Blogger templates

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Posted by Tamila Deniece Harris 5:54 AM No comments

Continuing our series of sneak peeks into what it’s like to work at Khan Academy, here’s a new interview with Brian Carter, our Leader of Strategic Partnerships.

Hi Brian! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Khan Academy.

As a product of public education from K-12 through college, I see the power public education has to transform people’s lives, as it did my own. I am from a small, military community in south Georgia, where the per-capita income is still only $23,000, as compared to the national average of $68,000. 

I saw that not everyone received equal access to these educational opportunities. Our community chose to put 90% of these resources into 10% of the community and those individuals, like myself, greatly benefited from these resources and left the community. The majority of the population received little to no useful education or training and were essentially forced to remain in the cycle of poverty still present in my hometown. This is not the fault of these individuals. I blame a system that is designed to allocate its resources in such a way. 

I knew we could do better as a country. I knew we could provide top-notch, freely available public education to every person in this country, and therefore that has been my life’s mission and purpose. 

In order to address the issues our country faces in education, I had to understand the challenges facing our public school students, families, teachers, and administrators. The only way to do that was to go into the classroom. After earning my undergraduate degrees in math and chemistry and my PhD in biological chemistry, I accepted a job at a charter school in Washington, DC. I wanted to better understand what it was like to be a teacher in a public school classroom.  I taught for four years at public schools in both our nation’s Capital and New York City. 

I returned to DC to shape educational policy and had the great fortune to work for then Senator Hillary Clinton and the late Senator Edward Kennedy.  President Obama had just won the election, Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate; so, it was a very exciting and an active time to be working on the Hill. I was involved with legislation that dramatically increased federal funding for public education, reformed our student loan system, overhauled our system of national service, and revamped how we support families and children of domestic violence. 

After Senator Kennedy passed away, I joined many of my colleagues at the U.S. Department of State, this time using my scientific background to combat bioterrorism around the globe. I viewed this from an educational lens understanding how the U.S. could partner with other countries to better educate and train our life scientists. I then switched to a role building our relationships with countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Central Asia through scientific cooperation, again learning so much about how other countries educate both their young and adult populations. 

Family reasons took me from my job at the State Department to New York City, and after a few years consulting for nonprofits to improve their development operations, I was hired by John and Laura Overdeck as the first Program Officer to design and lead their Inspired Minds portfolio at their family foundation. Seeing as my portfolio was focused on STEM education and near and dear to John and Laura’s personal interests, I had the pleasure to work alongside Khan Academy as not only a funder but a partner in several of the initiatives the organization launched during my time at the foundation. I saw firsthand the huge impact Khan had on millions of students not just domestically but around the globe. I was able to travel to Mountain View for a funder meeting in 2018, where I first heard the story of Sultana and the impact Khan Academy could have on changing people’s lives – her story had a profound effect on me. 

In 2019, I had been away from the classroom for well over a decade and so much had changed. I wanted to get closer to the work again and understand how the needs of students, families, teachers, and administrators had changed since I was last in the classroom. I relocated to Georgia and taught at an independent school for the past three years. I wanted to teach at a public school, but given I had been away from the classroom for so long, they would not provide any credit for the time I was out of the classroom, and therefore the pay would have been as if I was a junior teacher at the beginning of my career. 

The last three years have been some of the most challenging of my career – teaching high school students chemistry and physics while we all wore masks and stood at least six feet apart. My teaching method views science as a verb not a noun; so, I teach using a very lab-based method. The pandemic created a number of issues for this approach. I saw at least four of my students hospitalized for mental health related issues given all that they were going through. One student lost his 40-year old dad to COVID, after the student had had COVID first. He blamed himself for his father’s death, and nothing I nor any of our counselors could change his thoughts on this.  

These years were also some of the most rewarding of my professional life. I do not know what I would have done without the daily interactions I had with my students. They helped get me through this pandemic and for that, I will be forever grateful. 

I also saw that the pandemic drastically accelerated the rate of change of digital learning. As a chemist, I think of activation barriers, or the energy needed to allow a reaction to take place. The pandemic produced what we would call a tunneling effect, where teachers, administrators, and parents/guardians had to tunnel through all the barriers they had previously had to online learning and become very comfortable using digital tools and online resources extremely quickly.  Our students already had these knowledge and skills long ago, but now our educators, no matter what their age or comfort level with technology, had to become proficient in using them as well, and parents/guardians had to become comfortable with their children using them, while administrators had to support and allow teachers the flexibility needed to implement these new technological solutions to learning.  I know we are returning to a new normal, but I believe educators will continue to utilize these tools. I also believe the students and families will demand them, as will the administrators who saw their power and benefits. 

Thus, I was energized from my time in the classroom and wanted to return to my life’s work of changing how we teach students and adults, not just domestically but around the globe.  I knew one organization that I believe did it the best and that was Khan Academy.  I got in touch with Vicki and she said she mentioned an opening for the Strategic Partnerships Leader. This was a perfect fit as I spent years in DC building successful partnerships to pass legislation in Congress and establishing multi-country, muli-agency/organization partnerships between the U.S. and countries around the world at the State Department. This is also how I viewed my role at Overdeck Family Foundation, as we were not simply a funder, but also a partner with our grantees in this work. It all just fell into place and I couldn’t be happier or more excited.

What was the interview process like for you? Any tips for would-be candidates?

I believe I provided some feedback after the process was over.  It would have been helpful to know the entire process from the beginning to end, along with an expectation of timelines for the process, although I know that is a little bit harder to provide. I felt like I asked for this, but never had a clear picture of all the steps involved with the process.  It would have been nice to know from the beginning how many stages the interview process was and at what stage I was in the process as I advanced through it. 

I really enjoyed meeting with various individuals across the organization. Everyone was engaged in the work and passionate about it.  Everyone was also very candid in their responses to my questions, which I really appreciated. 

My advice to candidates would be to not shy away from asking us (Khan employees) the tough questions. Sometimes as an interviewee you are trying hard to put your best foot forward and therefore are worried if your question will be taken the wrong way or indicate you have reservations about the organization / the role or might offend the interviewer.  An interview is a two-way street. Khan Academy is trying to learn more about you and your skills and background to see if you are a good fit for the open position, but you are also trying to answer those same questions for yourself. The most successful hires are going to be when both parties have full visibility of what is expected in the role and it is truly a great fit, not just for the organization, but also for the individual joining the organization. This goes not just for knowledge, skills, and experience, but also for culture. You can only know this if you get your questions answered as well; so, don’t be shy. My experience was that Khan employees are happy to answer any question you ask them, including the tough ones.

What does it mean to be a Strategic Partnerships Leader at Khan Academy?

Currently we have five partners we consider to be our Strategic Partners, big ‘S’, big ‘P’ – AAMC, College Board, ETS, LSAC, and NWEA, or as I like to say, the entire alphabet of partners. Each of these partners is extremely important to Khan Academy, and thus my role in managing each of these partnerships is crucial for each and every learner who uses the tools that come out of these partnerships. There are the obvious reasons these partners are important to Khan Academy, in that they provide revenue to Khan Academy, which allows us to carry out our mission of providing a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. They also provide Khan Academy opportunities to reach populations we otherwise wouldn’t reach, like teachers preparing for ETS Praxis tests or law and medical students preparing for the LSAT or MCAT, respectively.  

I also see them as playing an even more important role. We chose to partner with each of these organizations, because they share our vision and values. Each of these organizations believes in the transformative power of freely available educational resources. For example, our work with College Board allows students not just in the U.S. but around the globe to prepare for the SAT. Students who use our Official SAT Practice for a minimum of 30-min per week have been proven through rigorous research to improve their scores on the SAT. This could mean the difference between a student being able to pursue their dream of going to college or not. Through our partnerships with AAMC and LSAT, Khan is breaking down the financial and racial barriers students have faced for decades in following their lifelong dreams to become doctors and lawyers through helping them prepare to do well on the MCAT and LSAT, respectively, all completely free of charge. Our partnership with ETS helps address the shortage our country faces in finding highly qualified teachers by providing a pathway for teachers and future teachers to be able to freely prepare and do well on the Praxis Core test. Passing these tests are required by many states before a person is allowed to teach. Finally, our partnership with NWEA links the power of their MAP Growth assessment to Khan’s MAP Accelerator. MAP Accelerator uses NWEA’s assessments to provide personal pathways teachers can use with their students to build their math skills and knowledge, while also growing their confidence in themselves.

What are you most excited about when it comes to education and partnerships?

We already are reaching nearly a million students a year and tens of thousands of teachers through our existing partnerships. We are breaking down financial and racial barriers that have been present in our educational systems for decades to allow students to fulfill their dreams of going to college, becoming a teacher, or pursuing a postgraduate degree in law or medicine. We have rigorous research on the impact these partnerships have for learners who use these tools, even as little as 30-min per week, in terms of improving their MAP Growth, SAT, and LSAT scores. As if this wasn’t exciting enough, I know we are only scratching the surface of what is possible through our Strategic Partnerships. 

I am most excited to utilize the new five year plan to shape our vision of what it means to be a Strategic Partner of Khan Academy. I want to use our ambitious goal of reaching over five million students  with overrepresentation in HUR populations by 2027 to guide not only what we do with our existing partners, but our criteria for identifying, cultivating, and securing new Strategic Partners to helpful us not simply achieve our five year goal, but blow it out of the water! Please note, this is NOT about the goal, but it is about the more than five million students who will benefit from our work in achieving this goal.

Any words of wisdom for someone who’s just starting their career today and wants to make a big impact in their community and world?

This is actually an excerpt from a piece I recently wrote for The Indicator, which is a monthly newsletter for the New York City and Northern New Jersey local chapter of the American Chemical Society, entitled “Finding Your Ikigai:” 

I was recently introduced to the concept of Ikigai (ee-kee-gahy), which means “reason for being” in Japanese. My friend and I were talking about careers and work-life balance, and she mentioned the concept and then sent me this Forbes article from 2018. My entire life I have strived to find the right balance, between doing something I felt passionate about, while also earning a living.  The concept of Ikigai has helped to provide focus to what I had always been searching for. 

Ikigai is a fairly simple concept. You will be happiest in life when you find a balance between the following four things: what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, what you can be paid to do, and what the world needs. 

I wish I had learned about the concept of Ikigai sooner in my career, but even if you have never heard of it, I hope that you will use the simple concept to guide future career decisions in your own life.  I know I have been happiest when I am doing what I’m good at, but also enjoy, while getting paid a fair wage to do something the world really needs.  I sincerely wish the same for you as well.

Want to work at Khan Academy?

Join Brian and over 200 passionate and creative Khan Academy staffers working to make a massive impact around the world.

* This article was originally published here

* This article was originally published here


Post a Comment


Bookmark Us

Delicious Digg Facebook Favorites More Stumbleupon Twitter