How to market your global development skills to a Silicon Valley startup

How can one leverage their nonprofit background to a Silicon Valley startup? Photo by: Startup Stock Photos / CC BY

Like many of her American colleagues committed to social impact, Nov. 8, 2016 was a huge wake-up call for Leila Makarechi, now head of international government partnerships at ‎Coursera.

“I had to find some way to actively address what’s happening in our country,” she told Devex. “Right around the time of the election, regardless of who you voted for, I think it’s pretty safe to say you could take a look at the country and feel like we’re not super unified, and a lot of people are in a really difficult position and really hurting, and that’s something I wanted to address in my next role.”

Previously, she worked for nearly a decade with Microclinic International, a nonprofit organization that leverages human relationships to address chronic diseases including diabetes and obesity, both in the United States and internationally. Following the U.S. presidential election, she started what she calls an exploration rather than a search for a job to better understand the role of the private sector in addressing societal divisions. She talked with as many people as she could get to agree to a coffee, and ultimately chose to join Coursera, where she said she is able to leverage her background in a new and different way to advance a mission she believes in. Our conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.

Even before Coursera, your work was focused both domestically and internationally. What are the connections you saw between the two? And how did this work across borders lead you to Coursera?

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About the author

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.