The story I’ve been putting off for two years. The journey to TKS, lessons learnt, and why I’ve left.
Two years ago at 17, I made a life-altering decision: dropping out of university (a month before it began!) to join TKS as their first employee.
Since then – other than having the best job over – I’ve been on a plane almost every month, hung out with some of the smartest people in the world, gotten poached to work directly with billionaires, developed countless 1-degree-from-Elon-Musk relationships (lol, although it’s true I’m not actually counting), consulted for the executive team at Wealthsimple and Interac, went from living in a 2-bedroom apartment with my family to having my own place smack downtown with the sickest friends… and those were all things that happened on the side! My bestfriend and I dryly joke that we can’t share 90% of the experiences we’ve had over the past two years until we’re older to avoid unintentionally stunting on people. Yes, even moreso than I already seem to have.
This story has been a long time coming. It’s supposed to give you insight to the lessons I’ve learned from the crazy adventure it’s been, but mostly it’ll finally let my high school class know wtf it is that I’ve been up to 😅
Let me paint the picture for you: it’s 2018, I’m 17, and having the best summer of my life. I’ve found a community of people I LOVE. We’re all having a blast going through our first summer internships. Some are paid ones with the biggest corps. in Canada and some are even more interesting jobs at lowkey startups. Every evening, we’re rushing out of office doors at different spots in the city to hangout with each other – eager to develop the most meaningful friendships we’ve come across in our lives.
I’ve never felt like I belonged somewhere more. I’ve always been passionate about building the future, and although I never felt completely alone – it’s changed my life to have a group of people I would call my family. Not because we’ve spent a lot of time together, or that we happen to be in similar crazy-teen-circumstances, but because of our values. We believe and practice growth mindset, being ambitious, supporting each other (how tf is it that a group of teens came together without any sparks of jealousy or competition!?)… and we’re serious about changing the world.
At the same time that summer, I was meeting people I was supposed to spend the next 4 years with through university. It only took a few weeks to know this was not the place I’d find my future co-founders. I’m sure based on luck and prep by the end of the four years there’d be a few people, but it was not an investment I was willing to make. And I already had the sickest friends ever.
This is literally why I was contemplating not going to university.
Also let’s be real, getting educated on computer science by a prof in a classroom was the last thing on my mind. I could learn how to code through the internet. The value in university for me was supposed to be the place, the people, the social experience…”finding myself”. And it was the same value held by founders who’s opinions I valued, and advice I was seeking.
The reason I met all my dope friends was because of a program we went through together called TKS. It’s the shit. Every day that summer we’d all go hangout with the founders (Navid & Nadeem Nathoo) at their office space. We were literally there past midnight playing mafia and just jamming. In between the shenanigans, I would share my doubts about university with the brothers.
Meanwhile during the day I would see them going through interviews with candidates for their first full-time employee position. At some points I even overheard bits of conversations they had about a candidate.
A few days later, Navid asks me to join the team.
They can’t find someone who’s the perfect fit. Someone who get’s TKS, is mission-driven, and understands the community.
I was the fit.
Lesson #1: Mindset trumps knowledge. The best skill I had was that I knew how to learn, fast. I didn’t know how to build a community, or to grow TKS to 5 major cities in 8 months. I had never been handed a +$20,000 budget to put a stage together for Canada’s largest tech festival. I didn’t know how to send invoices. Or email 500 people at once. I think I learned how to send a calendar invite 4 months prior. But I knew how to learn and unlearn, and that was valuable. More valuable than the bachelor-degree and experience holding candidates interviewing for the same role.
Spending the next year with two of the smartest people I knew – hell freaking yeah! In retrospect I straight up learned more important things within the first two months than I think I would’ve in all 4 years of university.
My answer was an instant yes. Navid gave me 2-3 days to think it over, but it was an instant yes.
Then came the tougher conversation..
My mom didn’t give me permission. For the first time in my life I made a pro’s and con’s list with her (which is SO unusual to do as a brown person). She agreed (which took a long time in and of itself) that everything logically made sense, but still said no.
I didn’t even tell my dad!
The third day rolls around. “Hey Ammi, so can I submit this gap-year form?” “No.” “Okay I just did it”. (lol…).
I still hadn’t told my dad.
At TKS I was a swiss-army knife, a juggler of all things. I don’t know how to tell you what my role was. It was project managing, it was working with my best friend (who joined during my second year) as her manager, it was owning relationships with hundreds of schools, generating applications across 5 North American cities, building strategy for our community, literally managing our revenue stream and payments totalling over a million dollars… the list could go on forever.
It definitely wasn’t your typical teenage experience. It changed my life. I’m damn beyond grateful towards Navid & Nadeem for making this possible for me. Not only because of the meaningful work, the incredible story, the awesome memories, but also because of the endless list of important lessons I’ve internalized:
Lessons for Life
Lessons from Working at a Startup
Lessons from Working with Others
So… head scratch. After such a daaaaaaaazling and life-shaping 2 years why the heck am I leaving!? And during COVID? (Yes I do feel insanely privileged to be able to leave at such a time).
I wouldn’t go if I didn’t have such a compelling desire to do what I need to do next: I think one of the next major evolution points for humans will be through our understanding and tapability into human consciousness. I have a can’t-ignore desire to deeply understand this.
What does that actually mean for the next few months? My main goal is to map out what reality(/ies) could be, and our experience of reality. That entails understanding the universe (big bang, dark energy and matter, time, space, theoretical phsyics, quantum mechanics) and understanding the human experience (neurobiology, psychedelics, consciousness as a science and as theories/philosophies, energies, the science behind emotions).
Is there an end goal in mind? Only to have understanding of what truth could be. I know my purpose in life is to impact billions. And I think this area could be the place I’ll do that through.
I’ve had so many other topics and opportunities I’ve dived into over the past year, but the magnitude of how compelling this one is needs my full attention.
I’m nervous, in a good way. Kind of scared, but excited.
Throughout this journey I’ll be sending personal updates via email on progress I’m making. This’ll include progress on the project, but also what’s up in my life. I’m not selling anything. I don’t have anything to promote. Just keeping you caught up on the crazy adventures! You can sign up here to receive them (and you can email me back so we can become friends if you want!).
I’m always going to be a part of the TKS community. I’m so dang pumped to have both my feet in as an alumni now! Obviously a huge massive gigantic astronomical thank-you to NN for being so personally invested in my growth, trusting in me and for letting me have ownership. Love you guys and the whole team.
Catch you all on the flip (alum) side,