In 2017, Pat Hubbell, SM ’91, co-founded the nonprofit startup Candorful with Peter Sukits to support job-seeking veterans, transitioning military, and military spouses by facilitating video mock interviews and providing professional coaching from experienced volunteers. Ahead of “National Hire a Veteran Day” on Sunday, July 25, she is hopeful employers across the country will be encouraged to consider U.S. military veterans for their open positions.
Candorful, which was recently awarded a $100,000 Cummings Foundation grant, aims to make an even greater impact on veterans preparing for job interviews by advancing its platform technology and encouraging more people to join its community of coaches. Hubbell—a frequent MIT Sloan Boston Alumni Association, MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, and MIT Sloan Reunion volunteer—is especially encouraging of her fellow Sloanies.
What is the biggest idea you are working on right now?
I co-founded Candorful, a nonprofit which supports veterans and military spouses by helping them prepare for job interviews. We combine the benefits of double-sided platform technology with the human desire to make a positive impact every day. I met my co-founder Pete when he was transitioning out of the military. He was one of my advisees when I worked as senior associate director in the Career Management Center at Cornell’s MBA program. While I was there, I conceptualized a platform to match alumni with students for mock interviews and managed its development and implementation. Candorful, while a completely different technology and experience, is a similar concept. It’s a passion project for us. We’ve helped over 1,500 transitioning military, veterans, and military spouses do a career pivot while maintaining a Net Promoter Score of 98. This is just the start, as we have more work to do to take full advantage of the network effects and scaling benefits of the technology.
Where do you get your ideas?
Listening to the concerns, worries, and problems of others; pondering root causes; and thinking about workable solutions—even if they’re impractical, challenging, or ridiculous. Of course, many great ideas also come from direct communication with Candorful’s volunteer interview coach community members, Candorful alumni, my co-founder, and my MIT Sloan classmates. Listening to their ideas and challenges helps to make Candorful even more impactful.
How do you keep track of them?
I’m action-focused so I wouldn’t say I have a “catalog of ideas.” However, I do keep a lot of notes. I have recorded ideas in journals, notebooks, and way too many sticky notes, though I’ve since moved to a few cloud options for a few practical reasons. Cloud options for notetaking are searchable, which is essential, and they are helping to improve the organization and the appearance of my office space. To be honest, most of the ideas are simply thoughts to be pondered. They exist in memories of conversations.
Who do you share them with?
I’ll chat about ideas with lots of people, given the opportunity. I like brainstorming with my husband, my daughter, and her boyfriend. All four of us are a bit nerdy and enjoy dreaming about solutions to social, technical, and business problems. I also like to discuss ideas with my co-founder and MIT Sloan classmates who are supportive of Candorful. Additionally, I have two great mentors—Jerry Johnson and Sarah Koenig (PwC CSR)—whom I met when Candorful was going through MassChallenge Boston. They have provided me with unbelievable guidance about ways to move Candorful forward. Overall, I love sharing thoughts and listening to responses from others. It’s great to bounce ideas off people who are smarter than me, and my MIT Sloan classmates have provided great support with that. In fact, three of my Sloan classmates are Candorful board members. I brainstorm with them very frequently—their support and ideas have been essential.
How do you know an idea is good or bad?
All ideas are good. They may not be practical, or something you can implement given constraints, but it’s good to hear ideas and think about them. Even if an idea isn’t good now, it might trigger another idea that is good and implementable. If an idea seems promising or interesting, we experiment with it and see what the data says. In fact, one of our Candorful coaches, Daniel del Sobral, had an idea for streamlining a bottleneck in our process. We experimented with it, and it provided a temporary relief valve. We watched the data and saw no negative impact on our process success, so if we run into the same bottleneck again, we have a vetted solution that we can put in place as we scale.
How has your time at MIT Sloan influenced your ideas?
MIT Sloan has given me a feeling of empowerment, which has created a mindset that is best described with the phrase: "If I can get into MIT Sloan and study with this amazing group of people, then there are a lot of other things I can do, too." The school has also provided me with amazing resources for my personal, career, and entrepreneurial growth through an excellent network of Sloanies and support from faculty and administration. A good example is the wonderful Rod Garcia, who not only admitted me as part of his first admission class but even helped Candorful with simple things like finding space for early board meetings. I also want to underscore the importance of the MIT Sloan network. Candorful’s success and my success are directly impacted by our board, which has four Sloanies on it, and the Candorful coaching community, which includes at least four Sloanies. Support like this is invaluable.
Why do you think it is important to reconnect and exchange ideas with your fellow Sloanies at Reunion?
The most important part of Reunion is reconnecting with classmates and reaffirming our help and support of each other as a network. This was an unusual Reunion year because of the remaining COVID-19 precautions, but typically a critical mass of us gathers in preparation to encourage as many of our classmates to join in the fun as possible. We’re incredibly careful to make the Reunion messaging about joining in and reengaging. These gatherings are a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful. For example, when I left the workforce to stay home while my daughter was young, facing Reunion was uncomfortable for me because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of career growth to show. I felt a lot of anxiety about it, but a few of my classmates made it clear that it was important to them that I join in—and that I was important to them. This support was like an antidote for all the anxiety I was experiencing. From then on I felt it was really important to make sure our whole class received the same message: “Come join in the fun! Come back to your roots and be a part of our Class of 1991 network. Let’s help each other be successful.” Success is defined in many ways, and we’ve worked hard to make sure this message permeates our class culture.
Do you have anything you would like your fellow Sloanies to know about Candorful?
I would love for more Sloanies to get involved with Candorful. Our community of volunteer interview coaches is built on a "live-but-virtual” model of volunteerism, which means that alumni interested in becoming interview coaches for U.S. veterans, transitioning military, and military spouses can easily do so from the comfort of their home office desk or kitchen table. I love to tell people that helping others can not only bring you joy, but it’s also quite easy to do through Candorful’s methodology. Sloanies can also volunteer for our operations support, and we are always seeking connections to employers who are interested in diversity hiring. Did you know the U.S. Military is one of the most diverse American employers? There are a lot of great people with amazing backgrounds and educational experiences who are leaving the military, and I would love to help them connect with employers with the aid of my fellow Sloanies.
Candorful will honor Veterans Day this fall by hosting a fireside chat with former U.S. Navy TOPGUN instructor and MIT alum Guy Snodgrass, SM ’00. Follow Candorful on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to learn more.