Laidlaw Global Talks Series: Leadership Through Entrepreneurship

Originally recorded on June 23rd, 2020 at 5pm GMT. If you missed this panel, we hope you will enjoy the recording. We were excited to host this wonderful panel of entrepreneurs from the Boston area. During this session, we covered how these entrepreneurs lead teams building new products, services and markets around the world.

Key Questions Covered:

  1. How would you describe your leadership style?
  2. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced leading a team?
  3. What is the best (and worst) example of leadership that you have observed?
  4. What resources have you used to develop your leadership style?
  5. Is there a leader you try to emulate?  


Netia McCray – CEO/Founder Mbadika

Dariush Nejad – Research and Development Engineer at Lovepop

Leila Pirhaji – founder of ReviveMed


Video Transcript

Andrew Singleton: Awesome. So I'd like to thank everyone for being here, particularly the panelists.
Andrew Singleton: That rush Layla Nisha
Andrew Singleton: You know this is going to be a good conversation. I hope about entrepreneurship and particularly how you know as entrepreneurial leaders.
Andrew Singleton: You guys might be able to take those little nuggets and figure out how to adapt it to your research and any other leadership situations you might find yourself in.
Andrew Singleton: At any time around the world. So, and, particularly, I want to say the folks here have a great deal of expertise in building companies solving problems using design thinking and developing new models and ways to build things
Andrew Singleton: Everyone here that can turn your video on we want this to be as interactive as possible. The same thing as if we were actually going to be all here in a room together and I want this to be open so that anybody if
Andrew Singleton: You have questions at the end, we'll have enough time for that. So without any further ado,
Andrew Singleton: I'd like the panelists to go ahead and introduce themselves Nisha. Do you want to kick it off.
Netia McCray: Sure. So hi, my name is Nisha McRae. I'm the founder and executive director of a stem, which is science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nonprofit called the deca
Netia McCray: And my work involves with translating complicated topics. So some of the topics you all were discussing are things that I've actually worked on with my students
Netia McCray: And collaboration with NASA MIT and other organizations translating those complicated ideas and showcasing how anybody
Netia McCray: Can transform a simple idea into reality. Just like these organizations do in order to make science and engineering more accessible to kids, not only in Boston, but around the world.
Netia McCray: So I'm excited to share my thoughts on leadership, as well as to hear from the other panelists who I know have very unique perspectives that really apply to what you all have experience so
Andrew Singleton: Layla.
Leila Pirhaji: Yes, thank you so much for having me here. It's really exciting to be here. Among the other panelists and seeing all this enthusiastic as students
Leila Pirhaji: So just a brief background about me. I'm founder and CEO of 45 minutes of your MIT spin out company you're using artificial intelligence and data from small molecules or metabolites in the human body for discovery purposes.
Andrew Singleton: And the rush
Dariush Nejad: Thank you, Andrew, for having me.
Dariush Nejad: My name is
Dariush Nejad: r&d engineer at laptop laptop creates 3D slice form pop up parts that are laser cut and hand ASSEMBLED OUR claim to fame is we've been on we were on Shark Tank and
Dariush Nejad: And then it's been a rocket ship. Since then, but in my role I left off. I'm working on creating new products, new categories, figuring out how to utilize our current capabilities and develop products that people can enjoy around the world.
Andrew Singleton: Also
Andrew Singleton: One other
Dariush Nejad: And i'ma tops alone.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah.
Dariush Nejad: Class of 14
Andrew Singleton: Which then shortly after that I believe you joined love pop and pretty much it's been, you know, rocket ship since then.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, when I
Dariush Nejad: When I started, it was just nine other people with me and now we have about
Dariush Nejad: Five to 600 people around the world, mostly based in Vietnam and also here in Boston in our headquarters
Andrew Singleton: Exactly. So I do want to
Andrew Singleton: Get to a few questions about
Andrew Singleton: Leadership, but I also wanted to do a follow up on the intro and ask you, each why
Andrew Singleton: I guess what is the part of
Andrew Singleton: The your job, your startup that you know really gets you up in the morning.
Andrew Singleton: Nisha, did you want to
Netia McCray: I'm sure I can go first and keep it short and sweet. So, as you all can tell I'm an African American female born and raised in the USA.
Netia McCray: And one of the things that really struck me when I was younger, was that I was fortunate enough to
Netia McCray: Grow up in a house in which my parents would teach me how to build and create. And what I mean by that is my mom would teach me arts and crafts, she would teach me how to bake and cook and my dad.
Netia McCray: Whether or not it's because he didn't have any sons would bring me into the mechanic shop or the woodworking shop and basically show me how to build boats, how to build houses and things like that.
Netia McCray: In order for me to have those life skills. And I thought, anytime I had a crazy idea I could bring it to my parents, and we would spend every weekend bringing that idea to life.
Netia McCray: The older I got. And once I got into MIT, I realize even the world's top engineers don't have that background or experience or confidence to
Netia McCray: Actually go in and try to figure out how to bring their ideas to life, like the folks here on this panel and it was something that bothered me because I thought
Netia McCray: The folks who got into this school.
Netia McCray: Can even bring their ideas to life. What is to say for somebody and rural Florida going to be able to have that opportunity. And the more I started talking with my colleagues, I realized it wasn't just an American problem. It was a global problem.
Netia McCray: And after that moment of realizing that it was something I was uniquely skill to tackle.
Netia McCray: I've set aside the past 10 years of my life building virginica and creating a platform in which
Netia McCray: Ideas and those who create them can actually have the ability to bring those ideas to life, not just because it's great to be known.
Netia McCray: As the next Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein, but because when people bring their ideas to life. They're bringing solutions to tackle challenges.
Netia McCray: That not only they're facing. But everyone else in their communities and around the world are facing to make the world a better place. So that's what kind of made me go.
Netia McCray: Yeah, this, this is what I want to do now. Are there sometimes. I'm like, maybe I should have worked for Facebook and Google and I've had the yacht by now. Yes, but it's been 10 years so we'll see how it goes for the other 10
Thank you.
Andrew Singleton: Better. Did you want to take this next one. Yeah. Yeah. What's your why
Dariush Nejad: Absolutely. I also like Nisha to share a great
Dariush Nejad: Desire for making and you know innovating and when I first met love pop. They were just a couple people laser cutting into a maker space that I was running
Dariush Nejad: And they they showed me this card and no no laser cut and I kind of like, what's, what's so special about this this card and as soon as I I opened it.
Dariush Nejad: 3D boat popped up and I was blown away and about the magic of of this 3D sculpture this work of art that was sandwiched between these two layers of paper.
Dariush Nejad: It's totally unexpected. It was literally a magical moment. And that's what I've been doing for the last almost five years is figuring out ways of how can I instill more magical moments and products that we make.
Dariush Nejad: So it's, it's a lot of paper engineering and paper sculptures. But when someone opens our card for the first time. There's nothing that beats that that moment of joy and excitement around how is this made
Andrew Singleton: And looks like he might have froze. So I'm gonna, I think we lost a few seconds there but it. That was a beautiful place to end it so
Andrew Singleton: Layla, do you want it.
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah, I think, yeah, I think for us was just more about creating impact to the board. So I've been a scientists
Leila Pirhaji: For many years, and I love doing science and research. And what I realized what I was doing my PhD was we are doing such a really good academic work published in high impact journals.
Leila Pirhaji: But there was quite a gap between doing academic science and the impact of the People's
Leila Pirhaji: People's lives. So, and that's what I got interested in entrepreneur entrepreneurship, how we could bridge the gap of academic science and we have words impact.
Leila Pirhaji: And when I just started learning more about the process I got even more enthusiastic.
Leila Pirhaji: To focusing, can we develop technologies that we could see the impact more rapidly into the market can be hat, use the technology to, you know, save people's lives.
Leila Pirhaji: You know, add value to quality of people's lives. And that's what led to our company. And right now it's really exciting.
Leila Pirhaji: To be able to use technology to expedient for drug discovery process right now.
Leila Pirhaji: Especially, you know, being in a pandemic, I think, more than ever before. We need technologies to Expedia either discovery and develop and we don't. You don't have to time to wait years to have a new drug
Leila Pirhaji: But there are lots of amazing technologies being developed in academic labs and just trying to understand how we could bring this to the market. I think that's what makes us all very excited to do this thing.
Andrew Singleton: Oh, wonderful. Thank you.
Andrew Singleton: And actually, I think that takes us to
Andrew Singleton: You know, one of the questions that we had, which is
Andrew Singleton: You know you when you're setting up these the company and you're building out a team.
Andrew Singleton: What's your model for leadership.
Andrew Singleton: Mean, how do you kind of go about getting a bunch of people that have never worked together and are building something entirely new to actually do that.
Leila Pirhaji: So I said,
Andrew Singleton: Yeah. Yep. Yeah.
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah, because what I found that I think building a team is extremely important. I think that's a company would never be successful with one person, you need a superstar team.
Leila Pirhaji: To make a company successful and the team itself should be successful because sometimes if you have a suppressor individuals who cannot work to get there. Again, the companies are going to succeed.
Leila Pirhaji: And for us, I don't believe in a hierarchy in the company. I say everyone that we already played with your contributors, especially as a startup. You're so small, like there is no need for hierarchy.
Leila Pirhaji: Each one of us. We want to collaborate with each other. We have our unique contribution to the company and to the platform with technology that we are building but again it each piece that we are developing is connected to someone else's work.
Leila Pirhaji: And I think that I actually this type of contribution. It's really helping people because they also see how they work could impact their colleagues. So immediately.
Leila Pirhaji: And actually motivate them to work better together. Okay, I need to finish this project because you know the other person project with rely on that.
Leila Pirhaji: And during this whole process for me as myself as leaving the company. I tried to just coach the coach. The everyone at the team and give them feedback and lots of times is more like you know brainstorming and ask them a right question that maybe lead to answer.
Leila Pirhaji: Because I believe like the person was doing the project knows the most about the project and the details of that projects that you're doing and
Leila Pirhaji: For me, I try to just help them to think in another angle and see what they can be doing, or maybe things are, you know, doesn't work exactly how it should supposed to
Leila Pirhaji: But I do believe that we are all contributor and you should just work together to make something bad. Cool.
Andrew Singleton: Awesome. Thank you. Yeah. Collaboration is key. And just in each of the teams that we work on
Andrew Singleton: So Nisha, did you want to take it from there. Your style of leadership.
Netia McCray: OK, I would say, for me it's democratic if we can call it that, and which but Chica started out the first year we were an organization. It was pretty much myself and volunteers.
Netia McCray: And so it was a lot of my neck on the line. So if there was a decision that had to be made. It was pretty much, I had to make the decision because a lot of the staff members or people supporting us with volunteers.
Netia McCray: And I didn't want them to have to bear any of the risk as we've grown and developed. I like to call it.
Netia McCray: A constitutional monarchy, more so than democratic No offense to my UK peers and which that my team likes to jokingly say that when it comes down to an important decision.
Netia McCray: All of a sudden, that's the monarchy side. And I'm like, no.
Netia McCray: I will make a decision taken in all of your input. This will still be democratic, but if a big decision needs to be made. The buck stops with me.
Netia McCray: But in terms of every day, day to day operations, etc. We're such a small team, like we said, pretty much, everyone's on the same level. The only time do we have some interesting leadership dynamics is when
Netia McCray: Is a financial decision that makes needs to be made, such as layoffs. Like, I would love everybody to have a discussion we figure out the weakest link or the one we can all move forward as a group.
Netia McCray: As you guys probably know with group projects that doesn't work out too well. So you need someone to take that cut
Netia McCray: And so that's why we chose the constitutional monarchy systems, I can always be the bad guy when we have to make those decisions. But when we're in the good times.
Netia McCray: Everyone is able to have a seat at the table and contribute because they have their own lanes of expertise and we're better together versus we have the superstar ego founder or rock star scientists who
Netia McCray: Kind of creates a little bit of chaos of the team as again. You guys probably know whether it's in the lab right a university. You've had some experience with this.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, being able to transition between styles, it's just absolutely key.
Andrew Singleton: That rush i mean i i really quick. I just remember you telling me a story about how you broke your leg in Vietnam playing soccer and it was with the entire. It was with a giant chunk of the love pop manufacturing team. I remember right
Dariush Nejad: That's correct.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, so it, I guess. What's your leadership style and how would playing soccer with folks, you know, lead into that.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, and I, I fully believe in building camaraderie and building trust building trust is probably it's one of the pillars of having a great team.
Dariush Nejad: And the reason that is, is because if you have a team that doesn't trust you, or they're afraid of telling you problems or their perspective, you're not going to be able to grow.
Dariush Nejad: From the experience or get to the next level. So whether it's playing soccer or doing some of our team building activities. I think building camaraderie. First is going to be paramount and building trust.
Dariush Nejad: So hopefully, don't, don't tear your ACL for your team.
Dariush Nejad: Don't recommend that. But definitely get in involved and and participate and you have the shouldn't be a hierarchy with your team because it's really difficult to
Dariush Nejad: Know, just be like the force that's like you need to do this and then not that that's a really terrible experience and you're not going to probably not going to go very far. But if you have all voices you have something to say and perspectives are shared, then everyone wins.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, yeah, definitely make sure to get input from your fellow team members any step where you can
Andrew Singleton: Short of the fire drill, you know. Yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Although. Yeah. What was it I do remember where you helping us as we evacuated venture cafe that one night during a fire drill
Dariush Nejad: And I may have. It was a while ago.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, that was the one example where you know i just Democratic leadership goes out the window and it's all autocratic
Dariush Nejad: Yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Monarchy. Yes. Okay. Um, so it. I'm going to skip one of the questions, unless you do you guys
Andrew Singleton: Know they might be tied together. So either. Feel free to answer this in any way that you want. But what's the most difficult thing that you've experienced leading a team. And then, or what is the best or worst example of leadership that you've observed
Andrew Singleton: Nisha, did you want to
Andrew Singleton: I keep throwing to you, but
Netia McCray: You know, you keep tracking my squares closer to your square
Netia McCray: You just feel comfortable. Yes, throwing it here, but it's okay.
Netia McCray: I would say I will start with the worst experience as a leader because everyone hears in like Forbes and everything else. The great times as a leader. Rarely do you hear about the worst times the less things have just
Netia McCray: boiled down into an absolute mess. So I will talk about a situation, we went through last year.
Netia McCray: Which was probably one of our best years in terms of success, but as a leader, probably one of my worst years
Netia McCray: So we started off very small again. It was pretty much me the first year because I didn't want other people taking on that risk.
Netia McCray: Because I understand that everyone has a safety net to go hey, I can dedicate 2040 hours a week to this nonprofit cause. So fast forward EIGHT YEARS TO LAST YEAR AND WE HAD A We had an employee who was
Netia McCray: A Boomer will say that, and I am obviously not a boomer this employee had been with us for five years did excellent work, I would clearly name him top two of my employees for the decade.
Netia McCray: I had no idea what was going on. But there was a very sharp attitude and behavior change that we couldn't explain
Netia McCray: All of a sudden, he was very aggressive with team members. He was a very aggressive with our students. He was aggressive with partners and belittling to me in meetings, etc.
Netia McCray: And this ties into the leadership style. So traditionally, our leadership style is that
Netia McCray: Everyone has a seat at the table and will inform the opinion of how we move forward as an organization. So that's what I mean with the constitutional monarchy part that this is more of the Parliament, we get to yell at me.
Netia McCray: And all that other stuff or two to three hours to make sure everyone's voices heard. And no one feels disrespected
Netia McCray: The reason why I said we have to balance the two. In order for me to protect my employees and my clients and my students was because this incident brought it to life.
Netia McCray: This individual found a way to shout down everyone in the room to the point that when we had those roundtable discussions.
Netia McCray: Nobody was able to get their voice heard, because this particular voice was shouting down everyone, including myself,
Netia McCray: I could tell team members were leaving students were leaving the program, we weren't able to have meetings with partners and we were suffering as a business and our organization. And I finally had to go
Netia McCray: I need to get rid of this person and I need to do it with respect to all the time. They've dedicated and blood sweat and tears and given to our organization.
Netia McCray: And I'm going to be 100% transparent. I spent three months wrestling with that decision on whether to let this person go, which
Netia McCray: If you see any of the movies about like great leaders or books, they never waste that much time. It's like, oh, I spent a night making that decision. The next day, that person was added here. They don't let their business over for three months.
Netia McCray: But I had to switch from everyone has a voice to the table to
Netia McCray: Okay, this person has been clearly abusing that voice has been abusing everyone in this organization and around us and I have to make that decision as a queen.
Netia McCray: And remove this person from the organization, regardless of my personal feelings about that decision. And I would say
Netia McCray: When people like a certain president of a certain country say you're fired. And it's like a done deal. It is never a done deal. There's always
Netia McCray: A follow on story that you have to deal with. It is not just when that person walks out the door you as a leader, your job is done. You get all the accolades, you have months of stuff you're going to deal with and I think
Netia McCray: Those are the things that other leaders, talk to each other about but they don't share publicly because they don't want to look like they're weak.
Netia McCray: And I think that was probably the first time I broke down to my mentor.
Netia McCray: And question if I still wanted to run my organization because we're nonprofit built on empathy and I felt me having to step into that dictator. No, no, no, no. Get your butt out the door role was me not living up to the values of my organization.
Netia McCray: And you have to
Netia McCray: One of the things my mentor said is, if you want to run an empathetic organization, you have to write down your values because you don't want to end up like Harvey did and Batman and which
Netia McCray: I see your face is going really, I'm a nerd graduated MIT. I don't know what you want from me. That's where I go. Oh.
Netia McCray: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Netia McCray: Always keep a list of top three to five values of what you want your organization or company to have
Netia McCray: So when you're facing those moments, which a lot of leaders are facing right now. Due to the pandemic, you're able to check your values and go do I feel good about this. No, but doesn't need to be done to keep these values intact. Yes.
Netia McCray: And I will say that's probably my worst moment to come to mind. And that was a year ago and I still sometimes like go to his Facebook page and make sure he's doing okay kind of that leader and
Netia McCray: I feel like that sometimes you guys probably go like, Oh, well, I need a boss up because so so has never talked about this. They do. They just don't share it with you. So if you ever have those moments.
Netia McCray: Just look to your values and trust yourself on that decision or lean into your community and team to see if you're making the right decision.
Andrew Singleton: Thank you for sharing. I know that was a hard moment and I'll second. You on the values you know sometimes if your values are easy to hold to and you know you need to find
Andrew Singleton: harder ones.
Andrew Singleton: You know to go ahead and
Andrew Singleton: Hold yourself to in the
Dariush Nejad: Future so
Andrew Singleton: Layla, did you want to
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah, I thought about. Yeah. So one of the, I will. I think I'll answer both questions at once.
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah, I think one of the hardest thing is that sometimes you see your team members they working very hard. You know, they're very passionate about what they're doing.
Leila Pirhaji: For the still the project. It doesn't going the way supposed to be going. And you see that the person is so passionate, they're working like super hard over the weekends late
Leila Pirhaji: At night, and it's very hard. Some at some of those times you have to give them a critical feedback. And so I've been very hard, like, you know, I, because you know that person is going to be very upset.
Leila Pirhaji: But at something you have to be the bad guy. You have to tell them hey you know this is not the way it's supposed to be.
Leila Pirhaji: So I wanted actually very difficult as a leader also to give those critical feedback, which is very important. But sometimes, you know,
Leila Pirhaji: Like we I mean when you give that critical feedback. You know, those, those person going to be upset and you know that you want to make them very upset, but they can be has to be done.
Leila Pirhaji: So I think that's one of the difficult parts I mean that every leader has to go through. But I think it's for the best Sake of your team member and for also for date grows and also for the company's growth.
Leila Pirhaji: And the other thing about, I would say like a more good examples of a good leader who I like I look back to my mentors.
Leila Pirhaji: And, you know, people were very passionate about their work. I find them the most interesting
Leila Pirhaji: That to work and follow them. So I had mentors that I worked with them and the ones who are super excited about the project and they were passionate about the impact of the work I felt more passionate about and committed to the project as well.
Leila Pirhaji: So these are the type of leadership that I like to always you know emulate. And then, you know, to, to translate it to also our company to
Leila Pirhaji: Having a career passionate about the goal of the project and being always a role model for the people at the company so they could follow you and those
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, absolutely. And having that passion, being able to share it and share it with the team can really be a key driver, you know, especially as you were talking before about impact. Yeah.
Leila Pirhaji: For us is like, you know, because for example I hired data scientist and those data scientists could have
Leila Pirhaji: You know, really good jobs at Facebook and Google will you know I'm making some house where so for us is
Leila Pirhaji: More about like the impact. So we are very excited about as I usually when I hire the coders and engineer. I was like, you want to save lives with every line of code. So it's like okay, you have to write lots of codes.
Leila Pirhaji: Because you want to say, loss of lives. So I think that's, that's something we're very excited to be mission driven and everyone that we care about that they are passionate about that division of the company. Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Hopefully more than one line per more than one life line of code, hopefully many more okay that or do you want to
Andrew Singleton: Talk about your early experience.
Dariush Nejad: So I also do consulting on the side, helping small startups get operations tightened up. Figure out communication strategies and you know one. One example that I had a difficult time with was this one client.
Dariush Nejad: I was working with their entire team, which is mostly young millennial
Dariush Nejad: People and then we had one individual that was that older also
Dariush Nejad: Probably in their early 60s and we weren't know changing a bunch of things different programs were great instituting slack where I wanted to do zoom
Dariush Nejad: And just really trying to get everything tightened up. And this individual was just really headstrong about change.
Dariush Nejad: And that's something that's that usually I'm really good at is, I don't want to just like for something
Dariush Nejad: More force things upon other people I love to work with them figure out why they don't like something I think a training on it, education and
Dariush Nejad: I tried to to help this individual is like good and a lot of one on one sessions. They just didn't never showed up.
Dariush Nejad: And that was something really difficult for me personally because I'm always someone that's trying to be empathetic to someone's personal know their skill set and their position.
Dariush Nejad: But sometimes, if the person doesn't believe in the mission and the the path forward.
Dariush Nejad: It's difficult for them to be on the same journey with the rest of the team knowing everything come
Dariush Nejad: Think and have that open communication both ways. So, but if that doesn't happen. It's really difficult to defeat someone like that on the team.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, that's, that's tough. You know, you need that engagement from the team members and if you don't have it, then it's really tough to make the type of change that's needed
Andrew Singleton: So in that Russia. I know you know
Andrew Singleton: Kobe has been impacting businesses are all around the world.
Andrew Singleton: But as a leader. How has it been impacting you have you been finding things good things are, you know, bad things about it. I know you're, you know, in Somerville, with the rest of us at this time when normally be bouncing back and forth, you know, between here in Southeast Asia. So
Andrew Singleton: But besides that, or how does that even impact you.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, I mean I had a trip planned to Vietnam in March.
Dariush Nejad: And then we set the last minute decided to to hold off to see how things happen, which, you know, was a derailment and plans and of our future forecasting and projects that are going forward.
Dariush Nejad: So it was difficult that everyone is working remotely and I'm someone that is extremely hands on. I need to have access to the laser cutting of admit to prototyping to materials.
Dariush Nejad: Because the things that I'm making don't exist. And I'm just like trial by fire, just like figuring out what we can make
Dariush Nejad: So it's been tough on me to figure out how to navigate that without having the resources.
Dariush Nejad: But on the flip side, I love pop the we're whole their whole mission is to enable people to connect with each other.
Dariush Nejad: In a better way. And that's one thing that has taught us during this coven pandemic is is to make sure that you're reaching out to everyone that you care about. And your inner circles and
Dariush Nejad: Many people are doing that through left pops.
Dariush Nejad: So we're definitely engaging everyone and fulfilling our mission, probably more so than before. Kobe.
Dariush Nejad: Which is, I mean, we never thought about that before.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, and how are you doing remote connections to Vietnam or is it you know is your team, mainly coherence able to work from home.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, most of our designers are
Dariush Nejad: Are doing work remotely digitally. And thankfully, our team in Vietnam. They actually handled the the covert situation very well, and they've been back
Dariush Nejad: I don't think they've ever we did like half and half out for the Office for the for the team there. So there's always been someone there to help facilitate whether we need prototyping done or not overlooking new projects. So we're, we're very lucky and thankful. Thanks. Thanks. Yeah, and
Andrew Singleton: Layla, you know I working on AI. But, you know,
Andrew Singleton: How much lab time. Do you guys need and you know it is the team able to be coherent. Have you found any particular challenges or anything that's gone really well.
Andrew Singleton: That you
Andrew Singleton: Keep after
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah. You know, I think you're fortunate we were all like all the work we are doing. It's using computer. We have our data was already collected. They want to put out there. One of our indications.
Leila Pirhaji: So the impact of technology development wasn't quiet as significant some other industries on that could be impacted.
Leila Pirhaji: But again, for us, we have to reconsider of our hiring and growth, growth plan. So we, the basic retiring. So I was about to actually hired two new people who joined our team and we were kind of
Leila Pirhaji: Sad that we didn't give them an offer. It was just because we didn't know what the situation is going to hold
Leila Pirhaji: So we were just kind of did the you know the the the hiring freeze at this time.
Leila Pirhaji: And again, for me, was very important to make sure that everyone is safe. So we were completely at home working from home.
Leila Pirhaji: But again, at the same time, you know, there's also the angle is now making sure the team is still works coherently like the
Leila Pirhaji: Team that everyday meet and they go get lunch together now everyone just home.
Leila Pirhaji: So you also want to make sure that you know those social aspects that's lost right now still kept so we have to present, we have a new, additional rituals in our slack that we communicate more often ritually
Leila Pirhaji: You know, we had basically social hours like on Fridays, you know, just talking about maybe our anxieties about, you know, call it so trying to also overcome that, you know,
Leila Pirhaji: This, you know, mental health impact of this you know the covert also and everyone, so we don't feel so isolated, even though we are working at home alone.
Leila Pirhaji: And so I think there were some bunch of those things we we did. And I think the time to technology. I think we could, you know, be able to do lots of things, virtually
Leila Pirhaji: So to make sure everyone is coherent and maybe additional you know daily check ins more before meetings, then it's usually
Leila Pirhaji: Because when you're in the office you randomly thought I can you randomly because you don't have to get your meeting to, you know, discuss a project.
Leila Pirhaji: So we just make it more, you know, routine to part of the calendar is ok we are getting together and having me either. They ask is a FaceTime with everyone and we have daily stand ups every day that
Leila Pirhaji: Now it's even more important. So every day we talked to everyone who's doing what. And what's the goal is, if you have any blockers. If anyone could help them.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah. That's awesome. And you think you're going to try and keep a lot of the structure that you have where see what sticks. After you know we get back into the
Andrew Singleton: Offices and
Leila Pirhaji: We could be helpful, I guess. Yeah, definitely. I think at this, we could learn from this new environment that we are forced into it. And there are some good parts actually coming and I think it's probably going to be kept it moving forward after leaving the pandemics over for sure. Okay.
Andrew Singleton: Awesome and Nisha i mean i you know obviously a cove. It has been impacting education in a big way. Yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Do you want to take it from there.
Netia McCray: I can, um, I don't know how many of you may have younger siblings or may have folks who are still in K to 12 so they have been stuck at home. That is our target demographic with the stuff we do with the Chica, so I can. I'm going to be. I said, transparent, it has been chaotic.
Netia McCray: To the point that you couldn't create a sitcom or a tragedy.
Netia McCray: For what our zoom calls are in regards to plans to save school districts. And I think if you've heard from little kids or you've seen their tech talks.
Netia McCray: You can get a sense of that chaos over the past couple of weeks.
Netia McCray: We consult for Boston Public Schools in Portland public schools and a couple other metropolitan school districts that try to help them make sure kids so have access to science and engineering program.
Netia McCray: And the number of times I've heard teachers cry on the call that they can't do it anymore has been disheartening and we've been trying to
Netia McCray: Step up our behind the scenes support and resources for those instructors back when we first went into lock down in March.
Netia McCray: We had all of the student organizations and leaders in our network we got on a group call and we're like, okay.
Netia McCray: We're going to do live webinars and streams to give teachers a break to figure out what their curriculum is going to be for the rest of the school year.
Netia McCray: And we'll take turns. So my organization personally did 80 hours live of science and engineering projects for kids that they can hop on and we can do together with things available in their home.
Netia McCray: Recently a wrench has been thrown into education, which is not just kids are stuck at home, and it's something that's affected my team personally and that's coven itself.
Netia McCray: So 45% of my team has had code that are symptomatic coven it myself included. I'm currently at week eight of recovering from it. And when I tell you
Netia McCray: I've had pneumonia. I've had malaria. I've had a bunch of high level diseases. But when we hear people talk about they've had
Netia McCray: I think one of the things I also had to educate educators on now that I am going through it and my team has gone through it.
Netia McCray: About the possibility of what the future of the Jamaica in the future of US supporting organization is going to look like we're going to have to focus heavily on being remote
Netia McCray: Because I am the most German phobic paranoid person. I had a mask on and late February I don't play about my help.
Netia McCray: Over eight weeks. I have had
Netia McCray: I will see there's the mental trauma of going through it the mental trauma. I've seen on my family and friends on my team.
Netia McCray: Having to lead knowing that you set up a team members in the hospital on a ventilator. You don't know if they're going to make it.
Netia McCray: You don't know if you're going to the hospital. So you have to update your will and allow for your team members to have that emergency meeting on what happens when you are no longer leading all those conversations I've had to have on
Netia McCray: The possibility of us going back into the classroom and going back to the status quo is not going to happen. And on top of that. We've also had had the conversations about
Netia McCray: A lot of the students in, for example, Boston Public Schools are minority students. They are black and brown students
Netia McCray: And a lot of the educators. We've been consulting for did not piece together, why kids were wearing face mass on zoom calls for example.
Netia McCray: And we had to explain that in black and brown communities coven 19 has been hitting to the point I don't know a single family that doesn't have someone who symptomatic and has gone through this for at least four weeks.
Netia McCray: So you're expecting kids to learn in this environment, stay on task, regardless of what other
Netia McCray: racial disparities and injustices and economic situations they had before they have someone who's in a situation, you don't know within 36 hours at that person still going to be there is what we're facing.
Netia McCray: So we've leaned more into our digital content and our video content versus promising people anymore. We're doing hands on workshops
Netia McCray: And that's another moment. I had to be dictator Nisha I like to call her Queen as the code word and go listen
Netia McCray: I know you guys want to go back to interact with these kids. That's what drives us but, given how it's affected our team.
Netia McCray: I can't in good conscious looking at my values, regardless of the cries, I'm hearing from teachers and parents puts you at risk or those kids at risk. I can't do it. So that's where we're at moving forward. I will say,
Netia McCray: It so
Netia McCray: If this was like, if this was on. I don't know if you guys know the TV show Black Mirror. If you had if you show me an episode of black America that was any part of the past three
Netia McCray: Out of them like, Oh yeah, that's really good TV. Oh.
Netia McCray: I think now. Thankfully, the creators of Black Mirror said I'm not coming out the new season because this year is just too insane and I agree with that.
Netia McCray: And I think regardless of what you take from our stories individually. Just keep that in mind that is Black Mirror, can I create a new episode, based on what we're going through right now.
Netia McCray: Be gentle with yourself and be gentle with whatever situations, you're facing. We're all in craziness right now. Hopefully for the best sorry got rambling there. I just was like,
Andrew Singleton: No, no.
Andrew Singleton: Speaking truth.
Andrew Singleton: Um, okay. So actually I have some other questions but Layla has got
Andrew Singleton: Eight minutes left. And, you know, hopefully Nisha and Bruce can stick around a little longer, but I wanted to open it up to questions from the scholars
Andrew Singleton: I wanted to see. Do you guys have any, feel free to jump out or anybody else on the call.
Andrew Singleton: Yep, Katie.
Katie McMurphy: So I'm I'm interested in the concept of adult learning and so I'm curious what hard or soft skills you've gained recently as adults.
Leila Pirhaji: Yeah, and I am a huge fan of continuous learning. So I've actually got a Coursera like membership for the whole company. So it's just keep learning
Leila Pirhaji: taking classes even myself. I took a bunch of classes, especially during the covert because I had that little bit more time at all. Let's try the link
Leila Pirhaji: I think it's definitely incredible how many, how much material nowadays is available online to learn and I've
Leila Pirhaji: I've took in loss of event. For example, when I took we doing artificial intelligence and
Leila Pirhaji: When I was taking AI classes at the MIT deep learning at that time was not a big deal. So there was not even a part of the classes they were teaching us all the courses so
Leila Pirhaji: I took all of them myself online after I started the company. And so that was one example of that technology wise I had to learn
Leila Pirhaji: Lots of leadership's I listen to lots of books. I think there are lots of really amazing books on leadership and I've most of my
Leila Pirhaji: I think entrepreneurship and business size are really amazing podcast books that it's really helpful to listen to and see the, you know, learning about the collective in the knowledge of the people who've been through our shoes. My maybe years ahead of us.
Leila Pirhaji: So it's a really, I'm a huge fan of just continuous learning never stop learning.
Andrew Singleton: Absolutely.
Andrew Singleton: The rush, did you want to take
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, I also agree. And that's kind of my philosophy as well. So when you said, what, what skills you learned recently, if I'm someone that is if I don't know something I'll google it. I'll try to figure it out and
Dariush Nejad: bought a car for the first time I learned a lot about that process, whether I wanted to or not.
Dariush Nejad: And I love listening to podcasts. One of my favorite podcasts is how I built this
Dariush Nejad: How they ever come them I'm
Dariush Nejad: constantly learning and go ahead and enter
Andrew Singleton: Oh no, I was just gonna say you you cut out there. Sorry. Keep going. And
Dariush Nejad: It's funny, I actually got a book from my girlfriend's father, who's
Dariush Nejad: Actually a leadership coach and you got a book called leading without authority and I was like this is convenient when I grab that and start reading it. It's a looks great and I totally agree with the title and the premise. You don't have to be a CEO or a manager or supervisor to lead.
Dariush Nejad: You just have to, you know, have the same mission and values. And if you everyone's going in that same direction leaders start popping up.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, leadership, without authority is kind of the underlying theme of entrepreneurship.
Andrew Singleton: That I found
Andrew Singleton: So Nisha obviously you're a fan of learning. So do you want to talk about your
Andrew Singleton: Arc
Netia McCray: Yeah, I would agree with Lila, and I'm a lifelong learner. I think the past couple of months have forced me to develop my soft skills more because I'm more of an in person.
Netia McCray: I'm better in person talking with the team, etc. And I've
Netia McCray: Find talking via zoom and Google Hangouts bit challenging because I'm used to making those meetings, short and to the point. Because I hate being on video.
Netia McCray: Despite us having a TV show. It's ironic. I know, but I don't like interacting the videos I've had to develop those soft skills.
Netia McCray: And I would say to other soft skills. I've had to learn which seemed to be where I was having the biggest deficit. But I just said I didn't have time
Netia McCray: The first one is learning to be vulnerable with my team because I always felt that if I was being vulnerable with my team. I was sounding off the alarm bells that something was wrong with the company and they should jump ship or look for other jobs.
Netia McCray: And given the past couple months and meet having, having to take time off from the G cannot be full time because I was sick.
Netia McCray: And trusting my team and telling them, like, hey, I can't do this. I need you to do this because I can't breathe today, so I have to do treatments.
Netia McCray: Was something I never imagined I would have to do or build that skill and I will say the second part is, and I know this may sound weird, especially to some of you, but I just turned 30
Netia McCray: I for the past 10 years of my company.
Netia McCray: Have only really had to talk with partners, my team and the students. I've never had a talk with parents because usually parents don't know what their kids are doing
Netia McCray: rarely have I had to have a conversation with a parent, let alone a stress parent and that is a soft skill. I've had to develop because
Netia McCray: I think being a talking to parents and you're not a parent that is automatically a wall that they feel they don't understand their pain.
Netia McCray: And they don't understand that sometimes you're just as invested in this thing, their kid as a family member or an auntie you like to say
Netia McCray: And being able to communicate that I am not making a decision because I don't care for your child or I believe this is the best decision for your child is a soft skill. I've had to develop
Netia McCray: Over the past couple of months and doing that over video chat is a whole nother layer. So I would say those are the two big ones that I was shocked. I needed as an adult.
Andrew Singleton: Yeah, absolutely. So we've got two minutes until Layla has to go away if anybody has any quick questions for her.
Andrew Singleton: If not Layla, do you mind if I connect anybody that is interested in connecting with you afterwards.
Leila Pirhaji: Absolutely I would be more than happy to thank you so much for having me. I was so honored to
Leila Pirhaji: Have the panelists and I enjoyed hearing everyone's story.
Andrew Singleton: Well, thank you for joining us. It was
Andrew Singleton: Wonderful to hear your story. Thank you.
Thank you.
Andrew Singleton: Okay. And we have a question from Brandon from Toronto about your opinion of working with friends.
Andrew Singleton: He's currently heading a startup and have joined some friends with some friends, although it's going smoothly. There have been some conflicts.
Andrew Singleton: I see Nisha laughing
Andrew Singleton: It.
Andrew Singleton: Both of you. Do you guys have
Andrew Singleton: I have stories but
Netia McCray: First, you want to take this one first.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, I'll take it first.
Dariush Nejad: See, so I don't think I've had worked with I've had friends and then I've worked with them.
Dariush Nejad: I have worked with people that have become friends.
Dariush Nejad: And I have joined them at
Dariush Nejad: Other companies after
Dariush Nejad: And in that scenario, you know, I think that has probably been easier to develop a work relationship. First, so you can understand how they work.
Dariush Nejad: You understand how to communicate with them.
Dariush Nejad: Versus friends.
Dariush Nejad: It's kind of like
Dariush Nejad: Kind of like if you have a friend as a roommate.
Dariush Nejad: That can go bad.
Dariush Nejad: Because you you have this idea of them ahead of time, and you've you've had this relationship that's really casual
Dariush Nejad: But then when things become serious, you might have a difference of opinion and it's probably really difficult to navigate after the fact. So that can get really awkward if they're not doing their part or not holding up
Dariush Nejad: Know what their responsibilities are. So the example I can give is the two co founders of love pop were friends before they they joined in the business together and they have always told us that they put their friendship over business first
Dariush Nejad: Although they have a guideline between themselves and
Dariush Nejad: When disagreements arise, how to handle it and that definitely doesn't happen right away that will probably take several arguments and disagreements to figure out how to navigate that.
Dariush Nejad: So it's, it's definitely challenging, but not impossible for sure.
Andrew Singleton: Nisha
Netia McCray: Oh, I would wholeheartedly second that I would say it is
Netia McCray: It. I think the roommate analogy is the best analogy. There are some friends to make excellent roommates because you all are on the same wavelength.
Netia McCray: And you will have some similar living styles or complimentary living styles.
Netia McCray: And then there are some people who are great when it comes to Friday night going out of the town or watching the latest movie together or playing video games, but when it comes to living together.
Netia McCray: You may end up on this this cloth news after a couple of weeks, and you don't really know which friend you have working with you until you put them in that situation.
Netia McCray: I think one of the early mistakes I made. And that's again because
Netia McCray: I didn't believe I had great social skills. So I was kind of scared to pitch. My idea is to actively recruit people
Netia McCray: From other social clubs, etc. I tapped into my own network people I knew who were already in engineering and biomedical etc to actually come in and help with Chica, because I knew they already had an interest.
Netia McCray: And sharing their knowledge and opening that door up for someone else to enter into STEM fields.
Netia McCray: I would say one notorious incident we had was in Mexico, we were launching one of our Mexico workshops and two of my friends at the time we were having a group dinner with our students. Now this was in front of 50 students this incident happened and
Netia McCray: One of the soonest was like, I can't believe that we have three friends from MIT coming here to help show us how engineers at bowling, except for bring ideas to life and they've shown us so much like it was a toast.
Netia McCray: And my two other friends or I thought they were my friends. They said, I'm who's the third person.
Netia McCray: unbeknownst to me. They had a whole background argument, the entire two weeks were in Mexico.
Netia McCray: About how they couldn't stand me forcing them to work that it was my idea. I should have been doing the heavy lifting. They were there for the photo ops.
Netia McCray: And me being Denson head down into the work I did not notice any of this happening.
Netia McCray: So I'm sitting there like are they talking about me in all of my students just like are whispering in Spanish and they forget I speak Spanish, like, oh my god, this is so embarrassing. This has to be like the worst day of her life.
Netia McCray: It's an that happen business setting was one of the moments I had to go. I need to do a better job of recruiting friends into this work. Afterwards, we had a whole conversation. There was the
Netia McCray: Stealing of funds from the organization as retaliation for this and all of this other possess. So trust me when I saw that question pop up. I feel like you may be in a situation wondering where you are.
Netia McCray: You're not going to know that friend is going to work well with your team. But the best thing I could have done was to actually have looked at how they work with other people and ask outside of pants.
Netia McCray: Because that's going to help you if you feel like that person is the best person for the job and don't necessarily do it because you're afraid of being alone and taking your time finding the right team if that's your other concern.
Andrew Singleton: Awesome. So we've had a couple of questions pop up that little kind of connected, but I'll ask them separately, just in case they touch on different things may actually a, may I did you want to chime in and actually ask your question.
Andrew Singleton: Don't want this to be just me talking.
Ameya Okamoto: Yeah, sure. Um, can you hear me. Yep.
Ameya Okamoto: visual artist and I'm currently
Ameya Okamoto: A visual artists. I currently started an organization called irresistible kind of based off of Tony cape and bars tagline that I've been using for a while.
Ameya Okamoto: The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. So I'm actually an organizer and an educator around like racial justice. I do a lot of interests and workshops and stuff surrounding art and intersection ality
Ameya Okamoto: So I'm in the process of creating this org called irresistible. And I have a team of like 13 people we're working around the clock right now. We started about two weeks ago.
Ameya Okamoto: And we're basically already working, but we're in the process of founding and we connect artists interested in doing social justice lead work with grassroots organizations who can't afford the funding to get like
Ameya Okamoto: Amazing artists from like countries, but these are artists who are interested in doing the work. So we have funding or we pay artists, a small stipend to do the work with these organizations, it's been it's been a big learning curve figuring out, legal and financials.
Ameya Okamoto: Trying to navigate team team dynamics. So I when you said you know I'm 30 I started this 10 years ago, I was like, I'm 20
Ameya Okamoto: And I'm figuring this out right now. And even though I have, you know, the help and support in my community and all these orgs that are like trying to uplift me and support me
Ameya Okamoto: I'm also like, holy cow. I'm 20 navigating the space and also trying to be taken seriously, which is something that I've struggled for so long as like an Asian American woman anti racist activism, but also as, like, a young person. So, just wondering how you could respond to that or
Ameya Okamoto: offer any advice or reflection about being a young person in this space.
Netia McCray: Okay, so I'm going to reference the book that dervish was talking about leading without authority on this one. So at 20 you don't have authority. Right.
Netia McCray: But what you do have is access to your university network and just bear with me. I know sometimes universities aren't the greatest places to navigate. But just hold on.
Netia McCray: I think the GK wouldn't have been able to get started if it wasn't for us being able to use
Netia McCray: MIT's grant programs and etc. In order to get that initial funding and being able to what we would call rapidly iterate, which means build something quickly.
Netia McCray: Oh, that's kind of mucked up tear it down, build it again with the safety net. Your University provides you
Netia McCray: Because personally if I had to do it all over again right now but Chica would not exist. I would not have the ability to walk.
Netia McCray: Or a call somebody in order to give me advice and realized, Oh, someone so did that last year and it completely blew up in her face. Yeah. No, I'm not doing that.
Netia McCray: So you have access to those things. I think the most challenging part is what you said not being taken seriously outside of the university setting. And the second part being navigating the equity space without authority or credibility as some people will call it
Netia McCray: I would say I'm 10 years in and it's still difficult to be considered credible or having authority.
Netia McCray: In my face or presence and I'm what I mean by that is, there are people who will mention but gigas work, they will mention Nisha exists.
Netia McCray: But they will not call Nisha into that room, despite our track record, etc. Because that has given me credibility and authority.
Netia McCray: However, if your name is already in that room, your leader in something because no one would need to name drop you unless they gave them a props. Right.
Netia McCray: So you need to start building your track record without that a okay from the authority
Netia McCray: Whether it's a small project that only helps one artist is slowly building that way.
Netia McCray: In terms of financial, legal, etc. There are resources for, for example, I know Tufts University has a legal clinic, which gives you free legal advice, they will incorporate your organization for free.
Netia McCray: Yeah, because I've used them. That's why I'm letting you know they exist.
Netia McCray: They will incorporate your organization for free. All you have to do is pay the processing fee. So you should focus more on fundraising just for the fees, but you don't have to pay for the lawyer, you don't have to pay for them, drawing up the documents, etc.
Netia McCray: In terms of the other stuff. Tough says so hungry. No offense defense Tulsa so hungry for a successful organizations to come out of tough because it's good fundraising.
Netia McCray: So you don't lack as many resources as you think you just have to figure out who do I need to annoy, who was hungry for some kind of success story. And even though you're Asian American trying to navigate. An anti racist space. Guess who counsels PLC.
Netia McCray: There you go.
Netia McCray: So you're not as equipped as you think you have that ability to lead something authority may decide to give it to you or not, but you will still be in that room. If you have a track record.
Netia McCray: If that makes sense. And I don't know if you still work with possible project and how they help a lot of their students when they come with projects or ideas with love pop. I don't know. That was the last time we had our conversation.
Netia McCray: And helping them get their ideas off the ground and have some tips.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, I'm not actually sure where the relationship is at this time, but
Dariush Nejad: Yeah, there's, there's a lot of organizations that are out there. And I think the biggest thing is seeking those resources and it's asking the biggest thing is asking because you just don't know how someone or whatever, is he can help you.
Dariush Nejad: Networking has been the greatest tool that I've discovered in the last 10 years
Dariush Nejad: And it's it's really difficult to understate overstate how important that is. So, you know, actually, I have a degree in fine arts
Dariush Nejad: From tops with from the school Museum of Fine Art and one thing thats related to the arts is usually people that are in the arts are always told afraid of business. It's a cop out. It's like so difficult. And one of the biggest things that I really
Andrew Singleton: Waiting
Dariush Nejad: As if somehow
Andrew Singleton: You you
Dariush Nejad: Said, so
Dariush Nejad: Don't be afraid.
Andrew Singleton: Sorry, I was ready. She said one of the biggest things it
Dariush Nejad: Okay, um,
Dariush Nejad: Did you get the business competition competition.
Ameya Okamoto: In finance, people are really scared of business or there's good competition, which I could. Couldn't agree more. I'm in the combined
Ameya Okamoto: The program and I you know I committed to touch as a visual artist who everyone thought I was going to go to art school, but
Ameya Okamoto: I wanted to touch thinking I was going to do neuro bio so I yeah I completely agree. Like that dynamic of like being somebody who's invested in their art and so
Ameya Okamoto: Presenting as an artist, but also having this edge of like business and academics that people don't expect you to like be interested in. So, and I'm
Netia McCray: Gonna second delicious point that one of the other things when I said grants at MIT is the actual ideas and business pitch competitions.
Netia McCray: Using that to build your credibility and I'm going to say this, you will be surprised how saying, Oh, we were semi finalists and toughs blank competition.
Netia McCray: Automatically gives you a step into a room because I was like, I'm all we did was stand on stage for a minute. And we're like, oh,
Netia McCray: This is what we do and post it on our website and we got five or six meetings from people going
Netia McCray: Hey, would you be willing to hop on a plane and teach your workshops in Brazil, would you be willing to hop on a plane and we will find you to go into Santiago, etc. And you're like,
Netia McCray: Really, that's all it took. Now, mind you were glossing over is going to be a lot more detailed, but I think tough and you're hearing from the top so long.
Netia McCray: That those business and idea competitions that you'll see held by various departments is done being hungry for your ideas because your ideas is what makes them look like they are fostering the future aka get that dollar so you actually bring something to the table.
Andrew Singleton: And I would like to add one thing about toughs being hungry. I'd like to say, from our perspective, it's we want to support our students and MIT, Harvard be you all have the same you know
Andrew Singleton: Programs. I did want to say I am. I'm happy to run a little bit longer if Nisha and to rush are happy to stay on for a little bit. I just want to be conscious of time that we're at that one o'clock.
Andrew Singleton: And does anybody else have any questions that they want to ask
Ameya Okamoto: I can totally ask another question now that we're like,
Ameya Okamoto: I'm Nisha. So you mentioned, so I know like your organization is a nonprofit and I'm in the equity space right now and you know as an artist. I have expenses as a freelancer like that's
Ameya Okamoto: Going to touch some stuff. So I'm wondering, like, I am currently registered as an LLC under the Secretary of State and I'm planning on navigating the space.
Ameya Okamoto: As actually like a for profit, however, because I need financial aid, I need based aid student like I need it so that we have like zero profit, even though we have income coming in and we also have kind of like
Ameya Okamoto: I, we were like, We can't call them donations are grants, but I'm funded by the organization, don't you, Portland, which is black lives matter here in Portland, that I haven't
Ameya Okamoto: That I have a long term partnership with so they kind of gave us our initial funding, but as more as like a weird pain of me.
Ameya Okamoto: Because we love her, but I was like this is my section.
Ameya Okamoto: But it was like, technically, if we were set up as a nonprofit model, there'd be like no problems. No issues very streamlined process, but because it's under me as like a sole proprietorship, it's like
Ameya Okamoto: I'm trying to be like, how do I navigate the space while also maintaining the function of an LLC, because I personally have so much experience within the nonprofit world. I do not want to board.
Netia McCray: I'm, I'm gonna I'm gonna gonna laugh because we literally just got out of being an LLC to a full nonprofit two years ago. So I understand what you're talking about. So for those who don't know, pretty much.
Netia McCray: There's pros and cons to being an LLC, which is a for profit entity that allows for you to have limited liability, which means if let's say a paintbrush stab somebody in the eye. You're not liable for it personally.
Netia McCray: The company is liable for it. So they just go after the assets owned by the company when you're a nonprofit. You are overseen by a board which is supposed to be making sure that you are doing the good that you're getting a tax break on to do
Netia McCray: The problem that comes out for being a freelancer and you're being the pretty much the only entity probably controlling the LLC is you have to balance two things.
Netia McCray: And this is where I talked about that Queen moment of putting your neck out there for your team. This is where it comes into play.
Netia McCray: Are you okay, allowing other people to dictate when your head rolls or do you want to make sure your neck is protected at all times.
Netia McCray: Especially financial aid is thrown in there. That's another exposure point to as Wu Tang Clan would say potential neck. Um, I would say keep the LLC.
Netia McCray: But have the LLC have the nonprofit arm so you can make sure that you have zero profits and that you protect yourself.
Netia McCray: At your age, you do not. You do not need legal issues coming for you and I'm saying this as someone who
Netia McCray: I Andrew gnosis story, who's been sued by park with entertainment, you don't know who Park what entertainment is that is beyond say I saw some people go away. Hold off yes that is beyond say
Netia McCray: It got a lawsuit as an LLC from park would entertainment, because I posted a meme that was work as many hours in the day as Beyonce, and it had her image and some text. It was a blog post the guest blog post by one of my students
Netia McCray: They came after us for about $8,000 for using beyond SES likeness in order to promote the Gita and make money after much litigation with my pro bono legal team a they finally said the reason why they still wanted us to pay. Was that because of my likeness to be on say
Netia McCray: I was using that in order to fundraise on her behalf.
Netia McCray: Long story short, we they finally gave up on that when I asked for them to send me a letter with Beyonce signature saying that I looked like beyond say, and I would gladly pay them.
Netia McCray: But that's an example of why you want the LLC, at your age.
Netia McCray: So they don't come after your financial aid, they don't come after any assets you or your family owns if your family was the one who underwrote like student loan, etc. So Park would entertain because just take all the non existent money but you go ahead
Netia McCray: And I could just have that fun story and I still have a nonprofit entity going through to allow for me to get grants and donations as you mature.
Netia McCray: You can set up your own nonprofit, but you can use a fiscal sponsor. So for example, the organization. I gave you the grant.
Netia McCray: They can be your fiscal sponsor before you go through the nonprofit process. So keep your LLC protection neck when you feel like, okay, I'm big and bad enough that I can go out there and be exposed.
Netia McCray: Then go through the nonprofit process, if necessary, or if you find a pro bono legal services from tops.
Netia McCray: And this is not just tough every university has a free legal clinic. If they have a law school or law students. They also have even in the weirdest of departments, you will find even the archaeology department know the fist archaeologist here.
Netia McCray: But even archaeology departments have grants for our programs international travel on stem initiatives, etc.
Netia McCray: And they're required to have those in order to create diverse opportunities as Andrew said for your department so
Netia McCray: Legally is aside, this is just an example of why you need to tap into your university resources now so you don't have to be paid the big who knows or the big bucks. I said kahunas the big bucks.
Netia McCray: Later, when you don't have that safety net or those resources. And besides, you're paying for them use them.
Ameya Okamoto: One more thing. And I know it's like the me reached out to me and be like, can I get on the phone with you.
Netia McCray: I just sent you my email. Don't
Ameya Okamoto: Agree with the fiscal sponsor like whole concept, whatever, and my initial idea was, I have ears. This one I have some other like nonprofit.
Ameya Okamoto: Like nonprofit entity which is like I have, you know, the founders of the LM NYC and Portland and La who are all like we can be these like people who are kind of guiding our process of like
Ameya Okamoto: You know, figuring out how we can reach all the little like like because we're really focused right now, we can like helping support all the smaller
Ameya Okamoto: Between. However, in this difficult to not navigate one cross country collaboration and also the idea of like the fiscal sponsorship is like, how can we bridge that you know
Netia McCray: So I sent you my email. But long story short, your fiscal sponsor allows for you not to be legally liable for any donations and take it. So they basically make a donation to you.
Netia McCray: While you're getting your stuff straight. If you want to be a nonprofit.
Netia McCray: So that's how you can bridge that that we have a we had a fiscal sponsor five years ago, based in Cape Town, South Africa, I am obviously not in Cape Town.
Netia McCray: And we just did paid how wire transfers they accept donations. Sometimes they take 5% off the top for processing fees or you know you went my beak wet yours.
Netia McCray: And then we got the rest of the funds and that's pretty much the norm. When you're looking at that, but I'm sorry to to to be the stealing of the knowledge
Andrew Singleton: I think that's, that's what we're here for. I did want to go ahead and say for anybody that does need to take off.
Andrew Singleton: I know some of you are on a tight schedule today. We only asked you to be here until one I did have one question left from San so if nation, the rich want to stick around and Sam Did you want to ask your question.
Sam Yhanto: Sure.
Sam Yhanto: My question is basically just thinking about the future and in conducting democratize authority, where you are saying that every team members valued and we're all equal. So
Sam Yhanto: How do you reconcile and navigate differences and a rates for is everyone just paid the same rate, regardless of, you know, how long they've been with the company and all that.
Netia McCray: She wants to tackle this.
Dariush Nejad: Take this one. Um, yeah, so that's very challenging. It really depends on your team size your founding team.
Dariush Nejad: The skill set, how much you know if they put in any financial equity or if it's sweat equity.
Dariush Nejad: It's it's a challenging thing to navigate, for sure. And it's
Dariush Nejad: Pretty much based on any given scenario.
Dariush Nejad: Many from my experience, I haven't done this personally, but I know from from LA pops history that I know know the founders would pay them a specific amount of money to themselves.
Dariush Nejad: Where they they wouldn't actually pay themselves for the next for the first two years, but then agreed upon third year, this is what their salary would be
Dariush Nejad: And that's something that's definitely discussed amongst themselves.
Dariush Nejad: But it really depends on on whether there's say three co founders are just two. And then there's a leadership team, but typically. Everyone is striving to pay no market value for for what the role is, and they should be compensated fairly for their skill and their contribution.
Dariush Nejad: But it's tough to pay market rate so that it can be subsidized with, you know, with actual equity. There's a lot of different formulas to kind of navigate this, um, I'm not sure if I'll be able to give you a really straight answer, um,
Andrew Singleton: There are books written on this subject, I literally. There are tons Nisha, did you want to take a swing at it.
Andrew Singleton: Real quick.
Netia McCray: I can, I can say that we've had a lot of issues with this, I want to say issues like that like you've had a lot of discussions about it because
Netia McCray: What you would pay for a team member who's in Johannesburg, South Africa or in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is that what you pay for a team member in Boston.
Netia McCray: And especially around equity. We've had to have a lot of conversations
Netia McCray: Do we pay someone the same rate in South Africa as we pay someone to Brazil, so they can have a higher standard of living. But at the same token, is that so unfair to the American team and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Netia McCray: And what I base it on is the market rate. And if we're able to meet the market rate comfortably. Then we pay the market rate.
Netia McCray: In the US, that's a little bit harder, especially for team members who are based in Boston, because the market rate for mechanical engineer is starting at $85,000 which as a nonprofit with an annual revenue of 100,000
Netia McCray: Yeah, will be broke. So we figured out ways for our team to not be full time.
Netia McCray: And allow for them to work with our partners. So we have partners, let's say with Dragon innovation or with other hardware companies in the area and what they'll do is they'll spend
Netia McCray: 10 hours a week with the Chica at our rate and then the rest of their hours that we are actually at market rate or above.
Netia McCray: And that allows for them to not feel the complete financial pain of working with Chica.
Netia McCray: But also being able to contribute to our mission etc and are for profit company partners feel great, because they have someone they can tell doing work in the community.
Netia McCray: As well as they have their feel good story. So that's the compromise, we've come into because we can't offer equity, since we're not a startup.
Netia McCray: And I don't want people that starvation wages. I will say the personal sacrifice. I've had to make as the executive director is that
Netia McCray: This year was my first year ever taking anything out of the organization. So I did freelance work on top of working free time on on full time on the Chica, in order to not have to pull money out of fatigue and so I was working 6075 hour weeks and I will say,
Netia McCray: That's fine. This year was the first time I actually had to pay my health insurance, which was a whole big to do that. We're finally successful enough that I'm like, I feel comfortable taking some money.
Netia McCray: Out of the organization. But that was a conversation I had with the team and said, hey,
Netia McCray: Said, nine years you know everyone's plates full everyone's living the life they want to live. Can I have health insurance covered by this organization. Now, it was like here, and we were good.
Netia McCray: So I think it's one of those things you have to be transparent. I don't
Netia McCray: Hide any of the salaries of any my team members. Just so everyone is aware of what everyone is paid. That way they can see there's rewards to
Netia McCray: A lot of interns who started off with us in high school have now graduated college now that they have their degree. We've given them the paper.
Netia McCray: That they're now getting what their other peers were getting initially. So there's a lot of levers, you can pull in like Andrew said there's a whole
Netia McCray: literature about this, but you have to do what your values are, what kind of team do you want, do you want a long term team. Is this a short term project.
Netia McCray: And what can you afford or what things can you offer whether was equity other employment other benefits to make it reasonable, and not, I will call
Netia McCray: A leech like situation.
Andrew Singleton: And
Andrew Singleton: This isn't going to be necessarily a quick one. But I feel bad if we don't cover it. There was a question in the chat about imposter syndrome.
Andrew Singleton: Nisha do you want for
Netia McCray: Your regional I take it. No, there is, you go first.
Dariush Nejad: Um, and for me it's something that just takes time takes time, with no competence from your team positive reinforcement.
Dariush Nejad: It's not something that you'll be able to just like snap into and got to really take a look back at yourself and reflect of some of the accomplishments that you've done and made and
Dariush Nejad: And slowly will bring confidence up to figure out, know what you are actually capable of
Dariush Nejad: And what you can do for the future.
Netia McCray: I would agree. I think I'm a lifelong suffer of imposter syndrome. I don't
Netia McCray: Really feel like the work that we've done even though I'll be like, oh yeah you know so and so where we've been received this award and we've had these accomplishments
Netia McCray: I still look at what other organizations have been able to do or what other executive directors have been able to do
Netia McCray: And still feel like I don't belong in the space, regardless of being an undergraduate or being the leader.
Netia McCray: I think one of the best piece of advice I received. Speaking of beyond say was that even Beyonce feels like an imposter and pop music and I heard that I was like
Netia McCray: But you're beyond say like you are pop music as far as the two decades have been concerned you have been pop music
Netia McCray: But I don't know if you all know this, that the album I am Sasha Fierce Sasha Fierce is beyond sees
Netia McCray: Alternative persona that she embodies as a performer and Beyonce is the person who doesn't post on social media, anything
Netia McCray: But some pictures that her husband was like, you should post because I'm you looked bomb and this outfit.
Netia McCray: And sometimes pins. A letter like the letter she painted by Brianna Taylor is Beyonce but Sasha Fierce is the Diva that we know who's on stage and doing music videos.
Netia McCray: And one of the things that has helped me the most is creating that alternative persona that is still Nisha but it's the Nisha that I feel
Netia McCray: deserves to be in the space, the one who's like, Yes, my name is Nisha McRae I am the benevolent Queen of a constitutional monarchy called Paducah welcome to my field.
Netia McCray: And I find that helps me a lot more because I'm playing a character versus it's vulnerable Nisha being in that space and being exposed and I find that has helped me the most, but
Netia McCray: It's something you're, you're gonna have to figure out a way to deal with it because it's lifelong
Andrew Singleton: Awesome so
Andrew Singleton: Are there any other questions I
Andrew Singleton: Know Nisha put her email and chat. So, and they don't want to, you know, the rush. If you feel comfortable
Dariush Nejad: Yeah.
Andrew Singleton: Ron afraid to do the same. And if anybody has any questions, feel free to reach out to the two of them and you can contact Layla through me.
Andrew Singleton: And I'd like to thank you both, as well as Layla for, you know, being here. I'd like to thank all the scholars for showing up and sticking well past
Andrew Singleton: When we said we go to. So thank you all. And if you guys want to go ahead and, you know, turn on your mics, you know, say thank you.
Andrew Singleton: You know, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
Chris LaBudde: Thank you so much.
Katie McMurphy: Thank you.
Brandon Yu: You
Jiamin Li: Thank you.
Andrew Singleton: Thank you all.
Netia McCray: Thank you guys.
Dariush Nejad: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Alexander Stanley: Thanks very much.
Netia McCray: Alex