Today’s Real Life Glam features LeaderLync CEO Anita Anantharam. LeaderLync is a startup dedicated to helping students combine the skills they’ve picked up outside the classroom into a comprehensive resume highlighting them for employers. Dr. Anantharam is also an associate professor at the University of Florida’s Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research. Read on for her journey from college professor to business owner.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
DAILY ELLEMENT: Tell us about yourself!
ANITA ANANTHARAM: I would describe myself as an educator, someone who is committed to issues of social justice and equity. I like to be in a learning environment and I love the idea of being around people critically engaged in the process of learning and people who are particularly interested in those same issues.
DE: What inspired you to start LeaderLync?
AA: I had been watching my students in the humanities and social sciences, and not just those but my students interested in medicine and engineering and so on, go through college in a manner that was very haphazard. They were kind of just being pushed and pulled by the different winds of political administration or curriculum changes and then graduating with debt and not being able to get gainful employment… [and] somehow what I was teaching in the classroom didn’t make sense anymore… That was what started me on the path to starting the company.
DE: How does LeaderLync work?
AA: [A school would] … come up with a set of tools that they think is really relevant for students overall regardless of the field… The university would push different events onto subscribers on the platform and students would get credit for all the things they’re doing while they’re building up their co-curricular platform.
When employers and grad schools are interested in recruiting, they would be able to have targeted information on the types of skill sets [the students have acquired].
DE: The video you shared with us starts off with the idea that the way companies hire is changing. They’re not just expecting good grades but also experience. It’s not only subjects but also skills.
AA: It’s got to be a combination of the two… Da Vinci was as much a scientist as he was an artist. I think today it’s become either/or and I feel that’s part of the problem. They’ve kind of made themselves apart from everything else and I think we need to show the relevance of humanistic thinking as part of the development of life skills. So there’s no reason someone needs to give up interest in fine arts if there’s an interest in finance. One doesn’t need to come at the expense of the other.
DE: What has surprised you about starting this company?
AA: I feel that first of all as a woman, as a woman of color, I knew it’d be hard to start a company and see it through and convince people of my vision. And it is hard because I don’t think people want to put money in education because they don’t really know if there’s going to be real significant corporate buy-in in something like this. Raising money for the company or getting traction has been hard.
DE: Where do you see LeaderLync in the future?
AA: I would love to have the company be able to raise say like half a million dollars so I can hire four to five people on my team to sell the platform or to grow the business… I think the idea will get more traction and I think the data will speak for itself. I’ve talked to at least a hundred students I’ve taught in the past and they’ve said, ‘If I had something like this when I was going through college it would’ve me taught so much more’.