Feb 8, 2022
Picture this: a boot camp that teaches essential marketing skills + lands you a job in 6 months. Unheard of…until now. Anne is joined by special guest Mehak Vohra for a bonus Modern Mindset episode. They cover education reform, the trials and triumphs of entrepreneurship, dropping out of school, and running for mayor…
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I'm your host Anne Ganguzza. And today I'm thrilled to welcome special guest Mehak Vohra, CEO and founder of SkillBank to the show. Mehak started her career as a computer science student at Purdue University and after her sophomore year dropped out at the ripe old age of 19 and moved to San Francisco. Her goal was to build the most scalable marketing agency in the world. And I think she's done an amazing job so far. She ran Jamocha Media for four years, and at her peak, she was generating one to 2 million views per month on LinkedIn. That's some goals for us BOSSes out here. For herself and her clients, she has probably more than 30,000 followers by now, because the last time I checked your bio was a few months ago, on TikTok. She's the youngest person to ever run for mayor in San Francisco's history. Mehak, thank you so much for joining me today.
Mehak: Thank you so much for having me.
Anne: I'm so excited because as I've been trying to get to interview you, because I'm so impressed with what you have done in such a short amount of time in your short career. And I noticed in your bio, you made a point to mention that you had dropped out of college after your sophomore year. And I can only imagine that you must've had a pretty good reason for doing that, and that you were maybe not getting what you needed at the time or realize that there were bigger and better opportunities outside of college for you. So would you mind speaking to us about that?
Mehak: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, I grew up in a family where it was super important to go to college. My parents both went through multiple years of schooling. So for me to turn around and be like, hey guys, I don't think that college is the right spot for me, I had to really sit back and think about like what what's really important to me and where -- what's the direction that I want to go into. And from what I've seen, especially within the marketing world and the startup world, uh, it's not that important to have a degree anymore. People want to see that you're, you're experienced, you're putting yourself out there, you're trying new things, and that's how you're supposed to build your resume today. And I just realized that I wasn't doing that in college. So I was able to make that point to my parents and just say that, hey, I actually think I'm going to learn a lot more moving out to San Francisco, doing things on my own, putting myself out there than I am if I sat in the classroom. So it was, it was a hard thing to, to show them. But at the end of the day it was, it was the right move for me because I'm just not a person who learns well listening to someone talk at me for a few hours.
Anne: Very interesting. You know, and as we have discussed before, I have a long, a long career in, and I actually worked for a magnet school, which yeah, actually did a hands-on, project-based curriculum, which worked really well for the students who were just really motivated in wanting to go do things and, and run the world, kind of, kind of thing. So it worked really well. So I understand that mentality a lot. And I do believe that there needs to be some changes in our educational system to serve the students better. And I feel like you have probably encapsulated that with SkillBank, and prior to that with your other media companies. So talk to us a little bit about your Jamocha Media company first, and then I'd love to hear about SkillBank.
Mehak: Yeah. So Jamocha Media started off as a vehicle for me to learn on other people's dime. So if I wanted to build websites or if I wanted to create content, or I was trying to pick up a social media client, whatever it might be, I just put them all under Jamocha Media as a client. And over the span of four years, we slowly were able to start to scale things up, going from making websites for people to running the social media accounts, to building people a presence on LinkedIn. And after about three or four years of working on Jamocha, we had basically figured out a formula around how to get people a viewership on LinkedIn. So we were, like you said, we were pulling in about anywhere from like 2 to 3 million views a month in the platform. And it was, it was really interesting to see how things grow online and how like, once you figure out that formula and that way to get things to work, you can blow anyone up and help anyone build a brand and a presence online.
So that's really what we focused on at Jamocha. Towards the end of my time working on it, it was how do we, how do we at scale help a lot of people build their personal brands online? It was just a way for me in the beginning to experiment and just to try out different things. And slowly we just niched down into LinkedIn.
Anne: Well, you know, I think it really says something too. I know that when I was an adjunct professor, I was teaching social media at a college, and it was really a difficult thing to do because I had to keep creating new curriculum in order to stay current. And that was something that was so difficult to get through the paperwork, the process, the revisions, and, and even to get funding for, because I was teaching, gosh, it was how many years ago, Facebook ads when they were just coming out. And it was hard to actually teach unless I could actually do it myself. And so I had to fund my own ads so that I could actually show how that worked. And so I completely understand that there's definitely, in terms of like keeping things current and relevant and trying to get that through the university level educational system, it's just very difficult. So you really found a great place, I think, and something that's very needed for today, for today's entrepreneur.
Mehak: Yeah. That's, that's really cool. And you know, it's, it's one of those things that as I was building out Jamocha like you said, things were constantly changing.
Mehak: The algorithms were changing, the way that people were interacting with LinkedIn was changing. And that's what eventually actually was the reason why I ended up leaving Jamocha and not wanting to work on it anymore was because it was -- over time, it was just became so much harder to scale because things were changing so quickly. And I realized if we couldn't scale the services that we were giving people, because we were so dependent on the platforms, maybe we could scale the people that were giving the services. And that's what led me into wanting to start SkillBank, because we realized if we could teach people how to learn, and how to stay on top of the trends, and how to stay on top of social media, and how these platforms work, then maybe we can, we can build a scalable agency that way. And yeah, that's, that's how a SkillBank was born.
Anne: Excellent. Excellent. I love the idea behind that, because it really is something that I feel that it's a constant process where to be successful out there and to keep up, you constantly have to be learning. And there are so many people, creatives in the entrepreneur world, that are not necessarily technologically inclined, nor are they inclined to understand marketing. That's not really their background. So I think having an educational platform that can really teach people how to learn and teach people and get them started, I think that's a wonderful idea. Tell me a little bit about the unique program that you have with Skillbank. What does it offer?
Mehak: Yeah, so we actually started off teaching just growth marketing. So like -- actually not just; it was like everything under the sun; it was very general. So we taught paid media, so Facebook ads and Google ads. We taught organic marketing. We taught social media, uh, and it was always in 15 weeks. And we ran our first five cohorts doing that. And what we found was is our students that were leaving the program were -- they're having some trouble finding jobs. You know, they were like, this is Jack of all trades. They just didn't quite understand one thing really well. And it was hard for them to take that with them into their next job because they just didn't learn a specific thing. So that's when we decided to pivot. So now we just teach paid media. We just teach Facebook ads and Google ads over the span of 15 weeks. And within that time period, we get you agency ready and connect you with agencies at the end of the program. So that way we can help you land a full-time job doing paid media or being a paid media specialist or an account executive at an agency.
Anne: Wow. That's fantastic. That's even above and beyond just teaching you how to do paid ads. So that's fantastic you even place people. And so how long have you been doing this program and how have your placements gone?
Mehak: Yeah, so we, we just moved over into doing paid media in March.
Mehak: So right now, based on the people that are, when someone graduates from the program, we're seeing about a 70-75% placement rate right now.
Mehak: It hasn't been a full 180 days yet. And that's usually the industry standard for graduating from something and then landing a job. But we're expecting that number to definitely rise and get a lot higher. The curriculum is also getting better and better. We're using previous students that are coming back to us saying that, hey, you know, we wish maybe we would have learned this. And then we add that into our curriculum. So it's a really iterative process. And because the classes are so short, we really iterate it with the students as well. So every cohort so far has just been getting better and better and better.
Anne: So are you offering these classes, are they -- to the general public?
Anne: I mean, what is your typical student look like? Are they young? Are they people who've been out in the industry for a while, and they come and they, they're like, I really need to know how to do paid? How, how is that working?
Mehak: Our ideal demographic of the student is someone that is just ready to work. They're motivated, they're ready to land that job. We've taken people that are working at Starbucks like 50 to 60 hour weeks to now working at an agency full-time within the span of four to five months. So if you, if you know that marketing is something that you want to get into, you're motivated, you're willing to put the work in, we'll help you get to that next step. I think a lot of people come to SkillBank expecting us to be a silver bullet. You know, like they'll come into the program. We'll, we'll just hand you a job.
Mehak: And this is not how it works at all. So as long as you're motivated and you, you know that you're coming in and you have to put in a lot of time and effort, we can help you get over to that next phase. But right now on average, our classes, I think the age is anywhere between about 28 to about 35.
Anne: Okay, okay.
Mehak: And yeah, it's people that are in all different types of fields. We have people that are working at Starbucks, CVS to people that are making a career shift from programming because they aren't enjoying sitting behind the computer. So yeah, it really just depends on where you are, but you're just ready to work at an agency and get a job.
Anne: So your program is also very unique and very different because you pay nothing until you land a job. Talk to me about that.
Mehak: Yeah. So we, we really believe that opportunity should be to anyone that wants to work hard and wants to put in the work and wants to put in the effort. Opportunity shouldn't just be based on where you're from, what your educational background is or who you know, And to make opportunities available to people that are willing to work hard, we decided to make the program completely free upfront. So what that means is, is after you have graduated from our program and you're making over $30,000 a year, that's when you start to pay us back 10% of your salary --
Anne: Got it.
Mehak: -- and that's over two years.
Anne: Okay. Okay. Wow. That's a really unique idea. I think that's fantastic, especially with the way education is costing these days. It's something that truly is, again, so many people are talking about how we really need like educational reform. And this is a really wonderful way to do that. So how has it worked out so far?
Mehak: It's been great. You know, whenever people come into the program, we're very, very, hands-on from the moment they enter to the moment that they leave. So, uh, once people actually land that job, it's been really exciting to see people through that process. And, you know, we've, we've been able to build a really strong community with everyone that's gone through the program, has graduated, been placed. And because of that, it's a lifelong thing. It's not just you go through the program and then you get a job and then you never hear from us again. Um, we're still throwing events. We're still in touch with a lot of the students. The students are coming back to talk to new students. So it's, it's been really good. It's been really cool to see people grow and come into their own over the span of a year since we've started.
Anne: And this is 100% remote, correct?
Mehak: Yeah. Completely remote. All of our classes take place on Zoom, and they're in the evenings. So that way you can do your full-time day job and then come and take us whenever you get.
Anne: Nice. And so you were mentioning that some of your students come back. They come back to talk to the current students, but do you also have programs like refresher programs in terms of -- 'cause as we say, everything changes so frequently. Are you thinking of offering refresher programs or maybe paid programs that if people two years ago, you know --
Mehak: Yeah, for sure.
Anne: -- they might need something new? Yeah.
Mehak: Absolutely. You know, I think the biggest thing that we really push on in the program from day one is that we're trying to teach them how to learn. So we'll give you those, those building blocks and those stepping stones and help you get started. But a lot of our program is centered around, how do you read documentation? How do you get started on something on your own? How do you do research? Because the last thing that we want is our students are falling behind, because they were just shown how to do something, and then they just know how to do that thing. So we really put a really big emphasis on the program for them to learn. Uh, but over the span of the next few months, we're launching a lot of really exciting new things in SkillBank. So we have, we'll have a portal that's launching that they can actually come in and review classes that they had in the past.
Anne: Oh nice.
Mehak: They'll be able to see previous curriculum -- curriculum as it's being updated. And then we also offer to the students that if they want to come in and sit in on a class again, they're more than welcome to come and do that.
Anne: Oh, that's fantastic. So in terms of the classes that you're offering, they're just becoming more and more. What is your staff like? How many teachers do you have?
Mehak: Yeah, so we, we currently have right now about two instructors per cohort, one that acts as more of a TA and is around to help. And then, um, your main instructor and then, yeah, you know, our, our team is really small, but we, we hit all the things. So whenever a student comes into a program, they get assigned to a career advisor and, um, this career advisors with them throughout their time in the program to help them with preparing for mock interviews, getting the resume together, um, getting interviews together, salary negotiations, we cover all of that. And then you have your career advisor that's with you through that program. We also have our admissions counselor who's there with you to make sure that you understand the contract that you're signing and there to just help you throughout your time and to make sure that you're getting the support that you need along with your instructors.
Anne: Yeah. I was going to ask you about the admissions. Is there a vetting process to, to enroll?
Mehak: Yes, absolutely. Because the biggest thing, like I said earlier, is we want to make sure that you're ready to work, and you're ready to land a job within the next three to six months. If you're not in that place in your life, then SkillBank is not the place for you because the whole program is centered around helping you land a full-time job within the next six months.
Anne: Now, are you teaching job search or the placement? Are you always placing people or are you teaching about job searching and resume?
Mehak: -- teach about job search. Yeah, so we covered job search, we cover resume building, but a lot of our placement strategy right now, we have agencies that we're partnered with that we'll send out resumes to. And that's been a really great funnel for us, but also students will come to us and say, hey, I found this company that I'm really excited to work at, and then we'll help you prepare. And if it's someone that's within our network or our investors know, we will make intros as well. So we're really hands-on with the students to make sure that we're placing them into the type of company that they want to work at. But it's also just really important that if you do come into our program with that expectation of us placing you, that you also understand that you have to put in that work as well.
Mehak: You still have to get your resume together. You still have to prepare for mock interviews. Like I said earlier, students sometimes come into the program expecting that like, okay, I graduated, and now SkillBank will help me land a job. And it doesn't work like that. The companies that we're partnered with still want to see that you're coming in prepared and that you know what you're talking about.
Anne: Sure, sure. What do you see for the future of SkillBank? What are you looking to do?
Mehak: Yeah, absolutely. So the whole premise of SkillBank is we want to help you learn market ready skills as quickly as possible so that we can go and land a job. So right now we're just focusing on marketing. It's paid media. We plan on going into organic at some point in the next couple of years, lifecycle marketing. And then eventually we want to completely own the non-technical space, moving into sales, operations. I think, you know, there's a lot of coding boot camps out there that are covering the technical aspects, the data boot camps. We want to cover everything that's non-technical. And then the really beautiful thing about that is it's not about putting the reps by on your own. It's just about learning, how do these platforms work, and then just learning just enough so that way we can actually help you get your foot in the door within that field. So our structure is a lot different and a lot quicker than these bootcamps that'll take 9 to 12 months to help you land a job that are a lot more technical.
Anne: So talk to me a little bit about, because I'm so interested, the, the mayor.
Anne: Was that, was that before SkillBank or after Jamocha and before SkillBank --
Mehak: Way before SkillBank.
Anne: So talk to me about, yeah, your interest in running for mayor. I think that's really inspiring.
Mehak: Yeah. You know, I been living in SF for a couple of years when I decided to run, and I was just, I was really inspired by just the city. You know, there was, I was learning so much while I was there. It's just, it's such a beautiful city. And I just, I looked around at my friends and the people that were there and I was working with, and I, you know, it just, I realized that there wasn't -- there wasn't much ownership from my age group around how the city was progressing and the way things were going. And I realized that maybe I could take that into my own hands and maybe try to bring some more awareness and excitement to the SF political system. I highly recommend not running at such a young age.
Anne: What did you learn?
Mehak: It was a -- I learned SF politics is very interesting place to be in, but you know, at the same time, I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot about the system. I learned a lot about just how SF politics works, how California politics works. Uh, but yeah, definitely never doing that again.
Anne: But it might've opened up your networking circle or maybe not the way you intended it to.
Mehak: Yeah. You know, it was quite an experience. I don't know. I'm not really interacting with those people right now --
Mehak: -- just based on what we're doing with SkillBank --
Mehak: -- but yeah. You know, I think overall I learned a lot just about what with SF politics right now they're really focusing on.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. Well, what I love about it is that it's, it's just bold. It was such a bold move. And I think that that's such a trait of a, an amazing entrepreneur. So for my BOSSes out there that listen to this podcast who are entrepreneurs and all ages, really. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few of them are probably not millennial age. They're a little bit older, maybe thinking about this as a new career for them -- what would be your best advice for entrepreneurship? How can they build and grow a business today? It's such a crazy world out there. What would be your best tips?
Mehak: Yeah, my, my first piece of advice to someone who comes up to me, and they're like, hey, should I start a business? Should I get into entrepreneurship? My first thing is to say, don't do it. And then if, and then if you hear that, and you're like, no, I still want to do it, then it's like, okay, here's, here's the things that you really need to think about. You have to build something that you're really passionate about. You can't start a business in a space -- because startups are hard, you know?
Mehak: There's days that work, there's days that things are working and like you're on cloud nine. And then the next day things are crashing and burning.
Mehak: And if you don't have conviction around what you're building and what you're excited about doing, you're setting yourself up for failure. So I think that's, that's the main thing that you really want to keep close to you. Is it, is this the thing that you want to be building? Is this the thing that you see yourself spending your time on? And if you're passionate about creating something and building something, I think entrepreneurship is the right place for you to be in. I think if you're in it for the money, if you're in it for fame or just not the actual process of building something and seeing something come to life, I think you're going to have a lot of trouble within that process. So I think just making sure that your incentives are aligned correctly and you know why you're doing what you're doing, I think that's, that's the biggest thing.
Anne: So then we're convinced and we're passionate and we start our business. What would you say are the best ways to market that business in today's highly technical, online world and digitally chaotic, I should say, digitally chaotic?
Mehak: For sure.
Anne: So it's hard to get noticed.
Mehak: There's two ways you can drive traffic. It's organically, or you can drive traffic through paid media. I think if you're going to take the paid media route, make sure that you have a budget so you can test things out.
Mehak: But if you're going to take the organic route, I've been recommending to all my friends to start using TikTok. I think TikTok has an incredible algorithm for how they actually help you find an audience. If you're creating content that's engaging, is fun, it's following the trends, you'll be able to build an audience relatively quickly. I actually just picked up TikTok maybe about a month ago and probably pulled in about 4 million views, 10,000 new followers. And, you know, it's just by consistently putting things out and watching what other creators are doing within your space, you can sell, you can sell products, you can build a brand. Um, and I think TikTok is the best place to do that. And they'll also funnel an audience to your Instagram and to your YouTube. So yeah, I highly recommend taking the TikTok route.
Anne: So then are you, are you talking about SkillBank on TikTok or are you just --
Mehak: For sure.
Anne: -- okay. Is that the kind of content that you're putting out on TikTok?
Mehak: Yeah, so, I mean, it's, it's a mix, right? My personal TikTok has a lot to do with just me. So it's like, you know, like we'll push a lot of content around. Like one of my employees is like running -- that's running the SkillBank TikTok, she'll push something up that's like making fun of me or making fun of my TikTok. And then like, we'll do a little back and forth. Uh, you know, we just, we found the voice, right? So it's like, my TikTok is more mainly about me and like telling my stories, but I talk a lot about SkillBank --
Mehak: -- or like being a CEO or like running my company. And it's through that process of getting to know me, you also get to know SkillBank, but then on the SkillBank page, we're like really focusing on how do we get people to understand what our value props are, what we're trying to teach, who our students are, where you can land a job. Yeah. I think it's, it's, it's a lot of trial and error. I've seen other companies that are just like straight to the punch --
Mehak: -- of just, hey, this is our product. This is what we do. And like, come buy it. And then they're, they found creative ways to do that and they're blowing up, but then you have other companies like Duolingo on TikTok that are being really funny. And they've like literally found a mascot that like walks around and like is like doing really silly stuff. So I think it just depends on what you're trying to do and who your, what kind of audience you're going after, but everyone is on TikTok from my mom to my little sister.
Anne: And what's so interesting I know for a lot of people in our industry, voice talent, voice talent, you know, long time ago when people would ask, well, why did you want to get into voiceover, a lot of people would say, well, because I don't want to be on camera. I wanted to be an actor, but I didn't want to be on camera. So interestingly enough, and of course, video, I think is the medium that people are able to digest it easier than other types of media. So I think that it's absolutely effective for marketing, but I know a lot of our BOSSes out there are very resistant to actually going on to video. But I do know some of them that have really made a mark with their TikTok accounts. Any other platforms that you like?
Mehak: Yeah. I think TikTok's the best. I think YouTube, if you're trying to maybe post more tutorials or how to's, if it's the tutorial that people are searching for, you can build a brand that way. YouTube's a search engine at the end of the day.
Mehak: So if you're creating content that people are searching for, you can build a brand there. And then I think Instagram is a really good place to be your homepage on the web right now.
Mehak: You can have your link, your content, but if you're trying to build a brand, TikTok is by far the best place to be right now.
Anne: Okay. Any final advice for BOSS entrepreneurs out there?
Mehak: Absolutely. You know, just work hard and find what makes you happy, find what makes you excited to get up in the morning. And if you can figure that out, all of the money and the success and the fame and everything else will come along with that.
Anne: I love it. I love it. Mehak, it has been such a pleasure talking to you today. Thank you so much.
Mehak: Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
Anne: I'm going to give a great big shout out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can connect and network like a BOSS and find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys, be BOSSes, go out and do something that you love and have an amazing week, and we'll see you next week. Bye.
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via ipDTL.