Sometimes the best way to land a job is just to ask for it.
That’s something Justin Schweisberger might say. In 2008, Schweisberger was working for Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell, he was intrigued by a presentation given by a small San Francisco startup called Pramata.
Pramata was pitching to Schweisberger, a project manager at Husch Blackwell at the time, a new way to digitize information embedded into contracts and organize it into databases.
For Schweisberger, a Harvard psychology graduate who had been leaning toward signing up for law school, Pramata’s sales pitch hit his ears more as a career opportunity than a vendor offering its wares.
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“Literally after the sales presentation, I asked if we could have lunch,” Schweisberger said.
Months later, Schweisberger landed a job with Pramata, which is now a promising software solutions firm in San Francisco that in 2015 landed a $10 million round of funding from venture capital firms. Schweisberger, who started as a project manager, ascended to become its chief product officer.
Last summer, Schweisberger opened Pramata’s Kansas City office in the Crossroads Arts District. It’s the first outpost in the United States for Pramata; about 16 employees work in Kansas City. For the Raytown native, it was a return to his roots, to a city where his upbringing helped shape his view of the world.
Schweisberger’s parents still live in the Raytown home where he grew up. Schweisberger lived in a working-class neighborhood and attended Raytown South, where he excelled as a two-sport athlete. He played basketball for famous Raytown South basketball coach Bud Lathrop and former football coach Kelly Donohoe, who now coaches at Blue Springs High School.
Schweisberger also stood out in the classroom. When he broached the idea of applying to go to Harvard, his parents encouraged it.
“My parents never took anything off the table for me,” Schweisberger said. “They said, ‘If you think you can do something, go do it.’ ”
Schweisberger would find the stately halls of Harvard a distinct departure from his Raytown surroundings.
His first semester, he took a class in social justice. At the same time, janitors at Harvard were on strike. While fellow classmates sympathized with the plight of the janitors, they also pitied them for the work they did. Schweisberger, who worked as a janitor during high school, took a different view.
“They were kind of talking down to the janitors — how could they possibly be happy?” Schweisberger said. “I said, ‘I’m a janitor, I worked with janitors. They can be happy.’
“You can overlook people and put people in boxes and not learn from them.”
Schweisberger graduated with a degree in psychology in 2005, just as fellow Harvard grad Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook site was getting off the ground.
Schweisberger opted to go to South Korea to teach English before he worked for Husch Blackwell and eventually for Pramata.
Pramata’s technology scans written contracts and digitizes them to make key points of information more accessible. For clients like CenturyLink and Medtronic, it allows them easier access to contract information like renewal dates and discounts, things that are easy to track with just a few customers but becomes cumbersome with thousands of them.
The company sought an office outside of San Francisco — “I don’t know if you’ve heard, it’s really expensive in the Bay Area” he says — and took Schweisberger’s idea to start up in Kansas City. It worked out for his family; he’s closer to his parents, and his wife landed a job at Children’s Mercy. All because he asked for a job.