Infinite Careers is a collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
- MIT, SB in Political Science (2014)
Netia McCray is a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika, a social venture dedicated to fostering youth-driven innovation and entrepreneurship.
Mbadika, which means ‘idea’, is on a mission to support ideas and those who create them, no matter where or from whom they arise. Through hands-on workshops and DIY (do-it-yourself) Kits, Mbadika has been able to support thousands of aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs around the world.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Being able to prove to the world, to those who believe that game-changing ideas as well as innovators can only come from certain places or types of individuals, that “Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.”
Through Mbadika, a little girl in Togo’s Capital, Lome, is able to explore designing a solar powered light system for her street while a Grandmother in Boston is designing a hydroponic garden for her apartment complex to have access to fresh vegetables. These stories are what power me through my career.
What is the biggest challenge you encountered in your career and how did you overcome this challenge?
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered has been myself, in regards to evolving into someone who is not simply just exposed to enormous opportunities (like studying as a Summer Program participant at MIT) to feeling confident enough to take the risk and explore these opportunities.
For example, the quote ‘drinking from the firehose’ is used amongst MIT students as a constant reminder that one need’s to be flexible, have grit, and must use their wits in regards to encountering something that is a bit much to take in but is still useful to take in…even if it’s just a little bit.
This challenge is something that I’m still attempting to overcome, but I can look back to my younger self and realize that I’ve made leaps and bounds.
Despite my fear leaving my home state, I took a chance to leave the safe path of going to my local community college and attend MIT (which I was woefully unprepared for). Despite my fear leaving the United States (given no one in my family had ever been abroad), I decided to travel to Brazil which led to the birth of Mbadika. Despite being offered a very comfortable full-time position upon graduation, I decided to take the risk and become a full-time social entrepreneur.
As a heavily risk-adverse individual, none of these decisions were made lightly. I was forced, kicking and screaming, to break my mental mold of what I am able to do in order to accept these new opportunities.
What professional development activities did you participate in when you were in school and early on your career?
My experience at MIT allowed for me to inadvertently undergo the whole gambit of professional development activities. As an Undergraduate, I was able to take Entrepreneurship and Innovation courses at MIT Sloan in order to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to guide Mbadika during its early years.
In addition, I was able to perfect our hands-on workshops at the MIT Hobby Shop as well as through MIT D-Lab courses with support for our domestic and foreign work from MISTI and the MIT Public Service Center (PKG Center).
Honestly, the early exploration and development of Mbadika would not have been possible without the professional development events and resources available for very curious students by MIT.
What professional development activities do you participate in now?
MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship
Venture Cafe Foundation | Kendall – Cafe Nights
Lynda.com | Online Training
Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now?
While approaching individuals who share your curiosity, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. People aren’t as scary as you believe, most of the time.
What advice would you give to current students that are interested in pursuing a Political Science major or Entrepreneurship/Not-for-profit work?
Regardless of your goal, the purpose of your time at MIT is not only to become an expert in your field of study but to also absorb as much information as you possibly can that could guide your next 5 careers.Regardless of your goal, the purpose of your time at MIT is not only to become an expert in your field of study but to also absorb as much information as you possibly can that could guide your next 5 careers.
While being in the MIT Political Science Department, I had also partaken in classes in Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering) as well as MIT Sloan in order to learn more about the mechanics of the components I was designing to guide the learning opportunities for Mbadika Workshop participants as well as the management of such an organization.
MIT’s Political Science Department has guided me in regards to how to engage with local partners and ensure Mbadika continues to have an impact on its shareholders and beneficiaries. Nonetheless, Mbadika needed the flexibility of MIT’s undergraduate program in order to absorb additional resources and become a true example of the interdisciplinary nature of ‘inventional wisdom’.
What is something that you did not do at MIT that you wish you had done while you were here?
Personally, I was scared to ask MIT Sloan to make an exception for me in regards to participating in the IAP portion of G-Lab (despite already participating in the Fall Course) since I was an undergraduate. Years later, I realized that the Instructor was disappointed that I didn’t participate and in fact remembered me and my presentation sharing my initial thought regarding starting my social venture, Mbadika.
That is literally my largest regret in terms of something that I should have taken at MIT.
What does “work-life balance” mean to you and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?
“Work-Life Balance” means being able to turn off my computer and phone in order to enjoy the fruits of labor, whether that’s spending time with my family or even binging a season of my favorite Netflix show. Period.
Netia McCray and youth in Mbadika, a social venture dedicated to fostering youth-driven innovation and entrepreneurship.