Bridging The Tech Divide
Q&A with T&E Ladder Founder
Khushi Malde is the founder of Tech and Entrepreneurship Ladder. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, she is currently a student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is pursuing a double degree in Data Science and Business Administration.
T&E Ladder is a Berkeley-Kenya partnership designed to develop entrepreneurship and technology education programs for high school students in Kenya.
When Khushi started at Berkeley, phrases like ‘entrepreneurship, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence,’ were swirling round campus. These terms were new to Khushi whereas many other students seemed not just familiar with them but were actively working on projects exploring them.
Khushi realized that the opportunities she’d had in high school in Kenya were very different to those experienced by many students in the US. And she decided to do something about it.
Now in her third year at Berkeley she has interned for companies including Salesforce in San Francisco.
Here we get to know a bit more about the story behind T&E Ladder and its co-founder.
- What was the inspiration to begin this program?
Maneuvering through opportunities at Berkeley in order to learn about industry trends has been a rough ride. I experienced a period of incompetency, worthlessness, and a constant feeling of not being good enough which is something I would want no other person to experience. Fortunately I had great friends who continue to support me and I wanted to be the same support system for others. So what better way than beginning with my home. Therefore, I decided to begin this program by targeting high school students in Kenya.
2. What are the biggest differences you experienced studying in Kenya and Berkeley?
My experiences as a student in Berkeley and Nairobi, have been vividly different. In high school I learned everything by the book and stuck to certain extracurriculars such as MUN. However, when I moved to Berkeley, I was forced to break out of my cocoon and explore different career options by engaging in more hands-on projects and activities that were no where close to my field of study. My experience at Berkeley has definitely been a more interdisciplinary one compared to that of high school.
3. When did you first notice the technology gap?
The first 2 weeks of any semester is specifically important for club recruitment at Berkeley. To join a club you had to go through an application and multiple interview processes. This is when I was shocked at how people are actively involved in different areas outside of academics. Buzz words such as consulting, entrepreneurship, data analytics, AI, machine learning, is all I heard while I walked from class to class. While I was confused at what all these terms meant, students from high schools in the US found all this to just be the norm. Many of these students have had lucrative internships in silicon valley, founded startups, worked on technological research projects, and had papers published all in high school. It all felt overwhelming. I was never exposed to this technological and entrepreneurial world and was just thrown into it. This is when I realized that the opportunities and resources I had in high school were so different from what students within the US had. The bubble I lived in popped.
4. How did T&E Ladder turn from an idea into an established project?
I have always wanted to give back to the community using the indestructible weapon of education. Education is an extraordinary opportunity that not all are able to get. T&E Ladder is an idea that I particularly got a few months ago while taking an afternoon nap as I was mentally exhausted with the news regarding the pandemic that I was consuming. I wanted to use this time to start something positive and then I remembered my experience from the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship bootcamp. This is a very powerful boot camp that made me appreciate the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset and spirit. I want to create the same environment for students who do not have this opportunity. Therefore, I created the T&E Mission statement, built a team of passionate individuals by posting the details on Facebook, and got started on executing the project immediately.
5. What do you want T&E Ladder to achieve?
Through T&E Ladder I hope to expose high school students in developing countries to the beauty of entrepreneurship and technology. I look forward to empowering people to use technological advancements to solve major world problems in order to create a better future for all. The mission of T&E Ladder is to provide high school students with a platform and resources through which they can create breakthrough solutions using the power of technology. Creating a step to success in the hope of bridging the digital divide.
6. What will the program look like now and in the future?
This program’s first target audience is high school students in Kenya. This year, we are beginning with virtual workshops and talks from professors, entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. These virtual events will focus on different tech and entrepreneurship areas. We are working towards creating a resource platform for aspiring high school entrepreneurs. Thereafter, early next year, we look forward to hosting an entrepreneurship bootcamp followed by a pitch competition for students in Kenya. This would be in partnership with UC Berkeley, Kenyan high schools, industry leading corporations, investors, entrepreneurs, and mentors. Eventually the goal is to establish a tech and entrepreneurship education program internationally while continuing to host exciting annual events.
7. What lessons have you taken from internships so far that could be applied to T&E Ladder?
My most recent internship is a software engineering internship at Salesforce. Prior to this, I have tried out different roles such as product development, project management, marketing, data analytics, and business development within the startup space. My internship at Salesforce has been a unique experience where I worked on the Data Infrastructure team doing an Artificial Intelligence project. Coming into the US, I had never written a line of code, but with the knowledge and opportunities provided to me at UC Berkeley, I was able to secure an internship at a Fortune 500 company. The best part of the internship has been the entrepreneurial spirit that a huge company like Salesforce promotes. My biggest takeaway from this experience will be that there is no end to innovation. With the constant technological advancements, sustainable solutions to everyday problems can be developed. Constant learning and exposure will drive this innovation.
8. Why do you think it is so important for young people to acquire technological skills?
As we move into the so-called third industrial revolution, having basic technological skills is extremely important. The world is changing and possibilities of problem solving are completely dependent on technological innovation. In a few years, the basic understanding of technological advancement will become a must know. Getting exposure to the entrepreneurial and technological mindset at a young age will assist in the transformation of different industries, hopefully through positive growth.
9. What advice would you have for young people who want to develop tech and entrepreneurial skills?
Get started. Nothing can stop you and if you are really passionate in building your skills then go for it. Reach out to us and we can connect you to several resources and help you get started. No matter your level of experience, your age, or your skill set, everyone can embark on the entrepreneurial journey. It’s all about the mindset and we are here to help you develop that.
Lastly I would just suggest a few great books to read to get you started:
- The Third Door by Alex Banayan
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek
- The Art Of The Start by Guy Kawasaki
- Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone
10. How can people get involved or support T&E Ladder?
There are lots of opportunities for different people to get involved in this program.
High school students — Get involved by following our social media pages and attend all the exciting events we have planned for you all. Elevate your education experience to the next level.
Professors, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Mentors — Get involved by offering your support in leading workshops and participating as judges for our competitions. Become an inspiration to young innovators.
Passionate individuals — Reach out to us and we can get you join the team to create an impact. Whatever your skill set may be is helpful to us. Volunteer to bridge the digital divide.
Everyone — Follow our social pages, attend events you are interested in and reach out to us with any ideas, collaborations, or contributions you may have. We are looking to grow and impact as many students as possible.
To get in contact:
Email us at — firstname.lastname@example.org
And follow our social channels: