Harvard grad Ron Mitchell has been busy since graduation. He developed the Alumni Athlete Network to help current and former NCAA athletes better connect with each other; and later founded Virgil Careers, a technology that helps individuals better understand their unique career paths by assessing their competitiveness against peers and addressing skill gaps, after launching a few other HR tech platforms.
Somewhere in between, he pursued a career as an investment banker.
We caught up with Mitchell recently to talk about student-athletes and how his platform is solving problems in the HR industry.
TNJ.com: Tell me about the Alumni Athlete Network (AAN) and the inspiration behind launching it. In your experience, what are some of the challenges student-athletes face?
Ron Mitchell: Like most entrepreneurs, I started with what I knew: college athletes. As a former college athlete, I had experienced the challenge of pursuing substantive work experiences while balancing academic and athletic commitments. During my senior year, as I was pursuing job opportunities post-graduation, my coach was extremely reluctant to let me miss practice to attend company informational sessions or go to job interviews in New York. I started the “AlumniAthlete Network” to assist students like myself who were good students and committed to their sport but had limited time and access to the opportunities of traditional students. I had gone to Harvard, so I knew if I had challenges securing a job then most of my fellow student-athletes were even more disadvantaged.
Our signature program was our Wall Street Internship program. Over five years, we placed more than 250 student-athletes into roles at major Wall Street firms, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and UBS. The majority of the student athletes that we placed were women and/or minorities, which fueled another passion of mine.
We also learned in this process that it was not enough to provide access to opportunities. These tremendous student-athletes who had an average GPA of 3.6 and SAT scores of 1320 were graduating without basic career preparation skills. They didn’t know how to write a proper resume, prepare for the interview process or research careers opportunities or employers. This is what drove me to start building tech-enabled solutions that democratize access to high quality career information and preparation.
Ten years later, we have expanded our work from helping 250 student-athletes to serving more than 8 million annually through Virgil and Hcareers, the premier recruiting platform in the hospitality industry.
TNJ.com: Did you yourself encounter any challenges in entering the investment banking world after graduation? If not, what contributed to your success in doing so?
Ron Mitchell: I consider myself lucky: I attended Harvard, where all the investment banks recruited on campus; my sister had worked as an analyst at Shearson Lehman, a predecessor of Lehman Brothers; and I was accepted into Sponsors for Educational Opportunities – a summer internship program for diverse students on Wall Street.
My biggest challenge was that I was captain of the Varsity Basketball team. The time commitment to basketball was tremendous, and my coaches generally didn’t allow us to attend company informational sessions and interviews that most often conflicted with our practice or game schedule.
Ron Mitchell: For me, navigating that challenge, and seeing other students navigate the challenge fueled my passion and ideas.
TNJ.com: How did the AAN platform ultimately lead to your launch of Virgil Holdings? In other words, what’s the correlation between the two?
Ron Mitchell: There was a progression from AAN to Virgil Holdings. First, I realized that we need to do more than connect students to opportunities. Students, and job seekers in general, needed support and resources for career preparation.
In the beginning, I partnered with a friend who was running a similar program focused on providing opportunities to underserved minority candidates. Together, we built a platform to serve all students and job seekers. As we began to increase our outreach and client base, we heard from companies that wanted to use the platform to deliver career pathways to their internal employees.
We kept building products and began helping more and more people achieve their career goals. Ultimately, this led to me to launching Virgil, an AI-driven intelligence engine that collects data across the employment ecosystem and converts that data into insights that deliver job seekers better jobs and employers better candidates.I subsequently acquired Hcareers to expand our platform into a new vertical.
TNJ.com: How does Hcareers help prepare job seekers for the hospitality workforce? Explain the process.
Ron Mitchell: Hcareers collects data from multiple sources including job seekers, employers and 3rd party data providers to create detailed profiles of each job opportunity and individual, including skills, behaviors, salary, benefits, perquisites, values, and property attributes. Using Virgil’s proprietary algorithms, Hcareers processes this data into a composite Fit Score and allows job seekers and employers to filter opportunities and candidates, respectively, by relevance or fit.
The platform also enables us to focus on the development and growth of an individual – it is our goal that with a roadmap for skill development, specific to the individual, job seekers will remain in the hospitality industry and find fulfillment and success.
TNJ.com: How has the response been in the marketplace?
Ron Mitchell: Hcareers is a twenty-year-old platform, and the most used career platform in the hospitality industry. We recently began discussing the adoption of an artificial intelligence engine to industry partners, and the enthusiasm has been overwhelming. In additions to 3,500+ customers, we have partnerships with many of the most influential organizations in the hospitality industry, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the National Restaurant Association and the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education.
TNJ.com: What are some of the other platforms you launched in the HR tech space?
Ron Mitchell: In addition to the AAN and Virgil, I have also launched GottaMentor, a career mentoring platform, and ExpertPrep, a professional coaching platform serving Fortune 500 customers.
TNJ.com: Any short to long term goals you’re working on for Virgil/Hcareers?
Ron Mitchell: We have a tremendous product roadmap over the next 12-18 months. We believe that we can extend the Virgil career-pathing and opportunity fit scoring capabilities to companies and job seekers beyond the hospitality vertical. We also believe that we can help large organizations provide greater transparency and opportunity for employees inside of their organization. We are also working on a way to revolution employment marketing as people know it today — can’t say too much but it is game changing!