Silicon Valley professionals pay it forward with the help of this mobile app
This podcast is supported by linked in learning. We're all at different places in our careers. Some of us are just looking for a job. Others are trying to get promoted manage a team or do something new wherever you're at linked in learning has more than thirteen thousand courses taught by industry experts to help you succeed in your own way, anytime anywhere. It features. A vast range of business tack and creative skills. Employers are looking for visit linked in learning dot com slash learn for free to get a month free and to keep learning in all the career moments that matter to you. And primarily driven by leveling the playing field and creating economic opportunities for more women into workforce. Welcome to the Yahoo. Finance presents podcast. I'm Alexis Christopher as March is women's history month and more than a hundred Silicon Valley professionals are paying it forward mentoring, a hundred thousand female students and recent grads. It's a grassroots effort. And it is the brainchild of chara Sharma. She is the CEO and founder of the mentoring mobile app, next play dot AI. And she joins me today on this podcast from San Francisco. It is great to have you here. Charro how Alexis I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Oh, it's our pleasure. So this initiative, I mean, this is really impressive because it began by word of mouth. I mean, you basically called some friends in in Silicon Valley and said would you help out and mentor, and then I guess they called a friend, and they called a friend and here you are with over a thousand companies participating. Yes. That's exactly how it happened. I think it really seeks to people sent him into staying forward, especially women in the workforce. And the last couple years they've seen a lot of initiative movements like time's up neat. Need doing anything? There was a lot of emotion in this world that needed to be channelled constructively. So I think this is a great opportunity for a lot of professionals to come forward. And then offer just thirty minutes to hardly women entering the workforce. And why is it a women at that stage in their careers? Recent grads very early on in their careers. You believe it's important to start the mentoring process. Very early on. Yes. To well this March we wanted to focus on them, and who I entering the workforce. Because I think people talk about this last ceiling, but actually the sticky floor that hits you way, before so this gender gap, including the fee, Athens shooting the project you are assigned. It starts refers job itself. And then the that keeps compounding overtime. And then that that really rose up and we wanted to help the women their first job itself. So were we have reputed men Mentese who are in universities, and whoever we can graduate, and we're continuing to find out more mental as well as mentors. Now. Let's be cleared. The mentor is do not have to be women. You have men and women who are mentoring these young women. Correct. That's right. And tell me why that's important, right? Because there was a backlash after the metoo movement. A lot of men said they felt uncomfortable. Having to spend any time alone. On with the woman in that could in the long run hurt. Her ability to to move up within her company. Absolutely. I think it's really unfortunate that we thought his backlash. It's unforeseen backlash offer me too and fill a lot of executives. A lot of really senior and powerful people are not comfortable both indoors connections with them anymore, which really hurts us. And I pleaded with myself when I was raising money in Silicon Valley from these days. So I have empathy for that and for sites, but I think an opportunity like this piece a safe space and the right intentions for everyone involved. The we say a lot of allies and a lot of really powerful men signed up for this initiative that our executives from, you know, every company even name it. It's lift Linden Salesforce. Facebook survey monkey and Silicon Valley, but also in India and Israel and Judah in Jerusalem. They're hosting a bunch of events now to complement this movement. And it's really amazing how this grassroots movement is really just inviting. Hundreds of thousands of people now, and I'm excited to see what would come of it, and whether or not it can be an annual event, you know every March for women's month. Of course, you'd like to think it happened sort of all year long, right? Yeah. Good. We'll sign me up. I'd love to I'd love to mentor. I think it's I think it's it's a fabulous 'cause for men and for women. So this idea of mentoring has really been a long running fem- for you throughout your career. You founded next play dot AI this mobile app two years ago, and you already have some really big name clients. Right. Coca Cola square, lift tell us how you are using a I to help these companies mentor and retain their workers. It's a very tight labor market today and companies are desperate to hire more and more people and actually over sixty percents of fortune five hundred companies they're going through digital transformation. So within the next two years, they're going to change their business model, which means they're going to quiet, a totally different skill sets for their workforce. And they have to do two things. They have to hire a lot and second they have to upskill their existing workforce. And this really applies companies at any size usually have to obey your work. We're fortunate that I killed three daddy for tomorrow, which is very uncertain. And so what we do is we both mentoring programs would been companies internally so employees can learn from each other and build a culture of learning and sharing and mentor chip. So let's say would take colored slunk as an example, they're both our clients. So we go into the company employees. Download our. Mobile app. They fill out some questions, the doctor the AI, and they tell the AI about their goals and preferences, and then we matched them in the mentally the mentors within the company scales. The matching is the biggest place where a is used today. We take into account not only the goals, they tell us, but we also predict and that again ver the I consent. The we predict what could they need be and how that affected by say their gender their stage in life. If it's a woman who's going on that leave what what stages she in? If it's a black female engineer. How does she feel and what might you need, you know, that we take a lot of those things into account, and it's a very inclusive algorithm and over ninety five percent of the people with matched have not more than three times. So that's that's pretty very fat. And then often the matching the app, actually. Also gives you Brits allies nudges. So if you're my nintee- or Alexis you and I are matched. If our first meeting is coming up tomorrow, then the app thing, and it will give us some conversation, topics. Okay. Is having that conversation prompts? Okay. Yes. And if you and I haven't met and safety weeks, then it will remind us to schedule the next meeting. So it's really smart like that. Oh, it sounds like it's super smart, and I like the idea of mentoring people while they're within the company, I think too often once they've got the job sort of we think the mentoring should should stop. And and also my question to you is is mentoring. Just a young person's thing or can somebody should somebody be mentor? D- different stages of their career. That's a big question. I don't think it has anything to do with your age. I think it has to do with the growth mindset, and especially in this rapidly changing world, we all generation need to be constantly building our skills because we have to say Delvin for tomato in the workforce. Right and see so many use cases for our products for reverse mentoring, large companies come to us, and they want to fair that executive and senior leaders to actually the incoming workforce. Because they want to understand how young do you wish with today's? Right. So many of these inns life people across every generations should be mentor and should find him in tourists. But I think goals really personal. So it could be hugely win by what's going on in your personal life. The we have a client, and they're big companies live in it outward decade. And we had a men T who was going on that lead, and she became when banks to the mentor reassigned door and thanks to the mental conversation. She had she became the first woman at her company to get promoted by aware, not least. Wow, huge this. That is pretty huge. That's a nice phone call to get while you're on maternity leave. Hey, you know, what you gotta promotion. That's awesome. So tell me about why when you're speaking to the mentors. Why do they do this? And does any of this ever really result in people finding jobs? Absolutely. So I think the number one dry is definitely altruism. They wanna pay for where they want to help someone and I think that sentiment than humans should not be underestimated, right? Giving us that you're giving us faith again renewed faith in the human spirit. I I think beyond thing forward by being a mentor, you can truly develop your leadership, managerial and mentoring and coaching skills. So we see how mentors benefit as much as the main tease after after a period of time, and that is into then getting ahead and ears by building gross engine relationships across the company by understanding the big picture by getting empathy for the men t by becoming better coaches off tonight questions about solving and the third set the third biggest dry of action needs to build a invite line. We see a lot of mentors offer coaching somebody or mentioned somebody's for few months often. They'll coach them, you know, hey, come work on my team. Actually, they right. So that's pretty common and setting up internal mentioned programs can really help the company create internal mobility where instead of losing your employees. You actually keep your employees as long as you help them. See a clear. Good thoughts within the company if they have a fashion house them live bit at your company and don't just lose them. Yup. When they feel like they're being valued. It's amazing. How much they want to keep on working for you? You have a very unique story, and I think very inspirational one, and I'd love for you to share it with us. I know that you are an immigrant from India. You're actually out of college not that many years ago. A you're quite young to have accomplished all that you have and you founded to award winning startups while in college before being recruited by linked in. So. You had a lot on your plate. What was your inspiration for coming to the United States? And for starting the companies that you have. Saying I grew up in India in a family where remember not allowed to work. Have you know, and I think that had motivated need to do all these things because from deep within I'm an primarily driven by leveling the playing field and creating economic opportunities for more ruined into workforce. And I came to the US on the scholarship, and when I entered the workforce, I very quickly realized how it's definitely not a level playing field in the US either. And would stop you from because I'm I'm curious to know sort of your your personal experience. How what did you find was different like when you entered the workforce here in the US? What was surprising to you as a young woman? So I think for everyone than me leaving virtually and enter the workforce purchaseable, you're on your own for the first time. There are no thoughts or structure today that I know, you know, it's not like a freshman and sophomore at height, and everyone goes through this huge light stage shift and two that's gay to begin with. But on top of sucks, especially for women and people of color the workplace rules are not established to optimize for your success. The way need a chip is perceived the microaggressions on a daily basis, though, I were death Lincoln, which is one of the great company. They have an amazing culture great leadership and even there early like I used to face backlashes for being emissions just bid vice I would get on a daily basis. You know, I I saw how in just the first couple years in the workforce, my confidence level dipped and my emission levels. And I would Meghan guess myself so much and the already having Boston syndrome to begin with. And then you couple that with. Just people, you know, not incentivizing you. In fact, feeding lazing you for often for more responsibilities or, you know, wanting to do bigger things, and that really hurts women, and and you know, for that even this month of March me, especially wanna do focus on young women were Jeff ended in the workforce because we wanna help them with resources knowledge in would support system pretty early on talk to me about the companies you founded while in your dorm room, you know, that sounds a little familiar. There's a little company called Facebook. That did the same thing. What what did you found while you were in college? Yes. Who I truly truly believe in the power of mentoring and role models. I mean, that's what I'm doing next let, but when I was in college, I interned at a startup in my sophomore year, where the seal was a very young man, and he was of Indian origin. And I think I didn't realize at the time. But because I saw him running the company that would actually you funny, you mentioned Facebook, it was started by visiting and think of walkman who from the Facebook scandal. And I think just seeing somebody I identify with when a company was huge mentor. The next time when I was in college when I saw this problem, I immediately just those at the nation, and I wasn't trying to start a company I just wanted to solicit it, and we were connecting graduating students to alums of the Decian do. To had interviews and bad for their job interviews, and it was a phone that my had because when they would apply to consulting jobs. They would want to prepare for interviews and your centers are not they quit. And so it was a it was a little problem, I signed then I book information and something became out of it. And then I think about habits or or that little step to songs for something soon became our habits. And you know, then when I saw another issue, then I started the company then I saw the the lack of role models. And so then I started Bill Gates flow that we talked about two years ago where we told stories of successful female, founders to a million women around the world by documentary fog, and again, you know, that speaks to the power of role, models and mentors. You can see a theme and everything that I've done it. I think it's really about the next thing. People would gene and Delon's to the dry support. System and mentors who can help them. Get ahead. You know, I don't have to tell you that the cards were were kind of stacked against you. When you came here to to do what you did. I mean, you were when you started next play you were fresh out of college. You were a female. You didn't have a lot of experience. But you're whippersnapper smart. We can all tell that. And you are ambitious and you have this calling to mentor people. What was it like for you? When you started to hit the pavement and find funding for your startup. That's it was really hard and. I think it helped that I spoke into founders. We're got started before because I understood what I was going into. Although, you know, it it's really hard to exceed it yourself. No matter how until you're in it. Right. Right. Yes. Absolutely. And I have been in so many dooms where the male VC's would just look at my chest. When I was pitching to them, you know, and if I took my meal co-founder with me they look at him even though I am pitching. And I'm talking about the number, and I know the numbers I'm the CEO, but they would keep looking at him. And they would ask him the right question him the questions the men he would defer to me I would answer again the follow up to him, and it really gets to you. But I just I had to be patient and over one fifteen bastards told me, no. And it was really hard. But we just kept doing, and you know, because I didn't started this company to have an IPO to have an exit. I started. The company because they really wanna sold for this problem. So I just got going and I need that'll get they don't fund me. Then I'll find other sources, but thankfully, we found some investors. So we we're backed by five hundred startup executives from Linden Salesforce tech crunch a couple of DC firms through ultimately, you were able to find some people who got behind the mission. And it really just takes a few to get started. You did you find that? When was because recent studies have shown that when women go out for funding for their startup investors. Potential investors, ask them different questions than they do men were. They ask them those same questions. But in a different way, did you experience that? Yes. Oh, absolutely VC's are known for pattern matching they and that's not the optimized for their success in deterrent and. They have seen the people who are wildly successful, the founders matern. They look like, Mark Zuckerberg, and he jobs, and they're right men. And it's so funny when a young man, and and their studies that have been done, I'm not just making it up when a young man goes into just VC. They'll think oh, wow. He's an expert decker break when a young woman does business to them. They'll think oh she hasn't seen the road yet. How would you? Visit you know when when an older man due to pitch to them Bill. Thank oh, he's mature. And he has exceeded he's going to meter and then same if Lindos they'll think oh vote. She probably she's waiting to have good soon or she already has kid, and then bad just somehow means that oh, she cannot work hard. And it's it's bizarre ridiculous. But I think this is a stomach issue. And what needs to happen is we need to have more women writing checks and not just a few. But enough of the actually have a seat. On the table, and they don't feel like minorities in health less than south and their workplace. So about a year and a half ago, a bunch of female VC came together and started always you might have heard of fence. And so they're constantly helping fun of more women in BC. And then there are more women writing checks, I think that look severely just turn the tables and create more female founder like myself. Yeah. A recent survey by IBM found that just eighteen percent of senior leadership at companies around the world belong to women. So we may have come very far. But we have we have far to go chara Sharma CEO and founder of next play. Best of luck with all of your endeavors, and thanks so much for being with us on this podcast. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the who financed presents podcast. I'm Alexis Christopher's be sure to rate review and share this podcast and remember to subscribe. So you never miss an episode. This podcast is supported by linked in learning. We're all at different places in our careers. Some of us are just looking for a job. Others are trying to get promoted manage a team or do something new wherever you're at linked in learning has more than thirteen thousand courses taught by industry experts to help you succeed in your own way, anytime anywhere. It features. A vast range of business tack and creative skills. Employers are looking for visit linked in learning dot com slash learn for free to get a month free and to keep learning in all the career moments that matter to you.