Change At Scale: Immigrant Education

Record labels invests in artists, accelerators invest in startups, can we invest in people?

One Saturday night on a delayed 2 train, I met an African immigrant who had recently arrived to the Big Apple — a software engineer with a masters degree. He was working at Amazon. In fulfillment.

He explained to me that he came to the US to pursue a Ph.D but the he was told that he needed to redo his undergrad. He’s working 50 hour weeks shipping packages for Amazon to pay for his undergrad at the local New York college.

This is both unfair and economically inefficient.

I asked him if he had looked into any internships and he didn’t know what I was talking about. Startups? Forget about it. He mentioned that his school’s career advisor hadn’t been much of a help. It was clear to me that this man obviously has the grit and skills to be successful but has a clear lack of a network and awareness.

As put by Social Capital, “If life were a race, it’s fair to say that the starting lines at birth are unevenly distributed.” Unfortunately, this man isn’t the exception.

Through my small efforts and observing other initiatives, it’s clear that in order to address this issue at scale, there needs to be a business model behind the efforts.

What would it take to bring a talented individual like the man I met on the subway up to speed? How can we do this in a sustainable way?

I dive into these questions here.