Kunal Kerai is a Linked Top Voice, and a regular writer. Professionally he is a Human Resources professional at Visa, but after hours, he enjoys helping people as a career consultant, and writing on social issues in business. He one day hopes to create his own property management company to provide affordable housing to LGBTQ youth, create a VC fund to empower minority founders, and work in government to enact nationwide policy to make education more accessible.
Why do you do what you do and how did you get to this point?
Frankly, I’m doing what I do now because I like it for now. Something about me is that I still don’t know what I am passionate about because I’m constantly experimenting with my interests to see if I can truly find what sets my heart on fire. How did I get here? Well, I got an extremely itchy idea I just had to scratch and that’s that!
If you had a message for your 10 years younger you what would it be?
Never be afraid to try something new, especially the things that you don’t understand or are afraid of. You may never know, you might like it!
What drives you?
At the core of humanity, I believe everyone is driven by the desire to be happy. Whether it’s through travelling, making an impact, volunteering, or hanging out with friends, it is what drives my decisions, and what I am obsessed with at the time!
What routines do you have in your daily life?
Surprisingly, I have none. You could say my routine is being routineless. I’m someone who enjoys having unstructured days where I maybe set one or two goals, then just go with the flow. I find that when I’m not searching for anything particular is when I learn or grow the most!
What was the biggest challenge for you to jumpstart your career? And how did you solved it?
I had no money, resources, or mentors to guide me through my education or work– I had to pretty much navigate the entire experience by myself. However, as someone who loves learning for the sake of learning, I read whatever I could
Who is your role model?
Malala Yousafzai for her maturity, grace, fearlessness, and strength. She could have turned bitter after the attack that nearly killed her. She could have fled and hidden herself away. Rather, she stood, courageous and channeled her experiences into a platform to advocate for women’s education. Especially for her age, that she was able to accomplish so much, is inspiring.
Who mentored you, and why?
Although I have not been formally mentored by someone (but I’d love to!), I find that the people I surround myself with always have a way of intentionally or inadvertently teaching me.
What was the best advice you have ever received? Like, seriously, ever?
It came in the form of a question, and ever since I’ve internalized it. It is “what are you doing today, this hour, this second to achieve your goals”. It’s helped me to frame everything I do in terms of a goals oriented approach to my life and has been a driving force to helping me enact change in the world, and to help improve myself.
What could young hustlers learn from you?
Success is non-traditional, and takes a lot of failure. For example, I graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in rhetoric (English), yet I am working in Finance Tech with Visa. I’ve also thought that I loved doing laboratory research, but after dedicating myself to it, I didn’t like it so I dropped out. But that’s okay because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have found something that I liked more. To all the young people out there: do not be afraid to drop commitments to make room for other things you care about. That “failure” puts you one step closer to success.
What have you learnt from GenX/Babyboomers and from the younger GenZ?
Actively seek to understand those who are different to you. It’s easier to find things we share in common than we have in difference. By entering a place of mutual understanding, you and the other person can build a fruitful, deep working relationship.
What is your best advice for others?
Take some time to truly understand who you are, and what your priorities are in life. Parents, peers, and friends will all unintentionally or intentionally pressure you into following a prescribed path of success. But given where you are, and where you might want to go, be willing to see what you really want to do, and don’t be afraid to do so. You may upset or disappoint some people, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be what other people think that determines your happiness and success, but you yourself.
How should GenY/GenZ change worklife?
Lead by example. While we can spend hours, days, weeks arguing with each other on the Internet or politicking in the office, I prefer to shut up, and get things done. When I’m able to demonstrate a desirable result, generally people fall in place or buy into the idea, and we move forward together.
From your perspective, what are the biggest differences between the young generations (Y (1980-1995) &Z born after 1995) in comparison to GenX (1965-1980) and Babyboomers (1950-1965)?
Social context. As someone with a formal education in psychology, I’ve noticed that the key differentiator of generations happen to be the times we grow up in. Ultimately, that shapes the behavior of that generation. For example Millennials are considered the most tech savvy generation to date and this is due to the rapid social adoption of the Internet and technology during which the Millennial generation was being raised in.
What will be the biggest challenge for humans in the next 10 years?
Education. We live in a time where tuition is ballooning while people are being crushed under the debt of student loans. I grew up in a poor household, and I can say confidently that a college degree is an agent of social mobility. In addition, it teaches the unique skillsets people will need to enter the workforce. As people do not pursue education, they cannot climb the social ladder, leading them to be unemployed, forcing them to take labor intensive jobs that haven’t quite been automated but are doomed to be.
For what kind of opportunities people can contact you?
If you need help with career consulting, want to help expand my writing, help others land education or work experiences.
How would you want others to describe you?
Someone who brought the future to the present. Someone who brought communities up with him. Someone who leveraged his privilege to catapult others to success.
If you could meet every person you want, who would that be and what question would you love to ask?
I believe some of the most driven, compassionate, and empathetic people in this world have been driven by a tragedy. So my question would be: When you were at your lowest, what did that look like?
Who are the two most inspiring young people the world should know right now and why?
Joe Gordon– bridging the political gap between the Left and Right in the U.S. through dialogue; Hasan Minhaj– a young Indian comedian including commentary on racism and other social issues in the U.S.
Thank you very much Kunal for that #ymazing interview!
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