After studying Computer Science & Education at Yale, Rafi opted not to head to Silicon Valley like his classmates, but instead moved to Cape Town, South Africa to try to build an education company focused on personal growth. As Chief Product Officer, he manages iXperience's education and technology platforms. He's passionate about creating environments that push people to learn while creating a strong sense of belonging.
What is your favorite travel memory?
Before joining iX, I helped run a different education company abroad called Gakko. With them, I was able to travel to various parts of Japan, learn Japanese, and get to know a radically different culture. I met other university students from all over the world with amazing talents who had a passion for creating inspiring learning environments. My growth and experiences during the years I did Gakko influence me in my current work every day.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
School is focused on individual achievement and "proving" that you're smart or capable. Work is about aligning a group of people toward a share vision and using systems to efficiently achieve that vision. While paying someone to do your work in school would lead to expulsion, in reality paying someone to do something for you successfully is incredibly difficult. So I'd say I've gotten a far more nuanced understanding of teamwork, which I believe to be humanity's competitive advantage over other species as well.
Personally, I've also become more focused, less emotionally driven, and better able to think clearly about the long term.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
We had a student from Fordham University who had been rejected from every single Ivy League school—which had crushed his self-confidence. When he came to an iX course, he realized that he was as good—if not better—than the other students from much "better" universities around him. The self-confidence he gained was transformative.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I'd take our blockchain course in Tel Aviv! I think the technology is exciting and has a lot of potential (and a lot of hype), and I'd be keen to experiment with it. I'm also interested in Israeli culture and understanding the conflicts in the region a bit better. But this will probably change for me each year as we expand to new locations.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
We try to be a small company that emulates the world's best. Our team is kind, but they're also honest about what good and bad performance looks like. We value our own health, and prioritize being in amazing physical and mental shape, as well as achieving amazing results. I find that level of rigor, combined with a family-style mindset, quite rare amongst the companies I interact with.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
A sustained passion for your mission, and the courage to see the truth. I do believe the mission gets harder and harder to keep authentic as a company grows and the everyone—especially the leadership—need to build habits that keep it alive in the organization. And as a company grows and gets set in its ways, it may be hard to acknowledge that certain strategies, people, or ideas aren't working and some tough conversations need to be had to do what's best for the company.