Hey everyone, Hannah from KudosWall here. Instead of imparting my usual wisdom on writing a recommendation letter or preparing for freshman year or standing out as an intern, I've decided to tell you all a story about your favorite edtech rockstars, Jag and Nikhil Vootkur. This father-son dynamic duo has redefined the meaning of the phrase "family business" with their internet creation, your favorite online resume builder and portfolio extraordinaire: KudosWall!
Let me be clear: I'm the mass comm girl here. I majored in communicating. With words. English words. Written and spoken plainly. I have absolutely zero understanding of graphic design, software engineering or computer science in any form. The fact that html coding is considered it's own language positively boggles my mind. My idea of being "tech-savvy" is literally just possessing a smartphone… and here I sit at the ripe old age of 23 years. Nikhil, on the other hand, is not yet 15 and already has a firmer grasp on all of these concepts than most individuals well into late adulthood. He has even written on the topic and been recognized by Google. It runs in the family, as Jag has worked in software engineering for much of his career.
So, if like me, you spent your days as a 14-year-old taking embarrassing selfies and blowing your allowance on the latest trends, and therefore find yourself fascinated by these two gents, take a read. I guarantee, it'll make you even prouder to be a KudosWall student… and it'll probably make you really question your pubescent years.
H: Nikhil, what made you decide to be a part of a startup company?
N: My parents and I were driving home from a competition when we started talking about how we wished there was something better to do with trophies than just put them on a mantle somewhere. Well, that idea sort of festered. My dad had worked in software engineering for years, and I was starting to play around with graphics and interface design. I helped make a few demo screens, and that really launched me into it.
H: Jag, besides that fateful car ride, what inspired you?
J: Once the idea came into my mind, it wouldn't let me rest. I just saw so many benefits as a parent and I knew that I had to at least try to make it a reality. KudosWall is, I'm proud to say, the product of that.
H: What about the EdTech industry draws you both in?
N: The cool thing is that I get to see firsthand the intersection between technology and education, because I'm fourteen. I'm part of the age group that new classroom technologies are being tested out on, and being a guinea pig in that sense is really interesting to me. Both the tech and education industries are changing so fast and so norms for students are changing just as quickly… and there is so much that can be done that just hasn't been done yet. For example, resumes for eighth graders may seem ridiculous now, but that may not be the case in two years. That's where I think KudosWall will really make an impact in the coming years.
J: Well, I have worked in software development for a long time, so I know what goes into it and what can come of it… but for the most part, I am the parent of a motivated and intelligent student! There is just so much talent in the younger generation that needs to be recognized and applauded
H: I still cannot get over how much you've accomplished at such a young age. What are some other things you like to do for fun?
N: Like I said before, I really like getting involved in school competitions, robotics and things like that. Other than that, I play a lot of tennis. My biggest passion right now though is graphic design! I love how it is creative but also very precise and calculated. Getting a gift from Google for my article on material design was easily one of the coolest things to happen to me.
H: Jag, what are some other things you're involved in? Any father-son tennis matches?
J: Everyone who knows me knows that I very deeply believe in serving others to the highest extent. So, when I'm not spending time with my family, I like to volunteer in the community, at the local soup kitchen and places like that.
H: KudosWall is a family effort for you. What's it like working in that environment?
J: Here's the thing: I don't treat Nikhil as my son when it comes to work. He is a highly talented designer with great ideas. Yes, the dichotomy of work and family can be difficult at times, but we are very good at resolving any issues that may arise. At the end of the day, he's my son and I'm his dad.
N: The house is our office, as you would imagine. The family dynamic shifts to shop talk and back again, sometimes really quickly. It's fun. It doesn't feel like work necessarily. It's really cool to live in my office.
H: Nikhil, this may seem like a dumb question, but… do you use KudosWall?
N: Of course I use KudosWall! Having a portfolio at my fingertips while applying to prep schools has been so useful and so helpful. I feel like I would have forgotten a lot of what I've done over the last few years without it!
H: Jag, what do you want users to know about KudosWall?
J: Landing a job or getting accepted into college isn't a cut and dry process, there isn't a surefire formula of prerequisites that is followed by any means. Admissions personnel and future employers look at so many different components when considering an applicant! They want to know what you did but also what you learned. What are you proud of? What did your experiences teach you? With KudosWall, you can store all of your achievements in one place. KudosWall isn't like any other online portfolio in the sense that multitalented people can include things like dances, art projects, science experiments, anything. It is highly customizable so you can truly showcase your proud moments, whatever they may be.
H: Lastly, what is one thing you both have learned about startups throughout this whole process?
N: The thing is, I don't have experience working with a "normal" company. This is all I know. For one, we have designers in India, so I have learned a lot about how international communication works and what the implications of that are. The biggest thing, though, is that in startups you have significantly less resources. So, you learn how to do more with less. You have one designer to do something as opposed to a whole team of them. It can pose a challenge, but it is also really liberating.
J: Nikhil said it first, but you really do become humbled by the experience. Not everything (in fact, almost nothing) is given to you on a silver platter. Things can be challenging and frustrating and it can really set you back if you let it. You have to work hard, give it your heart and soul and be independent. You need to be a jack of all trades, or things won't get done and ideas won't come to be. The biggest lesson I've learned is to simply be fearless.