Office Hours: I'm the CEO and co-founder of Guild Education, a General Catalyst and Bessemer backed company unlocking opportunity through education and upskilling.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Rachel Carlson, CEO and Co-Founder of Guild Education. At Guild, we're on a mission to unlock opportunity through education and upskilling for America’s workforce, with a double bottom-line business model that does well by doing good. Our industry-leading technology platform allows the nation's largest employers — including Walmart, Target, Waste Management and Chipotle — to offer strategic education and upskilling to their employees, connecting them to a learning ecosystem of the nation's best universities and learning providers, with tuition paid by the company. Our payments and technology platform, curated learning marketplace, and advanced education and career coaching come together to help working adult learners advance in their education and career, debt-free, while helping companies improve talent acquisition, retention, development and internal mobility, and also support their critical DE&I efforts.

Guild has raised $378.5 million with partners including General Catalyst, Next Play Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Workday Ventures, Redpoint, Bessemer Venture Partners, Felicis Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, and more.

Prior to founding Guild, I was the Founder and CEO of Student Blueprint and worked for the 2008 Obama campaign before serving in the Obama White House.

Ask me anything about our work at Guild Education (we’re hiring!), democratizing education, the founder journey, building companies, and more!

Thanks so much for joining us @rachelcarlson!Elphas – please ask @rachelcarlson your questions before Friday, August 27th. @rachelcarlson may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites πŸ”₯πŸ‘πŸΎβž•
Great to see you here @rachelcarlson thanks for inspiring Elpha's founders and the community overall. I am the co founder of Nustas,, an early stage edtech where we develop research based actionable solutions for Latin American women's career advancement. My question is, what is your advise to help navigate the short and long term. We are a small team that is currently focusing on driving revenue and impact in the short term. We keep putting long term ideas partially on hold so we can grow revenue. We are bootstrapping at the moment, hoping to open a seed investment round after we have a proven MVP with our existing highly engaged customer based. Thanks for sharing your experience. P.
Hi Patricia -- sounds like you're doing all the right things. Most of my big ideas beyond Guild sat in my journal for the first 5 years, and only as I built a leadership team and as we found our footing did I get to expand. I also made mistakes from time to time by distracting the company with the next frontier, and so a big part of the founding teams' job is the operate in the present while still dreaming in the future. So hard, but it is indeed a marathon and you have to run today's mile while finding ways to think a bit ahead! Keep it up.
Thank you @rachelcarlson, shared your note with my team. Thanks for your words of encouragement and wise advise. Patty.
@rachelcarlson - So looking forward to this session and I echo the sentiments from others!! I'm seeing Guild everywhere from launching Beehive to incredible partnerships. What advice to you have for leaders to drive results and embrace a strategic mindset? On a somewhat related topic, there are approximately 2M people with disabilities that make up an untapped workforce. What role do you see Guild playing in taking action to increase accessibility and opportunities for this population?
Hi there and thanks for 2 thoughtful Qs.On results and strategic mindset, I think it takes both to tango! I'm an ideator by trade -- founder in my bones, but I've spent the last 7 years with Guild as a student of great operators. I find that we do our best work at Guild when we marry our strategic insights and inspiration with great results-based operating principles, and often that means bringing people together who spike on different strengths. I also means recognizing that the idea pipes are shaped like a funnel - prioritization is queen and only a few good ideas can be brought to life at any one time. On supporting people with disabilities, I love that question. My brother-in-law has a mix of physical and intellectual disabilities, and getting to know that community via him has been an incredible learning experience for me. At Guild, we work with a number of employers who currently make a concerted effort to hire disabled workers of many types, and it's exciting at Guild to think about how we then support cognitive and physical diversity. The company my brother works for is actually considering implementing an education benefit right now which would be especially joyful for me.I also think we have a bit of a binary nature to the conversation about disabilities that's not useful. We all have cognitive diversity, and the more we acknowledge that, the more we can incorporate learners and workers of all abilities into our work.
@rachelcarlson - Thank you for your thoughtful responses and insight! I love the call out of a binary nature of the disability conversation - it pulls on the need for intentional universal design, inclusion, and accessibility for all.
Hello Rachel,Do you plan to invest in other edtech startups as a business angel? With your experience and vision, it would be just fantastic to have you on board :)
I'm just starting to explore that - would love to learn more about what you're up to and see if I can help!
Thank you for your interest, Rachel!I will gladly DM you more information, and then we can have a call.
Hi @rachelcarson I'd love to learn more about what it means to be a career coach for the company and potentially apply for a coach position within the company. What do you look for when hiring career coaches? Do the coaches work for specific client companies within Guild Education? Thank you for your time!
Hi Anna -- at Guild, we view education and skilling as a means to economic opportunity for our students, and so we view the career work we do as the critical ends of our work! We're growing that team, and it's certainly still in a very iterative and experimental state as we figure out how to work best with the talent acquisition teams at our partner companies, the' career services teams at our schools, and more to build an ecosystem that best serves our students. If you're excited by the idea of exploring what's possible in career advising, it could be a great fit.
Thanks for the reply @rachelcarlson. I would love to explore this opportunity. What's the next step to connect on a call with you or your team?
Hi Rachel! As a fellow Denver-based, female founder, thank you for being a leader in our Region and the country. My question is, as you grew Guild, how did you intentionally continue to level up your efficacy as a founder/ CEO to ensure you were still the right woman for the job in each subsequent growth stage?
Gosh - I wish I had a tight answer for that.The real answer is -- I just kept asking for feedback, trying to listen, and trying to act on it. Sometimes I did that well, sometimes I really blew it, but regardless, I kept getting up the next day and trying again. And that hasn't stopped - I am still trying to grow up with Guild. It's so much like parenting - you're just always trying to figure out how to be the best steward of this amazing thing that you brought to life, and it seems to change rapidly with every growth spurt! Tactically, the tools have included -- great exec coaching, a kitchen cabinet of advisors and board members on speed dial, lots of good books, therapy, a good cry every once in a while, and phenomenal fellow leaders at Guild who've supported me in my growth!
This is incredibly helpful! Thank you so much, @rachelcarlson!
Hi Rachel! I noticed the posts haven’t been answered, so I thought I’d try to sneak one more in :)What advice would you give to someone who works in education, but is looking to make the leap over to Ed tech? Thank you!
@rachelcarlson, thank you for giving us all the opportunity to learn from you! I would love to hear more about what type of educational growth culture you have within Guild for the employees. I see on the Guild website that there is generous support for pursuing learning opportunities outside of the company (say, for completing a degree or such), but I am wondering if there is a mentor/mentee culture within the company.
Taija - yes, this is something we're working on right now actually! One of our 3 segments of Guild created a mentorship program this last year based on their Peakon survey feedback about areas for improvement. We're using that as a pilot to figure out what mentorship might look like org-wide, which is a pilot-before-scale strategy that has worked well for us at Guild. That said, we still have a lot of work to do on creating career growth opportunities within the company, and it's something we're spending significant time on with our managers to identify what's needed within each business.Finally, and perhaps provocatively -- today's employees won't work for a lifetime at the same company. So a big part of mentoring needs to be about acknowledging the two-sided social contract that employees and their employers enter into, and making sure that career growth is honest about pathways within and beyond the company.
No question here, just excited to watch this conversation and to see what Guild does next! I've heard great things about the company and working culture, and I have my eyes on the job boards.
+1 to this! Glad to see another rockstar founder on Elpha, excited for this conversation
Hi @rachelcarlson. I'm Founder and CEO of Mom Relaunch. We help women on a career break, transition or financial distress to get back into the IT workforce. We have created a 4-step process that helps them gain the work skill, soft skills and most importantly the confidence and courage to be ready and relevant. We will love to explore the possibility of collaborating with Guild if you see the synergy.
Super interesting, Reena! We have a potential partnerships form on our site - if you fill it out there, I'll make sure our team has a look!
How do you envision the role and influence of DEI in your company, for your staff and learners?
I believe that diversity, equity and inclusion must be woven into the fabric of a company, much like culture. There can be a team that focuses on it, and we have an amazing group who lead Guild's DEI work, but it's not their "job" to do our DE&I work. DE&I is a part of all of our jobs and it lives across the company. What do I mean by that:- We can create impact for our students by partnering with Historically Black Colleges & Universities in our learning marketplace - We can create change within companies by helping them analyze the impact that educational opportunities has on the career mobility and promotion pathways of their Black, LatinX & Female talent- We can enhance a sense of belonging for students by improving the demographic and socio-economic representation of our own workforce. So -- DE&I is the strategic and operating work for us, it's not solely a shared service. But that doesn't mean we've nailed it -- we have so much work to do, and we weren't always as focused as we should have been. I'm not sure the work will ever stop - its continually iterative. I'm good with that, and am glad that Guilders have embraced the challenge too.
Soooo excited to see the powerhouse of edtech on elpha!!!! You are doing such incredible work @rachelcarlson !!!
Thank you!!
Hi @rachelcarlson, thank you for doing this! Guild Education is a company my co-founder and I consistently look at for inspiration. We're also building an adult education product - to help employees develop crucial skills in the workplace (e.g. communicating effectively, giving and receiving feedback, management skills). My question is more tactical in natureβ€”since we're trying to sell to companies. With the companies you support, how do you drive employee adoption? Are there company-wide communications initiated by Guild Education? Or is HR responsible to spread the word? Thank you πŸ™
Malea - thoughtful Q for sure. We've found that HR is often taught to communicate in a way that's "one and done"... But that forgets everything we know about general communication - we need to hear things different ways, at different times, for it to resonate! So our team at Guild works very closely with HR teams to do exactly that and communicate the awesome opportunity to go to school debt-free in creative and diverse ways.
Can you speak more to how you are democratizing education and how you want to continue that moving forward?
Julie -- I think the relationship between a functioning democracy and an educated workforce is inextricable. In fact, the entire democratic system is predicated on a group of educated individuals believing in self-governance, instead of a monarchy or autocracy.Reinforcing the need to democratize education is therefore paramount, and goes well beyond any conversation about what % of any country needs a degree. It's about what do we need to have a population capable of self-governance, and educated for the skills needed to support the economic structure of that democracy. We believe our work at Guild is critical as we sit at an inflection point in the US economic and political systems, especially given the acceleration of technology and automation. Ensuring that workers have a chance to participate in our economy is paramount, and it's why we care so much about the relationship between education and economic mobility. K I'll wrap it up with the philosophical bent ;-)