Today we have the privilege of speaking with Ghazal Qureshi, the founder of UpBrainery, an innovative edtech company with a mission to revolutionize career exploration. Ghazal’s unique journey has profoundly shaped her role as an edtech startup founder. In this interview, we will explore the inception of UpBrainery, its distinctive approach to education and workforce readiness, challenges faced in its early stages, and the global impact it aspires to make. Please join us for this insightful conversation with a visionary leader.
What is the story behind the creation of UpBrainery?
At the heart of everything I do lies a passion for making a difference. This calling has driven my actions for 14 years, starting with my earlier ventures in building educational companies. My previous educational company was a premier after-school program operating in over 100 areas where we opened doors to providing new skills to kids from Robotics to Cooking, a pursuit that brought immense excitement and gratification. Yet, as my involvement deepened with the families and children we served, an unsettling truth emerged — an insurmountable gap that was perpetuated by unequal access due to financial constraints. A pay-to-play dynamic inadvertently emerged, resulting in the exclusion of an entire socio-economic gap. This realization underscored a fundamental principle: true innovation demands inclusivity. The huge issue lay in this disparity — regardless of origin, a consistent lack of access to avenues that fostered understanding of potential and possibilities.
This realization led me to find a solution — an immersive and engaging platform which transcends economic boundaries, bridging the gap through a combination of technology and content. The need for equitable access to educational avenues became a motivation guiding me to shape a society where career opportunities know no discrimination. My immigrant background and aspiration for equitable opportunities united in this endeavor. This journey isn’t just about success; it’s about shaping futures, empowering aspirations, and crafting a cohesive pathway that affords everyone.
How does your experience of moving from Pakistan to the US at the age of 16 and being a New American impact your path as an edtech startup founder?
I have the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. I was able to witness education from both Eastern and Western perspectives. This consideration has demonstrated to me how valuable education is in shaping lives of different societies. My story originates in Pakistan — a country where professional choices are often confined to the realms of few pathways, as they say “you can be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a loser”. Even as I pursued different career trajectories, those traditional considerations still influenced me. The echoes of those expectations persisted. Becoming a mother made me realize that I can go against all odds and do something brand new myself to make an impact and to showcase that to my own three children.
Over the past six to seven years, my journey has been marked by this evolution. The powerful work ethic through my immigrant experience remained a guiding light. Yet, its impact took on new forms: a realization that success could be personal and not confined to traditional molds. This awakening was highly influenced by my immigrant experience — a determination to surmount obstacles, define my path, and embrace uncharted horizons.
What is the most unique aspect of UpBrainery’s approach to work?
Anything is possible. While you can get this idea from other startups, UpBrainery’s approach seeks to transcend the norm. Our mission revolves around overcoming age-old barriers, particularly the notion that a successful future can be accomplished exclusively with a four-year college degree. We stand in 2023, where success takes a variety of forms — intellectually and financially. The narrative of achievement isn’t confined to a college campus. My journey has been about taking all the opportunities and making sure that they work for me. This is what UpBrainery aspires to create — a variety of opportunities for young minds, irrespective of imposed limits.
What was the biggest challenge in the beginning stage of UpBrainery creation versus what is the biggest challenge now?
At the starting stage of UpBrainery, I encountered a challenge beyond imagination. With the conviction of building my second startup, I believed I knew the roadmap of the company’s creation. I had meticulously assembled a team of professionals. Yet, shortly after our launch, the world underwent an unprecedented change, forcing our potential clients — educational institutions — to shut their doors for nearly two years because of a pandemic. It brought uncertainty to us, as we were navigating new platforms as schools remained locked. Technology, once regarded as a supplementary tool, became central in the education sector. Our platform’s potential resonated more profoundly, yet the circumstances surrounding its application remained unpredictable. Those two years forged resilience and innovation within our team.
Fast forward to today: the challenge we confront is larger, more far-reaching — an existential crossroad not limited to K-12 students, but extending to the very essence of workforce development. How do we incite a unified response, rallying everyone in the industry to address this critical educational gap and allow the future workforce to make skills based discoveries in forging ahead on their career exploration path? This challenge echoed daily within my thoughts.
It’s a multifaceted question to resolve which we need to collaborate and raise awareness. As a woman, an immigrant, and a founder, the fundraising is often exacerbated by these factors, but it’s merely a facet of the larger challenge. The greater endeavor involves knitting together diverse stakeholders, bridging sectors, and forging a movement.
What is the impact of UpBrainey on the world more globally?
At the core of our mission lies fostering an environment that empowers students to not just acquire knowledge, but to forge a seamless connection between learning and its practical application across an evolving spectrum of jobs and careers and their underlying skills. These very paths might not even exist today, but our aim is to equip learners with the skills that will enable them to seamlessly traverse these uncharted avenues. One of the most potent changes we champion is dismantling the notion that certain subjects, for e.g. mathematics, are sometimes met with distaste from a student. The truth often lies in the fact that these subjects haven’t been introduced in a manner that resonates with the individual strengths of a student. We need to transform math from a source of frustration into a subject that fuels curiosity. What if math was no longer a thing to detest, but a tool to create, say, a captivating video game or unravel the secrets of art?
Moreover, UpBrainery is about rendering learning as a living, breathing process — a visual skills connection map that evolves in tandem with the learner’s journey. It’s a map that consistently adapts to align with a student’s interests, aspirations, and evolving comprehension to showcase the careers and opportunities that these skills can lead to. Just as life is an ongoing process of learning, so too is our learning map — an intricate, constantly transforming guide that offers a visual testament to the vast universe of possibilities that await.
Visit the website linked here to learn more!