Bridging different worlds
Shweta Mukesh is one of the youngest MBA alumni to be featured in these pages and yet has already made a considerable impact. In addition to a promising career in tech, she founded a for-purpose organization called KidsWhoKode, which has enabled hundreds of thousands of children from low-income households to be computer literate. In 2021, KidsWhoKode expanded beyond India to other Asian countries.
She exhibits infectious energy and expresses a fierce ambition – and one that is more humanitarian than personal. Her vision is to leverage the digital ecosystem to transform societies.
“In the long term, I really want to work on social systems and social platforms. We have a big movement in India towards social platforms.”
KidsWhoKode is perhaps the template. Unlike most social enterprises, it does not rely on external capital or fundraising. For example, rather than donating money, tech firms lend their talent to KidsWhoKode. These individuals spend months with KidsWhoKode to solve complex problems i.e. building new programs, driving engagement on the learning platform, or creating data management systems. For tech companies, this partnership is part of a larger talent engagement and retention strategy. It also factors into their corporate social responsibility efforts. For KidsWhoKode these types of partnerships give them access to phenomenal talent and ensures their programs/initiatives are relevant in an evolving market.
She says: “It is about working together and leveraging each other’s strengths to ensure that every child has an avenue to learn and succeed.”
While KidsWhoKode partners with corporations, they also partner with non-profits to scale/deploy their programs in remote regions. These types of collaborations enable students to interact with peers from around the world, meet industry leaders, visit different organizations, get internships or even funding for a startup idea.
Shweta points to new forms of service delivery in education. For example, textbooks in India include a QR code in every chapter; scan the QR code and, depending on whether you’re a student, a teacher or school leader, you’re taken to a different platform. All of that content on that chapter is curated, aggregated, with exercises, video lessons and so on.
“Learning becomes so much easier for kids. Teacher training becomes so much easier. Today, teachers have resources to say: How do I teach this concept in a simple way with real life examples? The content is available in vernacular languages and is being used across India. It is truly phenomenal.”
Shweta has been dedicated to education from a young age. A US national who grew up in India, Japan and the US, she would spend her summer vacations each year staying with grandparents in India, where she volunteered in government schools. Her upbringing and early career have meant that, having studied for her MBA on the IMD campus in Switzerland, she already has considerable living and working experience in three continents.
Shweta credits her year in Lausanne in 2020 for significant personal development and enhanced ability to work in teams. As an active and outcome-focused American, she learned in the MBA how not every problem has an instant solution, and how to bring a group with you. The processes also matter. She also learned to adjust to a slower pace of life in Europe. This includes learning to take time to think, reflect or even savor a coffee or a meal.
“I was curious to understand a worldview that was not about checking boxes and accomplishments but about savoring life a little bit. I once heard that you can choose between changing the world and enjoying it – but through IMD I learned that this is a spectrum, and you can do both.”
One particularly influential moment for her at IMD came from her personal coach. She discovered that she has what’s known as a “bridge” personality – that is, she lies on the middle of the key characteristics on psychological profiling, in between introvert and extrovert, thinking and feeling, and so on. She explains:
“I kept getting this feedback that I’d jump from being an introvert to an extrovert. I would be sad for a minute and then I would have processed that sadness and been: Ha! like it’s fine and moved on with it really fast. And unless I took people along on that journey, they would just end up being very confused and overwhelmed.”
“Learning how to slow down and take people along with me on that journey was really, really helpful.”
The ability to build consensus in business projects has helped her in roles post-graduation, initially with the Atlanta, US-based robotics company Gray Orange, before moving to a role as Solutions Consultant at a fast-growing technology start-up, Rippling.
While her long-term ambition has been in social development, she has been committed to building skills and gaining corporate experience while balancing her non-profit ambitions. Her heart is in educational development, and her head is schooled in technology and smart business systems. She looks set to deploy the best of both.