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Jason Lange

jason lange

MBA 2010

CEO & Cofounder, BloomBoard

your job

Briefly describe the mission of your organization and how your role contributes to it. What does a typical day look like?

Our mission is to empower teachers to improve their practice at an ever increasing rate. As CEO and cofounder, I spend my time working on several different capacities from selling to and managing business development with key customers, creating and implementing our strategic plan, and perhaps most importantly to guiding and helping nurture our company culture and the processes that reinforce it.

On a typical day, I wake up at 7 a.m. with my kids and get ready for work and help my wife get them fed and ready for school. I get to the office at 8 or 8:30, and then have back-to-back meetings with customers, investors, and/or team members until 6:30 p.m., when I rush out the door to make it home for dinner time and bath time with the kids. After putting the kids down, I usually watch TV with my wife until 10 p.m. when I put her to bed and go back to work until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., depending on how much is going on.

your inspiration

What made you go into this profession? Why are you doing what you are doing?

As I was graduating from college, I was strongly considering going into teaching through TFA or another teaching program, but my mentor at the time told me that I could always go back into education and that I should “go learn some finance skills first if I actually wanted to be useful in life.” And so I spent the next four years after college working in investment banking (UBS – Mergers and Acquisitions) and private equity (Flexpoint Ford Partners), all the while feeling very unfulfilled in terms of what I was actually doing with my life or contributing to society.

Given my aspirations to do more outside of my job, I started doing some consulting work for a fast growing charter school network in Chicago. I fell in love with the work, and the fact that I got to be in schools and interact with kids every once in a while. It was during this consultancy work that I realized that the education system was woefully behind technologically and that there was simply no way that a technology revolution wasn't going to happen over the next decade – schools were simply too poor and outcomes were simply too low, for massive technological change to not occur. So, I decided to go back to graduate school and was very fortunate to be accepted to the joint MBA/MA in Education degree program at Stanford, where I started researching the foundation of what is now BloomBoard.

I do the work I do now because I’m most passionate about giving every kid in the country a shot at fulfilling his/her potential. There are too many brilliant minds that simply are never heard of because the system we have in place to educate and motivate them is fundamentally broken.

your advice

What recommendations do you have for current Stanford students interested in pursuing a career in a similar capacity? What skills or knowledge should they focus on at Stanford? What tips do you have regarding the job search?

What recommendations do you have for current Stanford students interested in pursuing a career in a similar capacity? What skills or knowledge should they focus on at Stanford? What tips do you have regarding the job search?

In order to do this type of work I think you need empathy and perseverance, in massive quantities, and then some really helpful luck along the way. You are really only as good as your ability to listen to your customers/users, and then solve the problems that they really have, rather than build the feature that they say they want. And there is simply nothing that can prepare you for the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur, so you just have to have an outsized level of perseverance and belief/passion in your vision to get through it – especially in the K12 space.

I follow and love everything that comes out of the Stanford d.school, so if you have not taken part in any of their classes yet, that should be priority number one.

As for the job search, one doesn’t really exist in the startup world. Your best bet is to identify the smartest and most driven people you can find, working on an idea that you believe in, and then make sure you can be completely comfortable being “married” to those people for an indeterminate amount of time. If you find this combination, just figure out how you can be most useful to them this week and then ask them to be open to evolving your role over time – if you’re good, they will do anything to keep you and you’ll likely get to define your own role.

your life vision

How do you make this unconventional career path work in your life?

I certainly never thought that I would start a company when I came to grad school since growing up in Chicago, the idea of starting a company basically just means that you are unemployed. There was nothing specific that made me decide to start something, but rather just an ecosystem in Silicon Valley and at Stanford that makes it feel incredibly safe to start a company – I remember thinking after a few conversations with investors that starting a company coming out of Stanford is basically like having a “get out of jail free” card, since even if you fail, companies and investors actually view you as MORE valuable since they assume you have learned a lot that you can contribute after your failure. That security, along with this overwhelming compulsion to solve this really hard problem about how to scale great teaching, just made it work.

 

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