The Gap Between Universities and Industry (or, Why I Started GradSquare)

About the author: Marco Altamirano is a tech philosopher based in New Orleans. Follow @marcosien. This article was originally posted on

About a year ago, I met someone at a conference who worked at a food chemistry lab in New Orleans. She was telling me about how her company had tried to hire a chemist with a Masters or PhD by putting some ads out on various job boards, but no one with the right credentials had applied. I thought this was strange because, having recently finished grad school at Purdue, I knew several Masters and PhDs that would have loved to relocate to New Orleans with their proposed starting salary.

People are going to grad school in record numbers – in 2012 there were 22 million Americans with advanced degrees, and that number grew to 24 million in 2014. So why was it so hard to find a social scientist or STEM grad with an advanced degree?

Part of the problem, I realized, was the business model of mega job-boards. Job-boards try to drive as much indiscriminate traffic to their site in order to provide ads with maximum exposure. However, if you’re looking for technical talent, the shotgun approach doesn’t make any sense since it will only generate a lot of unqualified applications.

Correspondingly, major companies establish relationships with a handful of universities to develop a pipeline for specialized talent. But there’s over 700 Masters degree granting universities in the US alone – and if companies are looking for an economist, or a geologist, or a biomedical engineer (just for example), why should they have to source from just five schools? There had to be a better way to recruit specialized talent.

LinkedIn, of course, is an enormously successful recruiting tool. But while LinkedIn casts a wide net, they don’t catch everything (in fact, LinkedIn might too big to effectively target niche markets like social science and STEM grads with advanced degrees). Consequently, a huge gap remains between online recruiting efforts and the technical talent that comes out of universities.

So I teamed up with one of the best programmers in New Orleans, Brian Berlin, and we built GradSquare to bridge the gap between universities and industry: GradSquare is a centralized platform where employers can easily find graduates from every university, and universities can get valuable information on the market traction of their graduates.


When I was considering various grad programs, it would have been enormously beneficial for me to see a picture of how students from various programs fared after graduating. Some departments track the academic placement of their graduates, but there’s very little data on the industry traction of grads available for prospective students to consider when choosing one university program over another.

GradSquare can change that and more – we’re not only providing universities with a data-driven picture of their students’ career prospects after they graduate, we’ve also built a product that makes it easy for graduates to meet employers and recruiters who are looking for their talent.

Which brings me to the part about GradSquare that I’m most proud of – namely, our people. From our job-seekers with their impressive CVs to our recruiters and employers who have a great sense for talent, it’s the community of users on GradSquare that makes it special.

That’s why we focused on designing a wonderful user experience on GradSquare. You can make an argument that job-classifieds actually became worse after they transitioned from newspapers to online. At least when you responded to a job ad in the newspaper you talked to a real person. Now you just have this awful experience of throwing your resume into some void where it will never be seen, lost forever in the digital ether, as it were.

Of course, the internet can do a lot more, so we designed GradSquare to put people in touch with people – employers still post jobs, but they can also send messages and chat with candidates in real time to ask questions or even conduct an interview. Candidates can also search and send queries to recruiters. Employers can invite job-seekers to apply to a posting, and candidates can ‘Favorite’ jobs to express their interest. The entire platform is designed with the idea that employers should be directly in touch with candidates. All this is to say that we’ve eliminated the void from the online job application experience.

It’s wonderful to see a community come together online. We launched only a week ago, and we already have over 1k users connecting with each other, looking for candidates, looking for jobs, and getting in touch.