When I taught myself to code, I felt like I suddenly developed that superpower of an artist – the ability to take something inside my head and share it with people to experience it together.
Profession: CEO, One Month
Location: New York, New York
What was the first charitable gift you gave and how has that evolved?:
When I was younger, there were philanthropic programs in schools – taking a day to paint to give back, projects like that were offered. But, I don’t think it was until I grew up and went through the process of learning how to code and realizing how many disenfranchised people had ideas and couldn’t turn them into a reality that I realized the tangible effect of philanthropy.
I’m not an artistic person. I admired artists, people who imagine an idea and could pull out a pen and paper or paint it with oils on canvas. I was in awe of people who could create. When I taught myself to code, I felt like I suddenly developed that superpower of an artist – the ability to take something inside my head and share it with people to experience it together. I had an idea, but I didn’t have any money to pay someone to build it.
I realized how inaccessible this is to most people because there are barriers and obstacles to learning in any specialized field: the technical language and words can be helpful but often serves to separate people who understand it from those who don’t, and I think learning something new shouldn’t be any harder than it needs to be. I believe anyone should have the opportunity to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, not just the people who were lucky enough to be born a situation where they can afford tutoring or a college degree in computer science. In my experience teaching myself to code, I found that no one was thinking about the stay at home mom with three kids who didn’t have the same kind of time or resources as others in more fortunate situations. So I created my startup, One Month.
Tell us more about how One Month incorporates philanthropy into its mission.
Starting an education company online has been tough. I feel that high-quality education is not accessible to people around the world. I approach my startup with a big social impact angle. We charge $49 for a course – and it’s so that we can make it high quality and have a human touch;it’s a lot more accessible than $60,000 for a year of college tuition.
We fund a lot of scholarships, for example, for women and high school students. There’s one student who stands out… he emailed me one day. Srin Madipilli’s story wound up in the New York Times. He said Hey, I’m in London and I’m stuck in a wheel chair – he has spinal muscular atrophy. He decided to learn how to code. He took One Month’s Rails course and he wound up building an “Airbnb for handicapped accessible apartments” called Accomable. He found it was difficult for him to travel. But, he built a site that allowed people to post and share apartments. When I heard his story, we decided to fly him to NYC to have him tell it. He was able to raise seed investment, which allowed him to quit his job and take an idea to build it into reality.
There are so many ideas like this that most people just aren’t equipped to build yet, but they could be. That’s why we give a lot of scholarships to students, the stories that they tell – from being homeless for 10 years to at the age of 60 making a career switch. It’s stories like this that stand out to me. The thing I feel most fulfilled about is that I can do this as a business and still find amazing ways to incorporate giving into my life.
What causes inspire you and how do you support them?:
One organization that I’m a big fan of is New York on Tech. They are preparing the next generation of tech leaders. I’m helping a friend on the board. I’m helping them overcome some of the same problems I ran into as a young entrepreneur, from setting up a CRM to figuring out how to develop a sustainable business model.
Also, I donate time to support the Thousand Network is a collection of a thousand budding social entrepreneurs around the world across 40 cities – from South Africa to Bangladesh. I’m the NYC ambassador, essentially the community manager. That’s a lot of keeping the NYC community together and active. At least twice a month we get everyone together, people who are trying to start businesses and non-profits, or are working on amazing projects. We do this with a monthly dinner and breakfast.
Who inspires you to give?:
Elon Musk is my biggest business inspiration. Everything he is doing from a business perspective is life changing – it’s pushing humanity forward..let’s go to Mars, let’s bring electric cards to the masses, let’s reignite this human drive for innovation. He is exploring all these crazy ideas. To me, he is the guy who epitomizes going after something big and changing the world. Richard Branson and Bill Gates have done this as well. Both from the business side and also to focus on philanthropic side – they are thinking of return on investment – how can they help people out more.
On the personal side, Susan Kish has been a mentor and big inspiration for me. She learned how to code while working as an executive at Bloomberg, and has been an advisor to us at One Month. In fact, we just invited her to join our Board of Directors!
What would you say to others who haven’t yet found a philanthropic outlet?:
It starts with inspiring other people around you. I think everyone has something worth teaching. I’m a huge fan of using edcation to give back. When teaching people how to code, I had this block: I’m 22 years old; I shouldn’t be out there in front of a room of people teaching about anything. I should wait until I’m 50 and have significant things to share. But that was a limiting belief. I think everyone has something worth sharing – you don’t have to be a master or an expert at it
I think being a beginner and a peer can actually be an advantage when you are talking to a room full of people who want to get started. I was able to talk to people about how to get started. I understood how they felt, and I was able to share the resources I discovered, and share my story.
Putting yourself in the position of being a teacher is an incredibly powerful thing. It opens your mind to the possibilities of how you can give back. Find educational resources – when I started out it was General Assembly, Skillshare, and Udemy. Come up with an up an idea for a class and put it together. I think everyone should find something that you could pursue as a teacher and that will lead to much more.