Born in Bangalore, one of the defining facts of Mekhala Hiriyanna’s life was that she was a woman who wanted to do something different to transform the world.
“I am a first generation woman entrepreneur,” she said. “I come from three generations of only daughters, which is quite a shocking thing in a patriarchal society in India. My parents were very particular that I grow up without the fear of being a girl. They ensured that I am not scared to do anything, I’m not scared to take a step forward, just because I’m a woman. And that’s how I became a first generation entrepreneur.
She got a college degree in computer science and was hired by a tech company, but a year later she went back to her parents and told them: I’m not interested in this job, I want to do good for society.
“I wanted to be in social impact,” she said.
So she started her own non-profit foundation to bring creative, critical thinking, education to children across India. “My idea of education was to ensure that every strata of society learns how to think through education.” She was 22 years old.
She created creative thinking activity workbooks for children, and through her foundation sold over 500,000 of them, getting them in schools across India. She also partnered with over 50 schools, training more than 5,000 teachers and 50,000 students.
But a few years later she got married, and had to move to California. Mekhala needed to start over. Living in Mountain View and still passionate about social impact, she started a consulting business for women entrepreneurs, especially small business owners.
She helped them find success by investing in and believing in themselves. But Mekhala also needed to start investing in herself again.
“Since I was trained as an engineer, I was looking for some tech related trainings that I could use to upskill,” she said. “I’ve been in social impact for over 10 years, so my tech skills are quite outdated, and I was looking to freshen up.”
That’s why she found Calbright. “It’s been an awesome journey for me at Calbright,” she said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people.”
The first thing that stood out to her about Calbright, of course, is that it’s free. “As someone who is trying to make a transition in her career, not having a hole in her pocket really matters right now,” she said. But that’s not the only advantage. “I like that the courses are evaluated to industry standards, that makes a lot of difference when you’re looking for a career opportunity. The certification you get is recognized in the industry.”
She was nervous about applying. “It took me a lot of courage to get in,” she said. “I haven’t taken an exam for the last 10 years! But Calbright made it smooth and comfortable. The courses are very well put together. It never makes you feel intimidated.”
Plus there’s support whenever she needs it.
“The backbone of support that Calbright gives is remarkably helpful for adult learners,” she said. “There’s always somebody to help me, any time I can drop in. It’s like online support 24/7. This kind of comfort, this kind of extended support throughout the day, is fantastic.”
As she studies in Calbright’s CRM Platform Administration program, she has decided to try helping other students too: Mekhala is the first Vice-President of Calbright’s new student government.
“Of course I’m passionate about education,” she said, smiling. “And I know that I can have a social impact here too, and that Calbright can have an enormous positive impact for everyone. I’m very pleased to be a student here and part of this.”