Filling the tech skills gap – Interview with Raffaela Rein, CEO of CareerFoundry


Raffaela Rein is the CEO and Co-Founder of CareerFoundry, an online school for UX/UI Design, Web & Mobile Development. The Berlin-based company was founded in 2013 and already employs a team of more than 100 people. So far, CareerFoundry has raised about $6.5 million in venture capital. Prior to CF, Raffaela was launching companies for Rocket Internet and Axel Springer, and working as an investment strategist for BlackRock. Raffaela is dedicated to educating the next generation of digital talent and to helping companies become category winners by creating a world-class user experience. Enjoy the interview.

From banker to startup founder, how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

I’ve always thought I would start my own company one day. My first business was a yoga club while I was at university. I then joined Rocket Internet in 2011 to learn how internet businesses work, and launched three companies for them in Asia. Then I did a brief stint at Axel Springer, where we were trying to hire 150 developers. That’s when I had my Eureka moment: a company that trains people in the most in-demand digital skills, in a hands-on way. My gut feeling proved right: today we work with companies like Lufthansa and Amazon, and our graduates work at world-leading companies including Apple and Zalando.

Now you are attempting to revolutionize education and employment through CareerFoundry. How has the company developed since its inception?

We started out in 2013 with two founders and a big idea. In 2017, we are now working with thousands of people across the world. Some are company leaders at places like Netflix or Amazon who are looking to further develop either their own expertise or that of their team. Others are people who are seeking a career change with better prospects, and we have placed them in companies such as Apple, HubSpot and Zalando.

Today, we are a 30-strong team based in Berlin and a team of 6 in the USA, supported by over 150 amazing mentors around the world.

CareerFoundry is replacing the teacher-class principle with one-to-one tutoring. How much are the mentors involved and how do you follow the progress of the students?

In addition to their tutor, each student is assigned a dedicated mentor. This puts our students in such a unique position; there is so much to gain from having a mentor, but it’s not so easy to just go out and find one. With CareerFoundry, you’re automatically paired up with an industry expert from day one, and we’ve seen first-hand what a difference this makes. Mentors check in at different stages of the course. This is a great opportunity for students to prepare their CV or brush up on their interview skills with someone who knows the industry inside out. We have a lot of career changers too, and a mentor can really help to talk through any doubts or worries the student might be having.

At the same time, we work closely with mentors and tutors to make sure our students are on track. We encourage mentors and tutors to flag up any issues and to let us know if they need support at any time. We also have our Curriculum team who review lots of sample submissions to check that the quality is good enough.

A job after six months or your money back. How do you secure placement opportunities for your alumni after the end of the program and what makes you sure they will get a position?

We have a dedicated Career Services team in-house that works with our students on their application materials and interview prep, and we have a solid network of employers who we are in touch with on behalf of our graduates. Furthermore, we offer an optional online module that systematically guides students through both the application and interview process. These features, together with the fact that the skills we teach are highly sought-after in the industry, make it possible for our graduates to confidently enter the job market.

With so many different educational platforms out there, what makes Careerfoundry stand out?

 First of all, we work with industry leaders such as Amazon and InVision to develop the best courses, and to ensure that what we teach is relevant in the market. We also offer a unique, world-first satisfaction guarantee – get a job or your money back. At the same time, we provide one-to-one mentorship, pairing our students with highly experienced industry experts. Last but not least, we offer unique specialization courses.

CareerFoundry has helped educate more than 27,000 people so far. What is next?

Caroline Fairchild, Managing Editor at LinkedIn, famously said, “There will be plenty of jobs in the future, you just won’t be able to do them”. The biggest challenge when it comes to digital transformation is still a shortage of talent. We still have so much to do around the world to equip people with the skills and abilities to carry out the jobs of the future – both in the disciplines we teach today as well as in new professions that are emerging. 

As part of the edtech industry, in your opinion, what are the current challenges in the industry and how do you see it changing in the next 5 years?

There are different challenges to consider depending on whether we are talking about adult education or about children. For me, the biggest challenge in edtech is that the quality across the industry is pretty low. In order to achieve mass adoption, we need more high-quality providers who show that online learning can be more effective than sitting a group of adults in the same room for a week.

You have won the 2015 Young European Innovator award and CareerFoundry was named as one of the 20 Edtech startups changing education in Europe. What other great achievements would you share with us?

At the end of 2017, we reached a great milestone – we are now cash-flow positive for the first time. What’s more, we have placed graduates at top companies around the world, including Apple, BBC and Telekom to name just a few. We are working with some of the world’s leading companies to help them become more user-focused by training their employees and managers in UX. In all, it’s been a really positive year.

As an inspiring woman in tech, what piece of advice would you give to fellow female entrepreneurs? 

I live by the motto “just do it!”, and strongly encourage all fellow female entrepreneurs to do the same! If you’re passionate about something, just go for it. Mistakes will be made along the way, but that’s all part of it. Learn from them and carry on. Throughout my career, I have learned that resilience and a positive mindset are half the battle – and you never know what you’re capable of until you try.