Let’s Change the Future: Important Insights from Small Business Owner Tarek Kamil

Tarek Kamil

Understanding what employers want and how we can improve education for students remains a constant pursuit for educators around the globe. Changing the future of education requires that we hone our craft as educators. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview Tarek Kamil, the CEO and founder of Cerkl, and current member of the Madeira Board of Education. Tarek, like many entrepreneurs, has a history of building innovative products and services ranging from a metric driven performance enhancement basketball to a fantasy sports simulation application. In our interview, we discussed his product, Cerkl, as well as what employers want and need today and in the future and what we, as educators, should be doing to help create the employee of tomorrow.

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What is Cerkl? Cerkl is a personalized communication platform used by libraries, businesses, and educational institutions that want to move away from the one-size-fits-all strategy of communicating. Let’s face it, we are a consumption based society and we are accustomed to receiving personalized content. Businesses like Google, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu, and Amazon analyze every click to help provide content you are more likely to want to receive. The more you purchase, watch, or search for something, the more of that “something” you will see. Cerkl applies that methodology to websites and newsletters. Content dynamically adjusts to a user’s interest and delivers what you want, when you want it and how you want it. For Cerkl clients, the standard newsletter that goes out once a week at the same time is replaced by dynamic content curated from sites you determine and is delivered to user’s inboxes based on user preferences.

Soon, the concept of sending or doing mass anything will be stagecoach, smoke signal, hieroglyphics; it will seem prehistoric. Why would we send the same thing to everybody today? Everybody is different.

~ Tarek Kamil

What do employers want today?

According to Tarek, employers want workers that are passionate, empathetic, inquisitive, intelligent, persistent, and that have values consistent with the organization. As a company owner, Tarek asks potential employers what they do in their spare time as it helps him to understand their passion. In a small company, like Cerkl, the work is messy and chaotic. He wants people that are smart problem-solvers that can be persistent in their work and their work ethic outweighs their grade point average or degree.

We act like a startup. We ask questions about everything.

~ Tarek Kamil

I want to hire innovators. I want to hire people that can keep moving us forward.

~ Tarek Kamil.

The importance of trust.

Tarek has no idea where his employees are at any given time. Everybody has a job to do, and they are held accountable for the work. It all starts with trust and larger companies are starting to carve themselves into smaller companies to help establish that environment.

 How can educators help students be successful in the Creative Age?

Tarek says that the K-12 experience should help children figure out their passion and it should be much less about testing and a grade point average. In his mind, if you get to be 18 or 19 and have no clue what you want to do that is a huge problem because once you go to college, you are going to pay forty to fifty thousand dollars on something you aren’t even sure you want to do. Students, starting in preschool, should be exposed to careers and pathways allowing them to help them find their passion and understand what preparation they need to have a career built on that passion. For instance, if a student interested in software development talks to an adult with that specialization, the adult can help the student understand they should be taking music, math, and philosophy to help them be successful.

When asked about a small change a teacher can make relative to how he was taught in school, he said, “move from telling students what to think to teaching them to ask questions. ” By encouraging students to ask questions and rewarding it you build an inquiry-driven culture driven by students where they feel vested in their learning.

No student should graduate without having a thorough understanding of software development.

~ Tarek Kamil

Move from telling students what to think to teaching them how to ask questions.

~ Tarek Kamil

Summing It Up

In education, we too should be asking questions of businesses about what skills they want and need, working in partnership with one another to ensure that our strategic goals align with the future needs of employers. We all know the skills our students need in the future are different than those we acquired in high school. Let’s keep our eyes, ears, and minds open to a new way!