2019 Rachel Serwetz from WOKEN

October 15, 2019

By Barr Morgenstein


WOKEN is the first candidate-focused career exploration platform that educates, motivates and arms job seekers with the knowledge, tools, and resources to confidently identify and forge a career path they’ll love. We interviewed Rachel Serwetz to learn more about her experience as the founder of WOKEN.










From left to right, Rachel Serwets (founder) and Becca Lisoski (head of design)


What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out? 

Startups require you to feel comfortable being constantly uncomfortable. Things are constantly changing, messy, and require you to reprioritize and add structure where there often only feels like uncertainty. Also, I was lucky to find a UX designer and we started prototyping very quickly into the process. This was one of the best things that happened to us from an early stage so I feel grateful that we did a lot of learning and testing before coding.


How have you adapted (pivoted) your ideas from your original vision? 

The vision for the company has evolved overtime. At first, I simply had a career assessment. That then grew into talks, a book, and a web platform. Now, we’re exploring both B2C (business-to-consumer; selling directly to consumers) and B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer; selling to businesses that sell directly to consumers) models and markets. Also, we now focus more on young professionals rather than undergraduates.


How do you measure personal success? 

By the number of people I can help.


What advice can you offer anyone who wants to form a start-up? 

Like any job, ensure you understand the reality of the job before you take it.


Has being a woman/underrepresented minority founder affected your journey?

Definitely. There have been times I felt deliberately discriminated against. With startups, it’s already hard to explain and convince someone of your vision, but when they create extra barriers, it makes it that much harder.


What in your opinion may encourage more women and underrepresented minorities to take part in the entrepreneurial world? 

They should if they feel its right for them, understand what it takes, and sufficiently test their idea.


What in your opinion are the required steps to be taken for women/underrepresented minorities to have more leading roles? 

Get a mentor/advisor or coach to ensure they stay accountable to their goals.


Where do you see startups themselves needing the most improvement beyond
having a great idea? 

Beyond having a great idea, the keys to success are learning a lot, strong execution and focus.


What challenges do you anticipate having to overcome? 

We face new challenges everyday. We’ve had to figure out how to get off the ground with minimal help and resources, and now we are figuring out how to grow and scale in the same vein. It’s a constant battle of pushing forward on your goals despite having a lack of true security/support to get you there.


Do you leverage social media to raise awareness of your startup? 

A little bit, but that’s a big focus for us moving forward.


Are there any new features or milestones coming up for your startup? 

We are launching our beta platform in September!


Preview of WOKEN Platform


What are the key components to your startup, at the beginning and now? 

At the beginning it was critical to have folks who could create scrappy experiments to test demand and meet our first customers. Now, we need people who are willing to devote even more sweat equity to help us move beyond a proof of concept, to build a product, and to grow it into a viable business.


Want to get in touch with the WOKEN team? Send an email to team@iamwoken.com




NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s CIE Institute supports initiatives that help faculty and students reach greater heights by harnessing important technologies and re- imagining business ideas. We catapult these ideas into advanced, problem-solving innovations to address society’s greatest problems.

Our mission is to increase diversity and multi-disciplinary in STEM entrepreneurship and provide guidance as well as resources for STEM innovators to start-up.


For more information about these programs, please contact us at cie@nyu.edu