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?