Have you ever wondered how some people could build a successful startup, work in a lab as a geneticist, speak on the world stage and build brain computer interfaces before they even hit 18?
Well, The Knowledge Society (TKS) has produced many of these wonderful talents.
Speaking to Nazra, who was the first employee at The Knowledge Society, I learned a LOT. Nazra joined The Knowledge Society when she was 16. Within the year, she was building their community, speaking around the world and spearheading their global expansion.
How did she manage to do so much?
How do people like Ananya Chadha do so many amazing things as consult for Consensys, Microsoft, Neuralink and more before even leaving high school?
This episode with Nazra reveals insights into how to think about one's career, accelerate one's learning and on community building.
Nazra's Top Five
Why we sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker
most important daily habit
From Anna Green Gables, Ms. Josephine says, "grief is the price you pay for love".
thinking most about lately
Psychology. Reading the undiscovered self.
Just as an intro for everyone, can you give a short intro sentence about yourself?
Oh wait, I should have prepped that one before, but Hey everyone, I'm super excited to be here and thank you for having me. I am 19 years old. I am just a kid from Toronto. Who's done a bunch of interesting things over the past few years, I dropped out of university to work at a startup called the knowledge society, which is an Olympic level training ground for young people who want to solve some of the world's hardest problems.
So I went through TKs and starting my own climate tech startups soon. So I'm just here really care about the world. And yeah, I'm, I'm super excited to have this.
You said you've been doing some really cool things and you mentioned, you know, using, working for TKs straight out of university.
How did you go about finding that as an opportunity?
Absolutely. So I actually, it wasn't straight out of university. It was. Instead of so I didn't end up going to university. And TKs is this program, like I mentioned, it's an Olympic level training grant for young people who want to solve the world's hardest problems.
So I actually went through that program in high school and identify a bunch of different, interesting things. I was making projects using computer visions for self-driving cars. When at that time self-driving cars weren't, you know, that. Crazy cool. Or I was making smart contracts on Ethereum and literally putting my own coins on like the crypto market back also when, you know, crypto wasn't also extremely cool.
So I was going through a bunch of tech projects, went through this program for high school students and the summer through which I was going to be going into university. I was actually meeting everyone at university and becoming very, very unexcited about it. Very quickly. The biggest reason was I kept thinking to myself, I'm not going to find my future co-founders here.
And the reason that thought kept coming up was because there was a contrast between the community at university and the community at TKs filled with, you know, a bunch of like hundreds of, of 17 year old, 16 year olds, 15 year olds who are very serious about solving some of the world's hardest problems who are working at some of the world's top research labs.
I'm sure you've heard of Mount Sinai or sick kids in Toronto at these were, these were students who were not only interning at these hospitals and research labs, but leading teams at them at only age 17 or 18. And so. It was just a very compelling alternative environment that I was in. And I was.
My mind space was just like, I really kind of feel passionate and confident about the path that I'm on and I want to optimize for the most amount of growth on that path. So I was trying to figure out at that time, if I do go to university, which is just a month away, so I'm enrolled in school, it's going to start in a month.
If I do go, what are the things that I'm going to have to do on the side to make sure that I can really, you know, tap into all the things that I wanted to tap into and learn and grow. And the, the very short answer is I was considering not going or trying to figure out some other alternative to university.
At the same time, the founders of TKs were trying to hire for their first person and they couldn't find anyone to hire. Because the first thing that they were looking for was a culture fit. And they turned to me and said, you know what? We've known you for the past two years, you're competent. You can work.
We know that you can learn things fast and we're willing to help teach you along the way. If you take a gap year and work with us. So I took the year off and then it turned into not going back in and and staying with them for that dream.
So, you know, that must be a big challenge, your for, I mean, for all those people in that course, but you're, you're thrown into this world that expects very high pace, and then you have to learn and grow really rapidly to not only keep up, but really thrive.
How would you go about thinking about how to grow and learn as quickly as possible? What sort of frameworks do you use?
The number one thing was being relentlessly resourceful. And what I mean by relentlessly resourceful is constantly just trying to find the information that I would need to answer.
The questions that I would have and asking and making sure that I kept asking myself questions about what do I need to learn? Or is there any gaps that I'm missing here or turning to the people that I was working with and being like, give me feedback, like check this email that I just wrote. Look at.
These copies that I'm writing or Hey, listen to a call that I'm just about to hop on. And I did that in the beginning a lot, but once I actually got good at doing these things, I actually kept doing that too. I would, you know, ask a friend to a colleague to sit in on a meeting and just listen into a sales pitch that I was doing or something like that.
It's, it's constantly seeking feedback. It's going out of your way to finding information that you need to being everything, Googling everything, and being in this active mindset of, I am going to figure things out. Like I will, I will learn how to do this. And it obviously it's very easy and even broad sounding as a speak about it, but.
You know, throw me back to that context where I'm a 17 year old, just out of high school who just learn how to send a calendar invite. And the next day is now managing a portfolio of a thousand schools that we're trying to expand to and work with and doing that single-handedly myself like that learning jump within a week within two weeks is, is huge.
And it's, it really just comes down to those very kind of simple things, but, but hard to do. And it all comes down to really is just this mindset of are you, do you work to learn? Do you want to figure things out? And if yes, how committed are you to doing that and not just doing it for the check mark but doing it well you know, there's the, the famous kind of quote.
From Facebook where a done is better than perfect. Well, at TKS we say correct is better than done. So it doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be done and then done well. And we'd rather it be done well, then just done it all. So how can you, how can you just get in that mindset and think about those things and then actively reach for support and try to figure things out by Googling them and YouTube yourself and learning from it.
So I'm really intrigued about the point where you say where you basically ask, am I doing this right? Because I know, especially from my own experiences, like you can have a big imposter syndrome, but you probably actually doing it maybe 70%. Correct. But you feel like I'm doing terribly. And so how, how willing did you find people were to help you?
Were there any negative experiences you had where you were trying to reach out on people like you should be able to do this.
No, there, there actually weren't many negative experiences, one within TKs. Definitely not because the whole culture is, is around feedback and supporting each other. So definitely not internally.
And then externally when I was reaching out to experts on LinkedIn or Twitter no, absolutely not. And it, you know, I don't think it made a difference than I, I was 17 years old or if I was 30 or 40 reaching out to people and asking those things, because the thing that matters the most is, is the sincerity is Hey, it's okay.
That, you know, even to yourself knowing it's okay, that I don't know these things, but I'm putting myself out on a line because I am so willing to learn it. And I'm so willing to go out of my way to, to understand these things. So no, it, it, I didn't really feel that much of an imposter syndrome which I have felt, you know, in other rooms and stuff, but when it comes to learning and when it comes to.
Going out there to find information not so much. And the second thing was, it really matters to the people that you're reaching out to, to know that when you're, when, when they're helping you, you're actually going to use that information and that you're actually going to do something with it versus just hopping on a call to listen to them.
And having an interesting conversation, but not really doing anything about it later. And the best way to show people that you are someone that takes feedback and is trying to use their, their support and their knowledge and expertise is by previously showing them that you've done stuff. So I would send people my blogs, I would, I would send people my articles.
I would send people podcasts, interviews that I've done YouTube videos that I've made things that I was researching about and which send them prior content or prior things that I was working on just to show them I am committed. And I am willing to learn. So yeah, the response was actually pretty, pretty nice and people are, people are very kind and willing to help, especially if you've done some work beforehand and, and show that you're actually serious about learning
And of those, you know, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, which one have you found the most helpful for this particular task?
Is it just really about showing that, you know, I I'm committed to solving this particular problem or is it just that I have put myself out there and moving forward?
Yeah, I would say it doesn't really matter this stream or media. The content is what matters the most. What you know is what matters the most, how much you've done.
So it, yeah, it's just the quality is everything much more than the, the stream of media itself. So yeah, I wouldn't anyone that you know, is considering reaching out to people and sharing their work. I wouldn't worry too much over what, what media you use and just build things and show that you are serious about learning.
But, you know, say you or doing a blog right and your learning and so many different aspects you're trying to grow and lots of different areas. Is it easy for you to get this blog that has content on so many different areas? So that way they can see, oh, this person is serious about learning this specific topic or is it enough to just be showing that, oh, this person is really serious about learning and growing.
I think it depends, depends on the field. It also depends on who you're reaching out to. You know, if you're reaching out to a PM at a startup, say Google, Facebook, anywhere notion they probably have a different kind of like barrier to entry for conversation than someone who is a heavy researcher at like open AI or kernel or Neuralink.
So it doesn't matter like the caliber, I guess, or the not caliber, I guess, but the, the barrier of entry to conversation with someone matters, what type of resources and what type of things that you're working on.
But when you say, when you say the barrier to entry, you gave the example of kind of more research intensive.
Do you mean the barrier to entry? Is they expecting you to have a high level of knowledge or would you mean that just in that subculture, they're not used to speaking to people as much. That's a good clarification. I mean, the, former they would rather, yeah, there's a higher barrier to entry for conversation with them because they expect you to have done some work or researched some bit in that specific area versus are just keen to learn.
So there probably many people that reach out to an AI expert with random questions or for a conversation, but haven't actually done that work or learned a bit or watched a course or produce some content on that specific field of AI. And so if you, if, if you're in that case, for example, if you're reaching out to an expert who might be highly sought out experts, Probably I'd be a highly specific expert, then it might make sense to research and produce some content on that specific subject factor thing itself.
And then when it comes to someone that has a bit more of a broad expertise they most likely, probably just care that you are keen to learn and want to grow versus have very, very specific knowledge in something. So it really just depends on who you're reaching out to and what you gauge to be again, that, that kind of barrier to entry for conversation or a call or an answer back depending on, on what they do.
Are there any strategies you, you found that are particularly good for subgroups? So for example, say you were reaching out to start up project managers versus if he wants to reach out to CEOs, obviously there's this level of barrier. They want higher standards, but are there different tactics you use or anything different that might affect how even the copy of the message itself?
usually, the time, I'm not trying to hop on a call with a CEO for support on a specific type of project or thing that I'm working on most of the time it's Hey, I think what you're doing is really cool. And in general, I would love to just get to know you and build a relationship with you in that case.
And in most cases, anyways, but specifically in that case, I actually approached them with an offer to help out with something, or I will you know, like spend maybe half an hour just going through their site or going through their main product or service and be, and picking out something and being like, Hey, I think, you know, giving them feedback or giving them a suggestion on how they could.
Hit some kind of metric that they're looking for or send them some resources along with my request to, to have a one-on-one with them. So like adding more value and showing that I'm specifically interested in specifically their company or the work that they're doing and that it's not just a copy paste, reach out to, to hang out with the CEO.
So there's, so there's that. And then what I would say with for example, right now, I'm starting a. Climate tech research. And I've done different bits of climate tech research over the past few years. So last year I was supposed to speak at south by Southwest on cellular agriculture. And I've looked into retrofitting and sustainable cement.
And so whenever I'm doing this very, very specific subtopic, deep dives I'm sending, I'm sending people questions on, like, in my reach out, I will talk about a specific area within sustainable cement or within retrofitting that I'd like to talk to them about. And the other is also just asking people for warm intros after the first few, like first few yeah.
Kind of introductions at workout. Like that is the biggest game changer. Once you start making those connections is asking them, you know, even at the end of the call, if you don't have someone specific that you want to reach out to, because most of the time when we were rejected, We have someone in mind you know, we, we have a profile and you say, Hey, do you know Anna?
Or do you know Daniel? And can you give me an introduction to them? But instead, just being like, by the end of the call or your next conversation, just asking them, Hey, I'm working on these things. Do you have anyone that would be interested in talking to me about it or I'm trying to figure out or solve X problem or get area knowledge in this X area?
Do you have people who, you know, are, are experts or have researched it?
I know for me, that tactic has changed things so dramatically just asking who else should I talk to? Just that simple thing, like has led to so many more opportunities. Absolutely. Yeah.
Let's drop back a little bit into the knowledge society TKS.
So at the time when you first went to TKs, you were about 17, am I correct?
I was 16 or 17, 16 or 17.
At that time, what else might've done if TKs didn't exist, would you have gone for a different program? Would you have gone to uni and then followed a similar career path?
Or how did you end up choosing to go for TKIs instead of any other option?
Yeah. That's a really good question. So one, in terms of finding TKs on itself to put you in that mind space, I'm a 16 year old kid who's super ambitious and genuinely wants to figure out how to help solve some of the world's hardest problems.
And you know, especially like, as it. As a gen Z growing up, like the concept of global community, like was never concept to me. I just always felt like I, it, no one ever had to introduce it to me. I just always felt like we were all connected. And that might be just because I've grown up with the internet.
And I, you know, had like my first email when I was in kindergarten and in grade one and was using like MSN in elementary school. So it might've been just because of that connectedness, but in my mind, I was like there's the world and there's everyone in the world and we're all neighbors. And so even that kind of sense of.
A national pride was like a little bit less reduced for me. And I just kind of had this global pride sense. And so I was in high school and I was realizing that there, the things that you're doing in high school, the clubs the fundraisers, although we're great and help people locally, they weren't creating drastic change.
They weren't things that were significant. And I, I felt like I could be doing more. And so I just sat down one weekend and I literally, for 10 hours, I Googled Toronto coding clubs, Toronto tech, teen clubs, and just like a bunch of keywords randomly. And I had pulled up like a hundred. Tabs of all the programs that existed in Toronto.
And by like, I went through each of them and just started to apply to the ones I was interested in. And when I came across TKs, it stood out the most to me, it was like so clear that I had to go through with it. I mean, their tagline was building the next Elon Musks. And I was like, this is exactly what I am looking for.
So I came across TKs a bit more uniquely than just a flyer or an ad. So that was that process. And it's why I chose to go through TKs, but in terms of what I would have done differently or instead I genuinely I genuinely think TKS really, really, like, I don't know helped me sprint.
Like three, four years ahead of the timeline that I would have been on otherwise. I definitely think I would have gone to university. I might not have gone through the hopeful four years. Even prior to TKIs, I was considering what I wanted to do at uni and whether I would want to stay there.
But the biggest thing I would have tried to find other people I've realized through TKs and I was the community manager at TKS for a bit as well, but mostly just through the, the community there that people are everything. And people build everything. People make everything happen, you can't do anything alone.
And I would have just tried to find other kids out there and I was still active on Twitter. Or at that time prior to TKS. And I think eventually I would've stumbled across like the Gen Z I would have stumbled across the, you know, hacker groups. I don't know if you've heard of Eddie five, but they're currently a 15-20 person a group of like a hacker house in Utah right now.
And they're opening up four or five more houses for the summer. So there'll be in Utah at SF and LA and I think another city or two, and there's a bunch of those groups out there right now of you know, teenagers and young adults working together on their startups. So that's, that's eventually the road that I would have found.
And I think I would have stumbled across those things and just try to work on projects outside of a school and try to find interesting people. .
In terms of TKS, it is a community, it's a strong community, but there are several others there's Interact, there's the Thiel fellowship and so forth and so forth.
What do you think makes the people at TKS so special? I suppose one of the things that I kind of come across with say TKS is that it's biased, especially towards younger people, doing things at a more accelerated pace than what is probably more of the conventional go to uni and then follow the masters, PhD research pathway.
If you want to do things in, cutting edge technology, but there's Anaya in the TKS. And she started working at CRISPR when she was just 14. Is she just the genius or is the system at TKS? What makes the people there so great?
Yeah. That's a good question. And it's definitely the latter. So Anaya is actually a really close friend. She's at Stanford this year and I've known her since she was 15 and we went through TKS together. And yeah. It that's that's exactly, you know, that's exactly it. It's the latter where TKs at an early age, it's different than here because TKS , you know, the dichotomy and the difference between high school student and university student.
I mean, looking back, it's all kind of the same, but when you're in high school, there, you, you live in a whole other bubble. And for those kids who, who are curious, who are ambitious, and I don't even mean just, you know, those kind of type a kids or that extremely sporty and ambitious and extracurricular kids, but like half the TKS is also kids that are super shy and don't talk to anyone and don't join any other kind of club other than TKs.
So it's, it's really, it's really a diverse kind of set of students, but it's for people who add at a young age. And by now I think teak has, has foundations. So the youngest age to, to join the program is 11 or 12. It is, it is a program that just accelerates your, your growth and your understanding of, of things.
And what, what is the most helpful with is the models and the removal of that bubble when you're in high school, like the quicker you're out of that bubble. And I just fundamentally, I just, I just have this as a, as a general beliefs and not even as it applies to TKS fit, but everyone, I, I encourage all my university friends.
Who've never been outside of university today to do something really interesting over the summer to you know, explore different sorts of co-ops in different sorts of like fields and industries, and to really step out, step out into the real world even before they graduate. Because they're quicker you remove that, that bubble and that kind of.
Layer of illusion and the quicker that we can get adjusted and understand and see what's out in the real world the more that you can start playing with it the, you know, the, just the faster your, your, your growth can happen. And it's not even just about how fast you can accelerate your growth, but also how much you can explore.
There is a limited sense of how much students can explore when they're in high school. And you know, some are extremely, extremely ambitious and can learn how to code themselves and. You know, go and work at a lab and start working on CRISPR like themselves most can't. And the reason for that is because most don't even know those things exist.
So it's yeah. Th the reason for TKs was one, it is, it is high school specific. And when we look at all the high school clubs that are out there, there's nothing that does this as well as they do. And then also when you look at, you know, what I, right now, if I was in university, because there are students who have actually gone through TKs and have.
Been given funding from the Thiel fellowship foundation. But they haven't they, there weren't even any universities, so there's a TK student. Who's been 14 and 15 years old who has gotten funding from the teal fellowship. But regardless of that, even if I look at those accelerators right now other than probably like YC I would, you know, once TKs starts its own fund, which they're, they're you know, playing around with and I've been planning on doing over the next few years, I would, I would still choose going to TKS over perhaps the Thiel fellowship.
Maybe not YC. It just depends on the type of startup that I was doing. I might offer YC more. And that's just because YC has been doing it for awhile and they're very specialized at this, but there's just, no, at TKS, there's just no barrier. It's, it's all about. How do we, how do we get to wherever we're going to go?
And that, that's how you get these 14 year olds, like Anaya working at CRISPR. That's how you get the Ben Nashman. Who's a TKs kid who went through TKS for the past three years. I think he's he's, he just turned 20. He's raised $5 million with Naval as one of the leading investors for a non-inclusive blood glucose testing ring that he's, that he's working on, that he's created a prototype that's that's worked.
So you go from kids who aren't geniuses who are literally just keen to learn and curious or ambitious. We just have a spark in them and just want to do something a little more. And yeah, it's just, I personally think it's, it's, it's not even the best program out there. It's just the only one that does specifically. this. Which is, which is probably to build the next Elon Musks. And Jennifer,
Do you know how old Anya is roughly right now?
Anaya, has just probably turned to 18 or 19.
I met Anaya I think two years ago in Toronto, the Edcon developers conference for Ethereum. And I remember at that time she was doing quite a few things within crypto, but she's also doing other stuff like work with CRISPR.
How do you think someone like her or any other person that TKs manages to go into such expertise at such depth, as well as taking on a bunch of things that a 16 year old or 14 year old generally does.
Hmm, well, one we usually do them in sprints. So most people we call them focuses and TKs has an internal framework for these.
So we have a kind of learning framework that's called explore. And then there is where you just learn about sorts of different technology. So anti cast, we have an internal platforms that's only available to our students. And there are two, three hour explore modules that we've put together on 50 plus different technologies, literally from like genetic engineering to epigenetics, to a bunch of whole other kind of granular areas.
And there's three hour modulars modules on, on learning about these technologies. So you go, you first, you just explore and you just learn about a bunch of different things and then people can go into focuses and in focus is where you spend two, three months going very deep, as fast as, as hard as you can.
With as much as you can learn within 2, 3, 4 months. And the process for a focus is first it's learn. So you're just learning a bunch about that technology. You're taking courses on it. You're watching YouTube videos you're spending hours just getting some, some basic fundamental knowledge on it.
And then the second part of that process, it's a three-step process. Step two, after learn is replicate and replicate is looking at online existing tutorials of people, creating projects. With that technology people just building and making things with whatever technology you're, you're, you're learning and you are, step-by-step copying exactly what they did.
And you do a few replicates. So you do two or three replicates, and this just helps you. This just helps, you know, how to do things so it's not, or, you know, shining project. It's not the thing that you're always like putting out into the world. This is literally just for you to learn really fast and pick up a really good intuition on that specific project.
So if you're into AI, for example, I did computer vision and I just went and built a bunch of Yolo algorithms. And by, by my like fourth or fifth one as a cool, I kind of just got this. And like, even if I don't know how to code, I know most of the things that are just working within the code and I've just intuitively been able to pick up how to read the code and what needs to go, where to be able to now build my own Yola algorithm.
So replicating is a really good process and this can be applicable to anything. We, we do this, we do this with one pagers. We do this with five decks. We do this with, with, with everything, you know, you want to get good at making one-pagers look at the best one-pagers out there. And try to replicate them on Photoshop or Figma and just replicate as many as you can do it to the exact detail.
So you understand intuitively every single moving part of it and then come step three, will you actually create, and now you start doing things on your own and you start making your own actual original things. And that's just like the accelerated kind of process to get you to, to learn and, and start building as fast as you can.
And then when it comes to, how are people able to do so many of these different things at, at weapons is, is just a few years you know, you are like imagine starting at 14 and, and doing this every few months. And then by the time you were 17, you've built BCIS and you've You know, you've built stuff on the blockchain and you've gone into CRISPR because you've been working on this stuff for three, four years.
So you start early and then you have a lot of time. And then by the time you're 18, you've done a lot of these cool things. And, and for us, honestly, it's not, it's, it's actually not even about those technologies themselves specifically. For some students, is there, it is, it very much is like, there's one technology that you love.
And, and there are students that only study that for three, four or five years. But for a lot of us, this is just kind of fun and it's just explorative. You know, I think an onion is probably the same way. She just wants to learn how to do these things and finds the cool and interesting. So we're not actually trying to become experts.
Here it's instead of a sorry, but mostly it's just. Hey, this exists. And it's going to be really interesting in the future and people are going to build with it. And why don't we just learn that now so that when we are ready to start our own startups, or when we are solving problems, our circle of perceivency of all the tools that we can use and all the tools we have in our toolboxes is larger, but also kind of workable.
Like we we've, we've played enough with some of the tools out there to be able to kind of quickly build or start building when we're ready to start startups or work with work on projects or work with teams on some of the specific problems or solutions where we're excited about.
Very interesting. So it seems that the kids that go to TKs, it's not necessarily like the water that they drink at TKS that makes them so amazing or anything to do with genetics, but the frameworks and the method in how one undertakes the learning.
One of them is copy the masters until you kind of become the master yourself. And the second is that. sprint approach where you sprint with a specific goal in mind, and then towards the end, you try to replicate what you have been learning. Is that, is that correct?
Yes. Yes. It definitely really is.
We're not, we're not all geniuses for sure.
In a follow up question to this is in terms of replicating something. So whether that is the YOLO algorithm or a drawing on Figma what happens if you get stuck? So if I think of say an amazing artist and he might have a great painting that I really want to replicate, what would happen if I get to a stage where I don't think I can do it, what does TKS try to help out with in this case?
Yeah. So two of, the biggest thing, well, one through TKs, you really do learn how to be resourceful and figure things out. So usually if you get stuck and it's a minor stuck, you can Google it and can figure it out yourself. But if you can't do that, then the next step is one the community. So most likely what you're working on or the general area, what you're working on, some other kid has done it.
And, you know, in the early days it was like one or two or three or four other kids. And now it's, it's like 50 or 60 of them that have spent the past two years looking into machine learning or going super deep into it and have all covered really, really just vastly different areas and subtopics within that one umbrella that you're in.
So most of the time, like we have slack channels that are, you know, tech help and questions and things like that. And so most of the times you can just get that support and help from. From other students. And I think that's where like 95% of other support is usually solved from if not already by your, by yourself.
And, and that actually that's like in part is super, super, super, super important. The most, one of the most important things about TKS is the community. Like is the people that, you know, is the people that you work with, like their students that, that do become each other's co-founders that end up living together that work on really cool, interesting projects together.
So the community is the biggest one, so yeah, it's you figure it out yourself, if not the community's there for you. And then there's also the TKS network. So there's TKs mentors and you know, people that, that help within TKs. And if that doesn't work well, then we've got networking playbooks and we've got reach out playbooks and we've got also.
First of resources for students to be able to figure out how to get that support from reaching out to people, which is most likely what happens anyways. In, in general, anytime a student is starting a project or learning about things, they are just reaching out to experts in that field to build relationships with those experts.
And usually we'll, we'll just have someone that, that they can reach out to that can, that can really help them out with that project. And a lot of the students actually ended up becoming like connected to the people that are running the course that they're taking or are, you know, really the ones that like have pioneered a specific technology that they're researching.
So yeah, those are, those are kind of like the three channels either yourself, so TKs network or you end up being able to connect with other people outside that are, that are experts in the field that can help you.
You first came to TKS, I guess, as the community manager, and now you have gone out of TKS, but along the way, I think you probably contributed a huge, huge amount into building the TKs community.
I'm curious as to what you think makes a great community. So there's a bunch of different communities that you mentioned before. Say the Thiel fellowship, gen Z interact. What do you think sets TKS specifically? Is it the people within the community? Is that the structure in terms of the engagement that one has with the leaders within the community or is it just, it brings people together in a more unique way than say a Discord channel possibly could.
Hmm. Yeah, so these are all super great questions. I should clarify. I've been at TKS for two years. I joined in as a first person on the team. And the team was, you know, five people until like my first, a year and a half. So I was a community manager and I was also the person managing growth and the person launching us to New York, Boston, Audubon, Vegas.
So there were, there were many hats kind of worn during that time. But when it comes to community, yes, people are like, the people are always everything. And one there's. There's a distinction between TKs and for example, the field fellowship community w one just by size. So, and that's important because working with the community of, you know, 100 people versus 500 people versus thousands is, is very different than working with a community of at 20 or 30 per year.
But I would say the biggest thing is, and with this is with just communities in general. So one, yes, it's the people too. It's The values that the people share and not the values that are written, but the values that they automatically embody or that, that leaves that the community actually automatically embodies.
So you know, before you try to write up your, your list of values or the list of things that you want to that community and body look at the people. Watch how they, you know, communicate and read how they talk to each other on slack. What type of activity is going on? What type of conversations are going on when they're at an event, how are people communicating?
How many people are communicating, you know, what type of communication is going on? And there are a lot of unspoken values that you can pick up in the biggest one with TKS, I would say, is this, this mass amount of supportiveness, this like most amount of like. We're friends, we're all friends and we're all here to help each other as well and help each other grow.
And there is never any, there's never any judgment of anything there's never any sort of, you know, insecurity that you need to feel when you're reaching out to someone you've never talked to before. It's like a very welcoming environment and that, that wasn't just done by the founders. That was just the people enter the community.
And these were kind of like the, the first few people set that culture and then it kind of, it just started to continue onwards. So look at what the unspoken values are and then there, and then you have to decide, you know, are they, are they values that we do want this community to embody or not?
And TKS has happened to be really lucky. That intentionally, when Navida Nadeem started TKs, they, they cared about collaboration. They cared about the, you know, Students working together. And, and those kinds of first few cohorts really helped set that tone. So there's, there's that the other is shared experiences.
You know, you, you did mention that experience kind of component in shared experiences are super important and bringing people together. I would say this even for friendships you know, once you start to know someone after you've gone through the phase of, of getting to know the small details about them and the big details about them and having conversations, how do you continue to strengthen that friendship?
And how do you, how do you make that friendship unique? Some of the best ways are to do interesting and hard things together. Climbing a mountain, building a startup like making, going through a challenge together is, is really like if you can, you know, enter our challenge together and then go through it and come out together like that is, that creates a bond.
And you, you know, the community does that as well. We can do that with communities. And whether that's doing things like intentionally, if anyone's listening to this and interested in building a community, whether that's, you know, having hackathons and actually not just meetups, but projects, people can work on challenging things that they can go through.
Interesting experiences. Those are small things that you can do intentionally as a community manager and a community builder. But also the experience of, of TKs is very unique. Like when you're going through it as a high school student, the first few months of TCS are very, very difficult, but like every single student faces this with the first four months is the biggest shock to your system.
Like the biggest shock it's it's like, it's like that 21 year old kid, you know, just. Leaving university and being like, well, this is what the real world is like, except now you're doing that at 14 years old. And I don't know, kind of at a much almost grander scale as well. So it's that shared experience component that going through the hardship together.
And then on, as a community manager, what you really want to do eventually is realize what's there, realize what helps create those experiences. Think about the fun and the mental kind of things that pull community together. You know, all communities have some sort of belief systems, some sort of you know, the best communities are cults.
And that, that sounds weird to say, but they are, they have strong belief systems. They have strong things that they're aiming for in TKs kind of does that. It gives this sense of purpose of we're here to, to build our future. And so those are kind of the things you want to think about when you're just thinking about community and then as a builder, as a facilitator of that community, Eventually the goal that you want to get to is how to make that community self-sustaining.
And that's the same thing that you would do as, as a, as a founder. You're, you're looking at that, that team that you're building started, that you're building and you eventually want to start being able to, to, to step away as much as you can and do the unique things that you uniquely do. But you know, gives it the team room and support to be able to kind of flourish on their own and work on their own and work together.
And that goes for the Stanford community. I think the best communities end up being the ones where the members themselves are the most active that, that take initiative, that activate things that want to, you know, engage and they should be the most talkative people in the Slack or forums.
Like if you're talking the most as a community manager, you're, you're doing something wrong. Or you know, you're, you're maybe still a little early on the way and you need some time to, to help people activate that themselves. So yeah, those are, those are a few things that I think kind of make that community special or are things that I look at when I'm thinking about the community specifically,
When you were the community manager at TKs, what were the tasks that you set for yourself?
Did you try to build this culture through organizing hackathons or was there a very conscious or unconscious effort into making such a community.
Yeah. So definitely not throwing a bunch of hackathons together. It's I would say that's not, that's never a good strategy almost to just host random events or only bring people together.
Unless, unless that is the actual, like core as a community is just to have those like meetups, like meetup does. But usually, usually that's not the best way to go. I was looking a lot at just the fundamental kind of experiences and things that people really wanted. And so what we, what we did was, and I didn't get to execute on absolutely everything because I was juggling a lot of hats at that time.
But one thing was the students really at TKs, they cared about deep connections and they care about meaningful conversations. So what we started to do and we played around with in the beginning was we had this thing called brain dates. And you know, we realized the kid, the kids want to talk.
They don't want to, you know, having a hundred of them in an event together. It's great and it's fun and it's it's great experience, but they want to build those one-on-one relationships or the small group relationships and that, and they don't just want to talk about random things that they want to talk about specific topics they want to you know, go deep into a technology they want to philosophize.
So we We went to see Two which is a conference in Montreal and they have these things called brain dates there where you could host a brain date and you could you could just talk, like pick any topic, you know, whether it be self-awareness or have you, how, you know, what will happen when AGI comes to life.
And we have AGI all around us and we reach singularity. What, what does the world look like then? And people can sign up and they can join that topic. And you have small group discussions on it, or you have one-on-one discussions. She was on it for like an hour an hour. And so what we did was we were like, this is a great idea.
And it's something that we think the students would be interested in because this is something that they expressed they've already kind of care about or are interested in. So we, we put out an Excel sheet originally. It was just testing it out, put on an Excel sheet, we made it really nice and had people sign up their names and had, you know, list topics that they want to talk about and whether they wanted it to be a group or one-on-one thing.
And we did that a few times and saw that it was interesting and it worked and it made sense. And then we eventually built it into our platforms, TKs life platform. Allows you to host brain dates, set up rain dates check off all the Brain dates that you've, that you've, you've done. And so that, like, that was one of those things.
It's thinking about those unique ways that we can bring people together. And brands are very much like an integral part of TKs now, and we don't even do, we don't even say one-on-ones or meetings anymore. It's, it's always like, Hey, do you want to have a brain date? So that's kind of like part of the community and culture.
So there was that, and then there's we were thinking about when we do bring people together , what do they want to come together for? What are those experiences that they want to have? And the, there are two other things that the put in place in terms of an experience standpoint, and that was game nights.
So the students were very like studious and they all were working and they were all doing. Well, interesting things together, but they didn't always have the best. And even with brain dates, the brain dates were usually technical. They were usually philosophy stuff. They were, they weren't always like that, you know, just the most chill topics.
And so when we did have those interesting things like Christmas parties and whatnot we realized that that was where they found, like they just had so much fun. And they got to build really good, really good relationships. So we, we, we did game nights and we would have mafia nights. And that really, really kicked the community together.
And it was intentional. Like the game nights were very intentional. It wasn't just you know, every few weeks we're going to have those game nights, week we tracked how many people came. We would adjust them. We would make them, we did them bi-weekly then we did them monthly to see how they would work.
Like it wasn't just putting things out there. We would have like intentional things happening during them. And so, so there was things like that. And then The other was in terms of experience was what we were going to kick off was TKs, like help outs and T KSM like service work for people to, to do interesting things together in the community at like homeless shelters at just local kind of events.
And so those were a few things and that's from like an events and experience standpoint and all of those we're always looking at not what can we do, but what should we do? So we had endless ideas, so many things that we could do. And it was really just thinking about what do we need to be doing and not what are all the things that we can do.
So there was a huge list and we narrowed it down to those two things based on what we saw in the community, in principles that we saw. And then the other was, for me, it was just thinking about everything that I've talked about before, of what does make a community, a community it's those shared experiences.
It is those values. It's not the values you put out. The values that the member is actually embody. And when we look at those values and we'll look at those things like having appreciation for each other, for example, like the, the students love being able to give appreciation for each other and shout outs and things like that.
And for example, when we have our end of the year like kickoff or it's the last session we, we, we get in a circle and it's, you know, everyone from that year or is it a circle in the, in that city? And you get, come to the middle of the circle and you give shout outs to people and that, that activity makes people cry.
So you're observing. Those things and you're thinking, Hmm, how can I, how can I integrate gratitude and giving appreciation as a more general thing that happens in the community? And so what we did was we had monthly shadows and we'd have a type forum and people could just give anonymous, monthly shout outs to people that they really, that they really appreciated that month.
And we would get like 300, 400 shout outs and send it to people who would, would literally be like, I also cried just reading these or this really made my day, or I've been feeling really down. So this was really helpful. And so there were a lot of like small things like that that were also done. And they were also very intentional looking at prior, like previously what.
Have reactions, how have we gotten from certain activities or doing certain things? And then how can we integrate that if it's really important into a more consistent part of the community? So yeah, those are a few kind of like activities and actual certain strategies and tactical things that we looked at and did.
So those are the points. How do you do those over now that the world is all virtual, right? Because you know, a lot of filming community is seeing people in person being that the small, you know, water cooler moments, doing things in person. How can you do this on an online format? Yeah, that's a good question.
I left TKS when we were going all online. I don't know exactly how things are playing there with that, but most of the things I've mentioned can be done online. Those gratitude forums, those brain dates, the Bree dates are all online right now. I've actually done many over the past few months with incoming students.
And we have a platform for that. So that makes it really easy for us to do. We, for the alumni, for example, what we really like in TKS is getting updates from each other. Like that's something that we would do in the program is students would actually send each other daily updates. And your director, would it see or anything?
It would just literally be in, in groups of friends. And we, you know, almost every student was doing this at one point and those daily updates would include like reflections and they would include what I want to do this week and, and how am I feeling? And so we were looking at those activities and now we've We've we've asked for people to submit like monthly updates into air table and are sharing like an air table kind of like grid view of every single person that's submitted one.
And so people can kind of catch up that way. We've hosted events. I know the alumni have done events. I can't remember the name of the platform, but it essentially allows you to like walk around a room with an avatar. And when you're in a circle together, when you're in a group of people together, or when you kind of like hit someone in that room, if you can spark a video conversation with them or an audio conversation with them.
So we use platforms like that. But I just think like that the, the other is, I don't know, it's, it's a hard, are there things to think about for newer communities right now? I think you really have to think about.
How can we make everything virtually I think has to come from one of the considerations, major operations is how do we make sure that this isn't tasking, that it does doesn't drain people, whatever we do should be okay. Energy giving should not be energy draining. And that's it, it's a hard thing to do with like zoom calls and things like that.
So I think, you know, looking at what is, does exist right now and what is existing. So clubhouse is, it is a great example. Like having a club for your community on clubhouse, even if you guys are not primarily clubhouse, if you're on slack or whatever that's a really good thing to do. They're usually.
TKS rooms every now and then on here. So, so figuring out what exists and how, how you can leverage that. There's also things like dispo, for example. I know they're in beta right now, so that you might have limited invites, but like that's a cool thing to do. Like if you, you know, just thinking about it, People like to take pictures and they like to see what other people are doing.
So can you create your own community roles in on dispo? There's just so many things that exist out there. But I think it's, I would, if I were working on it right now, I would just think about what is the most important thing for our community right now? How are people feeling? How can we be the most helpful, how can we allow them to help themselves and help each other and support each other and, and really be for each other.
And how can I create that space? I try to answer those questions and try to do a small number of things really well and just keep people engaged and and again, get them to a place where they want to engage with each other. So a lot of the things that are happening in the alumni community right now are just entirely done by other alumni.
And that's really good. So how do we get the people in the community? Give them some resources. Versus give them some kind of like initiate, like initial starting points and then have them take off with it. The last point I would say is if you're a community, if you're a community manager really, really struggling right now with figuring out things to do with the community or it's a community is, is kind of, most people aren't are not super engaged.
What I would say is talk to some of the usual high, high energy, high acting members and recruit some of them to help you. And by recruit, I just mean hop on a call with them, get to know how they're doing, and then ask them if, if they would be to lead a few community activities, if they would be interested, not even down, if it's something that they would want to do, if that's something that you feel like would be fun for them to do and, and have like try to delegate almost, but work with people in the community who wouldn't want to work with you and who would want to bring community together and try to make it as.
As a member initiated. As you can,
since moving on from TKS last year, you have gone into exploring a whole bunch of different projects. One of them is consulting with Tony Hsieh and another is surrounding consciousness. What are you currently working on? What's your plans for the next few years?
So for me, the reason, and I took a break after TKS like stop bringing a TKS and quit there was originally when I joined TKS it was all about I'm, you know, I want to be startup founder one day. I really want to work on some important things. TKS is an incredible place to do that. I'm going to learn a lot by working here, founders and I, and I kind of made a pact with myself before I started.
And I was like, once I feel like I've learned a lot and I'm not learning as much, or I feel like I would really learn a lot somewhere else. I need to. Step away. Because I, I love this job and I could keep doing it forever at any time. I need to, I need to know when I have to, when I have to move to do something different.
And mid last year I was starting to think about starting my own climate tech startup. I've done a lot of, like I mentioned earlier, a lot of climate tech, binges and so a whole bunch of different topics and areas. And so I was like, I think I'm ready to start to start one or to eventually start line.
And just as, as as about to quit, I had a few, like I was researching consciousness and psychedelics, and I was looking into that and I was listening to a lot of Tim Ferris. And just through that time period I realized like this psychedelics consciousness, this kind of deeper try trying to understand what the world is or entire area kind of revolving mental health when it comes to the psychedelics.
Is is going to be revolutionary. And I just kind of had that. Prediction, I guess in the summer. And I was like, this is, this is an entire field that is going to be very, very important and helpful to know about in the future. So my mindset was kind of like, all right, I've got nothing to lose, no responsibilities, and this is the best time to be doing it.
Absolutely nothing or absolutely everything. So I decided to take a few months break to learn about psychedelics, to research stuff regarding consciousness and psychology and philosophy, and kind of dive into my own world about that stuff. And so that's what I've been doing for the past few months.
I have taken on some consulting projects during that. So Tony Hsieh was, was not one of them during that time. But this December, for example, I was looking into the retrofitting industry to see if we can make that more energy or cost efficient. So if you don't know what retrofitting is, it's taking, looking at buildings and figuring out how we can.
Minor or do deep changes to them. So looking at, for example, their heating systems, their boiler systems, their water systems and, and making those either more energy efficient or making them cost efficient as well. It's a really unsexy kind of industry, but where a lot of work can be done. And I know bill gates, upcoming book on climate change one of the three or four sub areas actually has to do with retrofitting, which I, which I just found out this week, which was really interesting.
So I'm looking forward to reading his book on that, but yeah, over the past few months kind of just been doing my own little research binge and decided I wanted to take a break from working super hard on something. I know I'm going to be working on for years. So it did TKS for two years. And I knew when I would start climate change, I had no idea when that was going to start.
So I'm almost done my break now and I'm in the process of just writing. I think everything that I've been learning, which is a very, very difficult to do in, and time consuming. But I've slowly started to pick back up on the climate change stuff. And I'm, I'm looking to work on a startup for the rest of the year soon.
So, now that you are out of this community that you're from, and you're trying to work on potentially a new startup. How do you go about, you know, being friends and trying to find the coolest people that you can still be learning to form that community yourself? How do you go about thinking and finding? Do you have a strategy or process?
Hmm. Yeah. So first when it, when it comes to that, Everything's to me is not about, it's not about networking. If I am reaching out to people and if I want to get to know people or, you know, become friends with the coolest, the wisest, the interesting people to me, it's just about, it's really, really about relationships.
Like I, I like, it's the biggest thing I've learned to and of course, you know, community being my jam it's helps that a lot is I mentioned this earlier as well. People really build everything. People make everything happen. And I ask aside from that, I fundamentally believe that as humans, like, even through wiring and evolution, we are here to build relationships.
Like we are here to. Support each other, like life may be a single player game, but it cannot be done alone. And it might not even stay single player once we start building BCIS and implanting brain chips in our head and stuff, which isn't too far off. Yes. Yes. So it's, it's really about relationships.
So that's. Important because that's how I approach everything in terms of the relationships I want to build. So one I mean, from a climate standpoint, it's just going to be reaching out to everyone that I think is doing some really interesting work and, and figuring out if I can help them and learn from them and if I can support them and whatever other is, I just really, really wants to become friends with other ambitious young people.
So I might be going to one of the Edify houses in the summer. I think I'm gonna apply for that and when the hacker house and I think eventually actually it's, it's good practice. It's always good practice to, like it's said to be good practice, to go and live in a hacker house and then start your own.
So that's something that I am playing around with as well. I think I am. What I want to do is actually build a house, not a hacker house, but kind of like a. Creative young people, ambitious house scenario. So I want it to be a mixture of like start at founders and then creatives and people working in art and music and film, and just literally have a house of like 20 young people doing all sorts of different things, but are all like ambitious and want to create some sort of impact or, you know, just go ham on whatever they love to do.
So I want to eventually like over the next two years have houses all over all over some, some of the major cities and kind of start building my own community and, and have people support each other. So that's one way. The other is it's, it's been really helpful to dip my toe into different those different industries and, and just personally start making friends with people everywhere.
So the gen Z mafia group is, is obviously incredible for that, you know, the tech, Twitter kind of peaks, but we're majorly lacking in, you know, Daniel, I saw you on, on clubhouse you know, unmute, unmute your mic as, as a clap to that. But we're genuinely lacking kind of that diversity of, of, of thoughts and people doing different things and, and working in different areas.
And personally, I just I spent a lot of time in LA last year and I made a lot of friends who work in music and who are just extremely creative on the entirely creative end. So I'm just gonna be using my networks to expand. My network of, of friends from, from that standpoint and then do my best to start bringing people together.
So the overall kind of next few years goal is, is then how can I bring all these diverse people together and start creating these groups of people working on really interesting things. And in terms of just personally reaching out to people, it'll just be, it'll just be kind of ad hoc. I have a list of actually a hundred to 200 people I want to reach out to.
Oh, interesting. So you do it for you. What, how do you arrange that? I'm interested about how, how does the project look?
it's very simple. It's really, it's like, it's one, there's the active way and there's a passive way. So the active way is I'm going on LinkedIn and I am searching through like profiles and I'm just going, I don't, what I'm looking for is does the person have their written anything interesting.
Was staying on their profile or do they have, they had interesting experiences. And then I'll add them kind of to my list. And it's very, it's very broad. I don't have a specific, it's really just kind of like reading vibes or looking at people that seem like I would want to get to know. And sometimes I do that initially what I did was I did that by just searching the titles and the title was it for the sake of the titles.
It was more so just helped me get some starting points to getting people in profiles that I think would be very interesting. So searching it, project managers, I was searching up like data scientists. And then I realized looking at companies was a better idea. So I would go to. All the interesting companies that I thought were interesting and doing interesting things and creative agencies and whatever, and people working at Headspace at muse at working at, you know, like just everywhere.
And started going through like company employees and looking at people who I just wanted to be friends with. So that that's kind of the active way. And I compiled this list and it's a sitting list to specifically because I've done reset reach outs when I've, you know, had 30, 40 people in my like climate change bucket.
And I've reached out to them all in a week because I needed help with the project. And I just wanted to connect with experts and get advice and kind of get some support. But with this list specifically, it's about relationships. So I don't, I reach out to maybe two or three people every few months. And I have two or three ongoing conversations with them before I'm reaching out to other people.
Or any at all, like it's, to me, it's just like, I just have kind of like a list of people I could always go to if I want more friends, but I, I really like want to build quality relationships first. So actually don't touch that list a lot in terms of acting from it, but I compile it every now and then just because. for fun It's a good resource to have. So that's, that's one and then the passive way is honestly like on Instagram or Twitter or wherever I'm reading about people or people show up. And I, I think someone's just really cool and interesting, and you know, it's half the people on this list. Or people, no one knows more than half, like 90% are people.
No one knows. And it just doesn't like, it's just interesting. So I want to get to know them. So yeah, the passive way is just, if I see something on social media and I'm like, oh, that looks like they'd be an interesting person to be friends with or grab coffee with. And then the third is things like lunch club.com, which I did for a while as well.
Which pairs you with someone random every week to get to know. So I did lunch club until I think I did six, seven meetings, and then I stopped doing it because I didn't want more people. And like, I, I just wanted to. Like be better friends or build stronger relationships with people I had already met.
So I stopped lunch club. But the seven people that I did meet through there, I'm on like texting basis lists
Curious once you meet, because I use lunch club too. Right. And I'm kind of at a point similar where I've been meeting quite a few people, but then making them into, I guess, better friends.
That's kind of the goal I'm at currently, but how do you go about, you know, you meet them and then what is, how do you turn that into a more meaningful relationship after afterwards?
Yeah. So one is recognizing who you want to do that with first. So I don't try to push or make relationships happen. It's a lot of it is initial synergy, vibes, similarities, you know, interests and things like that.
And then if you, you get a few people from, from lunch club, who can you have that with? And I like, I kind of just get right into it in that first meeting. Like it's, it's very much, you know, we do the small talk and then I'm like, all right, like, just tell me about your life. Like tell me everything. I have questions on the go.
Like that, that are kind of like deeper connection, deeper questions because
lunch club meetings I've had so far have been very much I'm working on this. Let's talk about this issue, fundamentals and talk about the issues we're working on, but to get that deeper relationship, do you have to be talking more about the person and more that issues?
Yeah, so I. I, I move away from work as soon as I can. So we, we do the work thing and sometimes it's really interesting. So we, we don't move away from that conversation, but I'm really there to, to get to know people. And so I, I like, I, you know, I just, one of the questions that I really like is what have you been thinking about lately?
What's something you've been thinking about lately and that gets people talking and once you kind of. Jump out of, you know, the small talk or the work talk and get into this other bubble. Like you can just be more open and honest and conversational with each other. So that's one way. And then after the conversation depends on the person.
But the people who I want to continue that kind of conversation, a relationship with some, I like if they're my age cause there, there have been some other teenagers, all much clutter as well. I've gotten their numbers and then we've just kind of meme'd and stuff, but I don't know how much that works for your kind of a bit more older peeps, but I have also just set up reoccurring conversations.
So if I really enjoyed one or if I wanted to talk to someone more and they mentioned in their call for example, that they were really interested in philosophy or a specific topic that I was also interested in. I've set up further conversations and been like, Hey, I've been reading this mark Manson article on self-awareness, if you would want to read it and maybe we can discuss our points together in a week or two, I'd love to do that.
And that's something that I do often is, is. Kind of pick something that they're interested in, that I would be interested in find a great resource audit podcast, a article, listen to it and ask if they'd be down to, to kind of explore that. And then I would do that a few months with even just one or two people.
Like I really try to, the quantity is not my thing. So I just do that with one or two people. And I do that a few times and then we've just kind of gotten to know each other a lot better and are, are more, yeah, like are just closer and in down to build that sort of closer relationship with each other.
And that's just always been a small, simple thing that's worked for me.
This has been a very informational and I guess, deep learning experience for me talking to you. I'm conscious of the time. So we probably should get you back onto the podcast again, at some point, but to wrap up, we've got a fast few, five questions.
So these are things which you can answer with one word or one sentence. It's, it's just rapid fire. So the first one is, what book are you reading now?
I'm reading why we sleep by Dr. Matthew. I don't know his last name, but why we sleep
Your most important daily habit?
Mm. From Anna Green Gables, Ms. Josephine says, grief is the price you pay for love.
What have you been thinking most about lately?
Ooh, good. One. Psychology young in psychology. I've been reading the undiscovered self as well. So
. Awesome, thanks so much for coming on to the podcast today.
Thank you. This is really fun. So I appreciate you bringing me on .