"I want to help build a society where everyone is given the opportunity to work hard towards what matters to them and reap the reward of their own hard work," says Kenn Daniel So, the man behind UniverCity Philippines.
With this goal in mind, Kenn set out to make this vision into a reality through a social initiative which aids Filipino youth in creating the life they want for themselves. He envisions every Filipino freely pursuing their passions and chosen careers through continuous learning, without being constrained by economic challenges – the usual hindrance preventing people from reaching their maximum potential.
TAKING BABY STEPS
Admittedly, as someone who has not always acted on his ideas, Kenn shed all worries to kick UniverCity off the ground.
What started as a business idea for a skills marketplace where teachers and students can book classes through an online market platform, Kenn decided to shift his focus on mentoring – an activity he has already been doing on the side for quite some time now.
“What inspired me is the opportunity I see in helping young people develop. I mixed it with what I think I deliver best and how it should be delivered,” he says.
As a Chartered Financial Analyst currently working in an investment banking firm based in Hong Kong, Kenn knows his expertise on finance is the most valuable asset he can share. He decided to scale up his impact by capitalizing on his immediate network and on his passion for learning and helping the youth pursue a career in finance.
Kenn reached out to former colleagues he trusts to form the initial group of mentors specializing on finance. Emmanuel de Guia (FRM), Ferdinand Basilio (CFA, CPA), Jeric Posio, Randell Ng (CFA), and Kenn (CFA, FRM) himself form the founding mentors of the UniverCity Ph.
“I think a mentor should have the passion to help another, and have valuable experiences and knowledge to impart with the mentee but equally important, the mentor should be happy seeing his/her mentees develop,” he adds.
Wishing he had a mentor when he was starting in his own career, Kenn saw the need for the youth to have someone who would help them better understand their chosen career paths.
“I think this is really important to students because going into the wrong path can cost mentees several months, even years of figuring things out… Mentors introduce mentees to established professionals in the industry, which helps mentees learn more, build a network, and maybe even get a job.
There are other benefits such as guiding mentees through critical junctures in their careers and imparting skills through hands on teaching,” he explains.
The pro-bono mentorship program UniverCity offers is designed to ensure that the mentors will develop an active interest in the development of each mentee and that the mentors and mentees would be able to form genuine relationships. The first year-long mentorship program is aimed at helping junior and senior college students, and fresh graduates get a head start in their careers in the finance industry. Prospective mentees submit their applications to UniverCity indicating their top two preferred mentors based on the profiles available on the website. The applications are then forwarded to the respective mentors who will choose the mentees they believe they can help. They naturally choose applicants who are interested in pursuing a career in the same field they are in. Each mentor can accept as many mentees as they can but they are advised not to take on more than three at a time so that they can devote ample time and attention to each mentee.
UniverCity also offers scholarships for Financial Risk Manager (FRM) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification programs. The scholarship covers the enrollment and examination fees of chosen outstanding youth who are in need of financial support. Having passed the certification programs themselves, the founding mentors saw great value in the learning and in achieving such globally recognized certifications especially in breaking into the industry.
An online course on financial modeling is another project currently in the pipeline. And though the current projects of UniverCity are focused on the field of finance, Kenn says the programs would later on expand to different fields as he forms teams of competent, trustworthy and good-hearted professionals who would willingly take on the challenge of becoming a mentor.
CONNECT WITH UNIVERCITY
Kenn Danniel So is currently looking for a professional who will serve as his counterpart based in the Philippines. If you are also passionate about learning and sharing your skills and knowledge with others, and would like to explore ways by which you can be part of UniverCity, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want a sneak peek at Kenn So’s journey on founding UniverCity? Read on!
What made you pursue the idea?
I just want to share what I have, hoping that it can benefit others.
What’s the vision for UniverCity? For society?
The vision to help create a learning society inspiring people to continually learn – and that learning is not limited to your time in university. It happens over a lifetime and everyone should have an active interest in it.
What was the greatest roadblock you had to go through in the course of the project?
Starting something from the ground up, every step was a challenge. (laughs) I had to learn how to set up a website to deciding between different logo iterations, to reaching out to my network for their help. The biggest roadblock I have is distance and lack of time. I think it’ll be my biggest roadblock for a while but I won’t be deterred by this. There are successful businesses and institutions that are run purely online. I’ll try to learn from them and adjust. Hopefully things work out.
What would you say was the most significant learning in the development of UniverCity Ph?
UniverCity is still young so there are still lots to learn, but so far I’ve learned two important things. It helped me crystalize what really matters to me. When I was developing UniverCity, I ask myself from time to time, “Why am I doing this?” At the beginning I thought I just want to teach others and share what I know but after some time, it dawned on me that what I wanted to give others is to have the same opportunities I have – a chance to have good education, access to finance, and work hard towards my interests…
The second important lesson I learned is that there’s a ton of potential in youth. It’s inspiring to see mentees who are driven to learn and its equally inspiring to see mentors who willingly volunteer their time to give back and mentor students and fresh graduates. It’s great to see that others are doing similar stuff, take Bagumbayani Initiative for example.
What’s next for UniverCity?
In 2016, I want to expand by adding a new program and expanding the current programs to go beyond finance. It’s still in the works but we should have updates in the coming months. I have some good ideas where I’ll be able to deliver the impact I want even while working outside the Philippines. The skills marketplace is another possible exciting project for UniverCity.