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  • Writer's pictureJolie Radunich

Takeaways from a 30 Under 30 edtech founder bringing their kid self to work

Felix Ruano is building the Netflix of high school education.

The co-founder and CEO of Subject (formerly Emilie Learning) wants any student to be able to access any course, any time, anywhere.


Like many edtech founders, he can trace the origin of his company to his early years.

Channeling your edtech kid into working in this industry can give you the motivation you need to be great. Whatever that means to you.

Early years lay the foundation for your vision

The headlining Forbes 30 Under 30 education founder calls himself a product of education reform. Both of Ruano's parents were Mexican immigrants with a 5th-grade level education.

Felix grew up living below the poverty line, starting school as an inner-city kid inside the massive Los Angeles public school system.

When he transferred to a private school and took a bus ride to Santa Monica every day, his cousins were dropping "left and right" out of L.A. Unified.

Reflect on how your childhood environment fueled the direction of your life. With this in mind, let's talk about how you can connect your kid experiences to your work.

A pivotal experience fuels the tank

The accessibility issues Ruano saw his own family face left a lasting impression on him. He didn't want kids like his cousins to stop learning.

He wanted to get rid of obstacles kids faced getting quality lessons inside school buildings. That's why Subject partners with schools with limited AP course offerings. Students supplement their classroom instruction with on-demand practice opportunities.

Felix's childhood drove his innovation.

Your early years are the beginning of your edtech story. And you can channel these memories to create a sense of purpose at work.

Where should you begin? Sometimes when I try to think about the impact of my early school days, I draw a blank.

That's why every time I have a kid flashback, I write it down. Even if what I remember doesn't directly relate to edtech, like feeling the honor and prestige of being the class line leader.

I challenge you to write down these moments, no matter how random they seem to you in the moment. It'll be easier to retrieve them from your memory once you see how they connect to your work.

Ruano uses his platform to give back to kids of today

The thread of Felix Ruano's life has brought him to his company, Subject, where kids:

  • progress at their own pace.

  • access courses anytime, from anywhere in the world.

Think about where the thread of your life has taken you. Just like Ruano, you're giving back to the kids of today through your work—whether you realize it or not.

I don't care if you think you're the most remote graphic designer. Those designs are part of what makes a buyer perk up and decide to get a trial, demo, or buy the product outright for their kids or classroom.

You can channel your edtech kid without aiming to have the same career outcomes as Felix. Maybe you feel inspired to create something on your own, but don't want to quit your 9-5.

Or you have ambitions to become a leader in your organization. Or you want to focus on becoming as great as you can be in your current role.

Whatever your goals are, reflecting on your younger years is a great way to motivate your progress. I'd love to see how you've filled your "kid flashback" journal someday.


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