For a long time, Ali Mahlodji had a hard time figuring out what he wanted to do.
He was a troublesome kid at school, and he didn’t see any point in learning things that didn't seem applicable to real life. He eventually dropped out and started a temporary job cleaning cafes.
When he realized he couldn't get ahead without further education, he took correspondence courses, and he later enrolled at a university, where he studied business administration and computer science.
It might have appeared that everything had turned around when he landed a job at Sun Microsystems Austria. But he realized he wasn't doing the things that make him happy, and the death of his father was a breaking point.
So Mr. Mahlodji quit. And that's when he began to figure things out – not just for himself, but potentially for others, too.
Mahlodji started to pursue a childhood dream in which people can take an alternative approach to choosing and then shaping their career paths. Specifically, career and job searchers can be matched with others who have similar characteristics and who share their experiences. It's a process that can be more philosophical and at the same time more personalized.
“When I was a child, I had a crazy idea of saving the world and creating a unique space where people can tell their stories,” Mahlodji says. “My mother told me that the world is not connected and the idea won’t work.”
And yet in 2012 in Vienna, he launched the Whatchado Web service, aimed at accomplishing these very things. It now has more than 1 million users across several European countries.
The platform has a matching algorithm similar to the one used on dating websites. A user answers 14 questions about the job he or she would like to do, and the resulting profile is aligned with people who have answered the questions in a similar way and have a particular kind of job. These people tell their stories in video profiles.
“You may match with someone who works for Deloitte, but that doesn’t mean necessarily you would go to work there,” Mahlodji says. As he puts it, the platform is a way to see what skills might be useful at a particular company or for a particular position.
Some people have found jobs using the platform. “I think the Whatchado platform is a very helpful tool. [Instead of] dull job descriptions, [you get] some insights about a specific job title from the person who actually holds the position,” says Julia Walder, a graduate of the University of Vienna. She was hired by Deloitte after using Whatchado and now conducts research for the company.
Gradually, employers contacted Mahlodji to put profiles of their companies on Whatchado. Businesses also have to answer the 14 questions, and Whatchado has devised rules in an effort to prevent the companies from using the platform for marketing and public relations.
Whatchado gets revenue by charging businesses for putting their corporate profiles on the platform. Individual users have free access.
Employers are happy about the platform, as it makes recruiting easier. “There are many useless employer branding videos in Germany, which don’t look authentic. Our company decided not to follow this trend, but to use something new,” says Jan Hawliczek of BFFT, an engineering developer based in Germany. According to Mr. Hawliczek, BFFT has recruited several people directly from the Whatchado platform.
He thinks Whatchado is a pioneer in this way of exploring careers and recruiting people. In his region, those processes are “very old-fashioned," he explains. They don't "match with the fast-paced world of social media and new technologies, which is the reality for our kids.”
Mahlodji has also launched a project called Whatchaschool, which brings Whatchado's ideas to secondary schools.
“I met Ali during a midcareer training for teachers,” says Daniela Mroncz, who is a coordinator at the Berlin-based organization Partner Schule Wirtschaft, which promotes collaboration between schools and businesses. She started cooperating with Mahlodji in 2014 and helped him organize meetings with schoolchildren in Germany. She says he has a talent speaking in front of kids and that his speeches always give them inspiration.
Yet another project that Mahlodji and his team have undertaken is devoted to portrayals of refugees. Since the outbreak of the refugee crisis in Europe, he has filmed several video stories. “Our main goal is to break the stereotypes about refugees and show people they are not all criminals and terrorists,” he explains.
Mahlodji himself is a former Iranian citizen. His own experience shows how migrants don't have to be outcasts, but rather can lead normal lives and even inspire others with new ideas.