Katie Fang discusses SchooLinks and life updates since being on the cover of Austin Woman in 2016.
By Brianna Salinas, Photos courtesy of Katie Fang
It was six years ago, in June of 2016, when Katie Fang first adorned the cover of Austin Woman. Since then, she’s worked nonstop to elevate the technology and accessibility of SchooLinks. During this time she also got married, had two children and saw her team through the ever-changing world of working through a pandemic.
When she last spoke to Austin Woman in 2016, Fang was doing everything in her power to champion her mission of creating a website that helps students find their footing in the field of higher education. When asked what a day in her life looks like now, Fang smiles and sighs while looking at her calendar. “There are no gaps.” Between copious amounts of emails, meetings, getting her kids ready for the day and everything in between, she leads her team in staying on track and “laser-focused” on their targets. Depending on the time of year, Fang is still on the move, sometimes traveling “every two to three days.”
Due to Fang’s hard work and the work of her team at SchooLinks, there has been much progress for the company. Six years ago, the SchooLinks platform was direct-to-consumer. Now it has grown into an enterprise that works directly with school districts and government agencies.
Shifting the Business Model
Another change in their business model is acknowledging that college is no longer the “end all, be all goal” for a lot of students due to familial or financial circumstances. Many businesses are partnering with schools to teach desirable skills to perform different job functions. Fang sees this as a great way to level the playing field, “preparing the mindset and skill set to reach that final goal” of one’s ideal career. “K-12 plays a super important role in this career navigation process,” she explains. “Students need to receive real-world advice through internships and job opportunities so that there isn’t a disconnect between theoretical knowledge and real-world opportunities.”
Looking at what is next for SchooLinks, Fang is excited to create personalized paths for students on the platform. Her concern for equity amongst the new generations of students and workers propels her forward. “There are so many students who have raw talent. They’re not able to shine because of external constraints they didn’t impose on themselves,” she says. “How can we remove barriers for these students to really succeed in life and level their playing field? One way is to show them what’s out there and also to connect them to the opportunities, democratizing the access to information.
“It’s not that the opportunities are not there,” she insists. “It’s more [that]they’re not aware of these opportunities being possible to them. How do we break that barrier? It is about a ton of education at a district level and making sure that our counselors aren’t a little biased. You only know what you know, and you don’t know what you don’t know. So, how do we expand their horizons and make sure that they are exposed to these opportunities?”
Fang wants to go beyond faculty and staff within the schools and bring in heads of businesses to mediate these connections and display the type of future these students hope to have.
Katie Fang & Family Life
Fang’s first child was born right before the pandemic hit, when SchooLinks was still a small company. During this time, she forewent maternity leave in order to make sure that her business could stay afloat. “I delivered on Sunday and went back to work on Monday,” she recalls. “It was scary. I was not going to tell my entire team, ‘Peace out, I’m going to take a maternity leave. You guys figure out the ambiguity and shutdown situation.’” She acknowledges that maternity leave is something that she fully supports in order to enjoy precious moments with one’s newborns. However, as a CEO and founder, she made it a priority to not let the fear of losing their jobs reach her team. “We did not furlough anybody, we did not cut anybody’s paycheck,” she says. “We persisted and doubled our growth that year.”
When asked about what advice she has for entrepreneurs who are starting out, Fang states, “I see a lot of people thinking too much, and not acting enough. My advice to people has always been [to ask]: ‘Have you actually done anything? Just do it.’” Fang urges those who are on the brink of their journey to dive in. “Before being scared of this or that, do you have any valid points to be scared about? If you haven’t really tried to validate your hypothesis…you’re not really jeopardizing anything.”