How CEO Nancy Soni Is Helping Students Navigate the Modern Workforce

Nancy Soni, Founder and CEO of PathMatch, is creating an early career talent marketplace where students and graduates can effectively get connected to their dream job or internship.

While helping numerous companies hire talent throughout the past two decades, Nancy began noticing a huge skills gap emerge. Many students and college graduates were left out of the modern job market because their major or skills did not match what companies needed. To combat this disconnect, Nancy started PathMatch to help students find compatible career paths while building the relevant skills and experiences. By 2023, Nancy hopes to support over 100,000 students in their careers and job search.

We asked Nancy about the founding story behind PathMatch, the most meaningful impact her company has had so far, and why she believes relationships and networks are critical components to accelerating your personal and professional growth.

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding: How and why did you start working on PathMatch?

A: Growing up as a first-generation Asian American in the Midwest, the only career paths I knew about were in medicine, law, accounting, architecture, or various engineering roles. The other options were less interesting, so I chose medicine. After spending almost all of my time in college on the pre-med track and taking classes I hated, I had a last-minute change of heart. My career center gave zero help so I had to hustle my way by sending my resume to any entry-level position I could find. I got lucky and landed a role as a technology recruiter at the height of the dotcom boom. I loved it.

Over the span of 20 years, I filled thousands of roles for companies such as Amazon, Warby Parker, and Snapchat, and viewed over four million resumes. In 2015, while running my previous company, I watched as college graduates left school only to become unemployed because their major and skills didn’t match what companies needed. The horrifying reality is that 50 percent of college students end up unemployed for almost a year post-graduation, and 43 percent of students end up permanently underemployed, which requires them to take low-paying jobs that didn’t require their college degree.

The problem starts with students not knowing what careers are available and how to graduate with the demonstrable skills and experience companies are looking for. Companies now rely on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that screen out and rank resumes based on keyword match. Students who don’t select the right majors, learn the right skills, or have relevant internships through college don’t stand a chance in landing interviews. Having built teams across every department of an organization in most industries, I knew I had the perfect background to solve this problem through technology.

Q: What problem does PathMatch solve?

A: The workforce has changed rapidly due to technology and automation. Many of our most in-demand, high-paying careers often don’t have college majors and classes that align with them. High school and college students often pick archaic majors that teach them the wrong skills. They don’t even realize the mistake they are making until it’s too late.

The top employers receive thousands of resumes for every entry-level role and often fill the highest-paying jobs through the junior-to-senior year internships. So the students and graduates who have relevant skills and internship experience earlier on end up getting selected for the best jobs, making internships almost a necessity to getting hired these days.

We built a career matching system that matches students to modern careers based on their strengths, interests, ambition, values, personality, and location preferences—think Bumble for careers. But knowing what you want to do is just the first step. Knowing what skills and experience should be on your resume and how to network your way into great companies is the other challenge. Our app provides step-by-step guidance to develop the skills, experience, network, and interview preparation that helps students and grads land great jobs with matched companies and careers. Students can track their “hireability” score and earning potential against other students from around the country to ensure they’re on the right track. All of this is free for students and, we hope, saves them hundreds of hours blindly sending resumes and never hearing back.

For employers, we offer an all-in-one platform to hire pre-matched and pre-skilled interns and grads from 340 universities across the US Employers can now find early career talent that matches their needs rather than having to go school to school and scour through thousands of resumes that don’t align with their needs.

Q: What are some of the most meaningful impacts your business has had so far?

A: Since August 2020, PathMatch has helped over 1,700 students land internships and jobs in the midst of a pandemic. We’ve also helped over 16,000 students select their career paths. And over the next year, we aim to help 4,000 students land internships and jobs, and 50,000 students select their career path. And we’re just getting started.

Q: Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

A: Grow up as an Asian American in predominantly white neighborhoods, I had to learn to be comfortable with being “different” and being the “token-Asian” among all of my white friends. I’ve dealt with my fair share of racism and discrimination, which has made me more resilient as an entrepreneur.

As a 45-year old Asian female entrepreneur and mom, the fundraising process mirrored my childhood experiences. The grit and resilience developed from my earlier experiences has helped me overcome investors’ unconscious bias and proactively seek the right investors interested in investing in companies solving problems that serve a more diverse community.

Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?

A: Fundraising has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Having spent 20 years working with venture-backed startups, I knew the deck was stacked against female founders. But it wasn’t until I started fundraising that I fully grasped what women face in the fundraising process and how to traverse the bias. Despite the challenges and rejections, I’m proud to say that we raised our pre-seed round from great investors such as M13, Precursor Ventures, and Zeal Capital.

Q: What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?

A: As a founder and entrepreneur, you’re the “chief everything officer” in the earliest days. The learning curve can be steep in certain areas, but you can accelerate your growth by constantly seeking out ways to learn. I listen to books on Audible about growth, product, sales, and entrepreneurship daily to learn from the masters.

Fundraising was a huge learning curve for me so I worked with an amazing fundraising and pitch coach, Robbie Crabtree, and improved my skills as a professional fundraiser for my company. I’ve also aligned myself with a team of amazing coaches. I work with an executive coach, Elaine Lee, who helps me strategize, work through problems and solutions, and holds me accountable to weekly deliverables. I’ve grown my network of other founders who I lean on for support, tips and advice, and friendship throughout this crazy journey.

Q: What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

A: Relationships and networks are two of the most powerful components to accelerate your company’s success. Constantly find ways to help others and you’ll find people opening doors and making introductions.

Focus on your personal brand. We live in a content-saturated world where investors and customers have numerous ways to determine if they want to work with you. No one is going to know the amazing work you’re doing unless you show them.

Q: What’s next for you and PathMatch?

A: We just launched our mobile app and will be focused on growing our user base with a milestone of helping 100,000 students connect with careers, companies, and jobs in 2023.

We’ll be raising our seed round in 2023 to accelerate our growth and add additional features to our student and employer products. We’re hiring in engineering, sales, product, and marketing. So if you’re interested in helping students navigate the modern workforce, come join us!

Nancy is a member of Dreamers & Doersa private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Leave a Comment