfront getting to know the person. You know, our tech basically gets to know the person who comes onto forage and like starts matching them with like potential simulations. Then you decide to enroll in a simulation and then you start going through some of the tasks and scenarios and uh, you know, educational resources to develop your skills. So if you enrolled in our KPMG data science program, uh, the very first task is you'll get this fictitious scenario where your customer is a giant retailer.
Tom Brunskill (26:18):
Who's trying to sell a new product to a segment of their customers. And you are learning how to download this like data set on their particular customers and analyze that data set. So you're learning like how do I analyze that data set? How do I extract, uh, like insights from that data set? And then the next step is okay, now that you've extracted those insights, you have to do a fictitious presentation to the client. And in the process, you're learning how to use Tableau. How do you present those insights through data visualization software? How do you present to a customer? So the whole idea is like it's that day in our life. Like these tasks are meant to kind of mimic a day in our life of being a data scientist at K and G highly specific to that particular company. And then when you finish and there are no time limits when you finish, that's where you, you kind of get a certificate, you can use it on your CV, you can use it in, you cover it, you can use it in your interviews, but also the employer can start reaching out to you and being like, Hey, like we'd love you to apply for this particular track or this particular position.
Tom Brunskill (27:18):
And that's like that point that you made that they're already in the funnel, you've got the employer proactively reaching out to these candidates.
Mike Gardon (27:26):
Got it. What's a typical range of like time involved to complete one of these things. Is it, is it a big range? Is it pretty uniform or how does that work?
Tom Brunskill (27:34):
Yeah, so a lot of our programs kind of take five to seven hours to complete, which we don't think is like so long that it's prohibitive to exploring other programs on our platform, but it's not so short that it's like gimmicky. We are experimenting with shorter-form simulations at the moment. So MasterCard visa, Lulu lemon, and red bull have just released programs, which are simulations, which are two to three hours in length. And we are constantly experimenting with the length and medium in which that kind of job simulation content is delivered through, uh, forage. But yeah, so you can kind of typically think of them being anywhere from like two hours on the lower end to seven hours on the upper end in, in duration.
Mike Gardon (28:16):
Okay. So there, you're kind of experimenting with like almost a, a sample format versus a, like an, acquire the skilled format, you know, a serious versus browser kind of mentality. It seems like.
Tom Brunskill (28:29):
Yeah. So what we do is because we work with so many employers across so many different industries, we make sure that the content doesn't overlap with one another. So if you were interested in becoming an investment banker, for example, you could do like our Goldman Sachs, our city bank, our HSBC, JP Morgan, one, you there's like multiple ones that you can enroll in and you're acquiring new skills through each of those simulations. So while the simulations themselves might only be kind of six to eight hours, you know, if you started doing all of them, they're all allowing you to build different skills. As an investment banker, there is like 80, a hundred, 200 hours of content, if you so wished to go and engage with all of that content. But there is a balance between not having the content so long that it is prohibitive.
Tom Brunskill (29:16):
Cause I, the whole idea here is like career discovery. And so like not everyone wants to spend two hours learning 200 hours learning to be an investment banker, some do, but not everyone does. And so it's that balance between how do we give them enough content to the road, test it while going and figuring out maybe they wanna be a data scientist at warmup. For example, maybe they wanna be a consultant at BCG, for example. So giving them that kind of balance to be able to explore industries outside of the ones that they assume they're aligned with.
Mike Gardon (29:44):
Okay. And then you were talking about how the hiring managers see applicants and all that kind of stuff. Is there an issue between competitors? So again, I don't know all of the companies that, that you have, but I'm, I'm wondering if Walmart has a data science program or, or module and Amazon do, are both companies able to see that candidate or does a candidate have to essentially double the work?
Tom Brunskill (30:10):
No. So the employer only has access to the candidate that has enrolled in their particular simulation. So if in that specific scenario, you had enrolled in the Walmart data science program, then you wouldn't appear in the Amazon pipeline. There's nothing stopping that student from going and enrolling in the Amazon pipeline and starting to do, uh, that content as well. In saying that we do wanna move towards a world where we, you know, we talk about like a shared talent marketplace where it's actually in companies, in interest for them to work together and ensure that, uh, students are making informed decisions about which brands do align with their skills and interests. The truth of the matter is that these companies are only hiring 1% of the candidates that apply to their organization. So what happens to the other 99% of my strong perspective and what we educate companies on is like, it's no skin off your nose. If we go and help that 99% of candidates find roles elsewhere, which do align with their skills and interests. So we would love to see, and we're trying to proactively foster greater collaboration and teamwork between competitors so that the right candidates are ending up in the right roles and the right organizations, which ultimately we think benefit the individual companies themselves.
Mike Gardon (31:31):
Yeah. 1% versus 99, everybody's gotta fit in, you know, somewhere. And we're, we got a shortage of talent right now, right. Amount of job. So it makes sense to have some cross-collaboration. I'm glad you're working on that. Anything I'm, I'm kind of leaving off the table. Uh, anything else that we haven't covered about forage specifically that you wanna share?
Tom Brunskill (31:50):
No, I think you've, you've done a great job of abstracting kind of who we are, what we are. I think the only final point that I would punctuate is we're really focused on building or kind of reshaping the process and the education system to be far more accessible. We don't think that the recruitment system, the way that it currently works is great in terms of fostering social mobility. The truth of the matter is that not everyone in the US is starting from the same starting position. Your ability to access a four-year college degree is disproportionately connected to the socioeconomic, you know, circumstances that you are born into. And so like, unless you think that the wealth that you're born into is like a proxy for intelligence, which I don't think any rational person would believe. We need to think about how do we create a recruitment process?
Tom Brunskill (32:38):
How do we build an education system, which is far more equitable and accessible to a larger, broader, and more diverse, um, kind of candidate audience. And so that's what we're really fixated on forage is like, how do we elevate our candidates from historically marginalized and overlooked backgrounds, whether they're going to schools that companies have not historically interacted with coming from backgrounds that companies haven't historically inter interacted with, how do we elevate that talent and get them into these organizations, which is ultimately a good thing and, and also a great thing for those businesses as well.
Mike Gardon (33:13):
Excellent. Thank you for that. I appreciate it was that that was, that's a great point that we didn't really get to, and that needs to be talked about. I got it, I just have two more questions. What's kind of your best advice for a young person just starting out looking to build their career or, or make a career change, or just like really get on top of executing on, that career. What comes to mind for you?
Tom Brunskill (33:36):
I don't know if I got the authority to start giving advice, but if I was to give advice, I think the one thing is, you know, I would say to a young person is like maximize your surface area of luck. Some people kind of look at, you know, candidates or, you know, whoever it might be and be like, oh, that person got lucky. But if you typically kind of reverse engineer, what they've done is they have thrown themselves into like a ton of different opportunities and maximize their surface area of like, as opposed to like 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, where it was enough to go off and get a four-year college degree at a good university, good grades. And that would kind of like set you up. Like those days are over. What we're seeing is that as, uh, companies, employers are starting to look for what the candidate is outside of that, what are the other things they've been doing?
Tom Brunskill (34:24):
And, you know, yeah. What I would say to a young person is like, you know, what side hustles that you can do? Who are people in the industry that you look up to that you can reach out to and like build connections with like, what are the types of things that you can do, which broaden your surface area? Like I fully acknowledge that, uh, people are coming from the ability to access different networks or different opportunities is different for people from different backgrounds, but with what you've got you, you've gotta really go out of your way to maximize that surface area of luck. And then I also believe that by maximizing your surface area of luck, you will end up making a more informed deliberate career decision, cuz you've just had greater exposure to different opportunities, and different pathways that sit out there.
Mike Gardon (35:10):
Yeah. Well said, I think about it in terms of sort of finance topics, and options, right? Like, and, and options have value when you have a lot of uncertainty and you don't know what the next step is, you need to create options. And when you do know you need to, you need to shed options. And so that kind of goes back to that diverge, converge yeah. The framework that I was talking about before. So how do you maximize your surface area of luck? It's creating some, some system to enable you to, to throw a lot, have a lot of balls in the air and pick up what works and then bet heavier on, you know, the signal that you find there and, and what you're sort of naturally excited about and passionate about and, and where you get your opportunities. So I like that. I love the idea of that, that visual of luck having surface area and, and maximizing that when you're young. So thank you very much for that. Where can people learn more about you and, and you personally and your business?
Tom Brunskill (36:07):
Yes. So forage first place for forage is to check out our website, which is www.forage.com. We're also very LA active on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn, which is like Thomas Brunk, but also feel free to follow forage as well. On LinkedIn, we have like a ton of career resources helping, uh, career changes. Young people kind of build information, and knowledge around how to find a first job, but yeah, WW, the forage.com or yeah. LinkedIn is the best place to find us.
Mike Gardon (36:41):
Great. We'll make sure we have links to all of those in our show notes when that comes out. So people can read online and, and click through to all of that kind of stuff. Tom really appreciates you being on here. I enjoyed our conversation best of luck to you and your mission. I think it's a great one and I'm excited to kind of follow your progress.
Tom Brunskill (37:00):
Thanks, Mike. Really appreciate it.
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