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AI as a Catalyst for Transformation 

Handshake’s VP of Data Deepak Kumar shares how AI and Data have the opportunity to drive more equitable hiring practices.

As I begin my new role leading Handshake’s Data org, I am reminded that I have always been drawn to mission-driven companies that aspire to positively change the world. Over the past fifteen years, I have worked with brilliant colleagues to tackle hard and fascinating technological problems in service of a cause. Handshake’s mission is similarly uplifting: its founders started the company to give everyone the chance to build the career they want, no matter where they’re from, who they know, or what school they attend. 

Like many others, I have been the beneficiary of much generosity and good fortune in my own career. But the new generation of talent entering the workforce cannot rely on serendipitous accidents to shape their career. Today’s entry-level candidates encounter more obstacles than ever before: a lack of social capital, a lack of experience, and outdated resources. Serendipity is not enough, nor is it equitably distributed.

Redesigning the playing field

While technology has transformed our world in the past few decades, its fruits have not been shared equally. Over 65% of college students graduate with student debt [1], while only ~50% of them graduate with full-time jobs [2]. While this presents a bleak picture, it also has the potential to unite our best and brightest to drive lasting and meaningful change in this space. 

Handshake is redefining what early talent recruiting looks like – from lining up to talk to recruiters at in-person career fairs in packed gymnasiums to virtual fairs, from handing out resumes to building meaningful relationships with employers. We aren’t just leveling the playing field–-something history shows us is a long, slow slope–we are redefining it, redesigning it, and rebuilding it with equity from the beginning. It’s also timely, as Gen Z demands more from digital networks, employers, and educational institutions. 

I believe driving equity and fairness is our generation’s moonshot. This will by no means be easy. In fact, evoking Kennedy’s famous speech [3], we need to tackle these problems “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” 

Leveraging AI for equity

Technology has huge potential to drive equity, fairness, and trust. And while these outcomes are not automatic or inevitable, they are within our grasp. How we use data–how we choose to use data–will define our society for the next century. AI can reinforce our biases, mask our prejudice under a layer of logic, and quietly perpetuate injustice. Or it can be the foundation for a more equitable, accepting, and inclusive world.  

Over the last decade, AI has driven seismic breakthroughs in medicine, speech recognition, voice transcription, machine translation, and computer vision, to name only a few. As an AI community, our work opens doors and finds new ways to enable people to lean into the world around them. Self-driving cars promise to increase independence for those with visual impairments. Real-time closed captions empower folks to be engaged in the content and better participate in group conversations, whether they have a hearing impairment or are learning a new language. AI can be just as impactful in hiring. AI can assist individuals to acquire new skills and enables those with non-traditional backgrounds to compete on equal footing. It can also empower institutions to enable students to enter or reenter meaningful careers and leverage virtual interactions to create thoughtful interviews that reflect on-job performance. AI has so much potential to fundamentally remake what it means to find a great candidate, a next role, or a meaningful career, and we are just getting started.

Change the world with us

We at Handshake have a consequential role in defining how AI and Data can transform hiring. We believe our investment in AI and Data is a critical first step in the journey to challenge old recruiting norms that have historically boxed out underrepresented groups. To take on this monumental task, we are scaling our org and hiring engineers for AI, Data Science, Data infrastructure, and Data Engineering roles.

We are a team of dynamic technologists unburdened by legacy infrastructure. We are building a modern Data stack that offers endless possibilities for innovation in data collection, retention, privacy, experimentation, and developing AI algorithms that drive equitable outcomes in a unique three-sided marketplace for students, schools, and employers.

If you want to address fundamental systemic inequities –

If you want to live in a world where everyone has access to opportunities –

Join us at Handshake to create the change you want to see. 

Further reading

[1] Cost, Average. “Student Loan Debt Statistics [2022]: Average + Total Debt.” Education Data Initiative, 2020. (link)

[2] Abigail Johnson Hess. “Just 50% of the College Class of 2020 Had Traditional Full-Time Jobs 6 Months after Graduation.” CNBC. CNBC, December 10, 2021. (link)

‌[3] “Address at Rice University, Houston, Texas, 12 September 1962 | JFK Library.” Jfklibrary.org, 2022 (link).

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