Meet Nitzan Pelman: A three-time social entrepreneur reimagining education

Partner Spotlight | Blog | 3 mins.
Written By: Kelsey Thompson | Posted On: 01/25/2023

When Nitzan Pelman was in the first grade, she was labeled as a “special education” student. 

“What that meant in my life was that no one thought I had aptitude or the ability to accomplish much. It was a really demoralizing experience,” Pelman shared. 

It wasn’t until college that Pelman realized that the limiting assessment of her intelligence and ability was erroneous. She taught herself to read and write in her early twenties, with a mentor and friend who truly believed in her. Once she was freed of the burden of low expectations, she discovered a love and aptitude for learning that she never could have imagined before she was given the chance to flourish.

Pelman has since found professional success in building an educational system that works better for all students. She is a three-time social entrepreneur, an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow, a LinkedIn Influencer, and a veteran of organizations like Teach for America, KIPP Public Schools and the Department of Education in New York City. 

Her own rocky start in education has continued to inspire solutions, including her most recent venture, Climb Hire.

“[My experience] made me think a lot more about where we limit human potential,” Pelman said. “And that’s why, at Climb Hire, we believe in people. We help them build community and relationships so they can redefine themselves.”

Climb Hire is Pelman’s third social impact venture and where she currently serves as CEO. Climb Hire provides technical, non-coding training while helping participants develop networking skills and build a real community. The Climb Hire program is free for participants, called Climbers. After graduation, once they secure a stable and salaried role, all participants pay it forward by contributing $150 per month for four years. Paying it forward is one of many ways that Climb Hire fosters community among current Climbers and alumni.

Community is a core part of Climb Hire’s purpose because Pelman realized that social capital is critical to finding an upwardly mobile career. The idea came to her in an “a-ha moment” while she was an entrepreneur-in-residence at LinkedIn.

During Pelman’s tenure at LinkedIn, they added a referral button and discovered that the vast majority of job seekers were getting jobs through referrals. A 2016 survey by LinkedIn found that a whopping 85 percent of all jobs are filled via networking. A 2020 study by Instawork found that 20 to 40 percent of all new hires were found specifically through employee referrals. 

“That made me wonder, ‘Where do networks come from?’” Pelman said. “Well, a lot of the time networks come from college, when you play lacrosse and join an a capella club and write for the newspaper and do all of these things that allow you to build relationships organically for hundreds and hundreds of hours. But what if you have to work to put yourself through college? Or you don’t live in the dorms because you have to take care of family members? Or you don’t attend a four year liberal arts college at all? Then you don’t get to build all those relationships and social capital.”

Pelman continued, “My hypothesis was that there were a lot of career seekers that were hidden and overlooked. They might not have social capital or in-demand skills, but if they did, they would be outstanding employees and they could earn a livable wage. I began to think about how we could find that overlooked talent, help them build social capital by learning the art of relationship-building alongside in-demand skills, and ultimately break the cycle of poverty.” 

Those musings became the founding principles behind Climb Hire. Today, three years in, Pelman and her team continue to build and expand on its mission. 

“We teach the art of relationship building and then we facilitate relationships at a very deep level. We teach Climbers how to tell their stories and how to stay in touch with their network while introducing them to professionals and to other alumni,” Pelman explained. 

With a potential recession looming, and many tech companies reducing their workforces, Pelman says social capital will only increase in importance and that Climbers will be well-positioned to weather an economic downturn. Climb Hire is leaning into its community more than ever. 

Looking to make a difference and help promising professionals into upwardly-mobile careers? Sign up for a Climb Hire volunteer event or seek out other ways to build social capital with people outside your income bracket.