Celebrating Tech Trailblazers for Juneteenth
Published Jun 20 2023 10:01 AM 1,946 Views



As part of the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 Initiative, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we’re continuing to highlight solutions that are enabling broader societal impact, and our partners’ journeys growing their business on the marketplace. To honor Juneteenth this year, Microsoft's @Daniel_Ikem  sat down with Stemuli’s Taylor Shead & Naomi Thomas to hear their story and partner journey.


About Taylor: Taylor Shead is the Founder & CEO of Stemuli and is the 94th Black woman in history to have raised over $1M in venture capital. Taylor has spent the last 10 years supporting underserved students across the country and is passionate about leveraging technology to make education accessible and engaging for all.


About Naomi: Naomi Thomas is an entrepreneur, an advocate for diversity in tech, and is currently the Head of Digital at Stemuli. Before joining Stemuli, she founded infinity.careers, an award-winning tech career exploration and talent training marketplace. Naomi is passionate about using her voice as a guide to encourage other women to fearlessly pursue multi-faceted careers.


About Daniel: Daniel Ikem is an international business professional working as a Global ISV Partner Development Manager and the PDM lead for the Microsoft Black Partner Growth Initiative. Along with his PDM role, Daniel served as the FY23 Social Justice Equity co-lead for BAM NCA and will be the incoming BAM WW Affiliates Lead. His background includes Enterprise Technology, Federal Sector, International Markets, and Biotechnology. Originally from Miami, Florida, Daniel currently lives in Washington, DC with his wife.




[DK]: Tell us about Stemuli and its mission. What inspired the founding?

[NT & TS]: Stemuli is a gaming company at the intersection of AI, education, and workforce development. Our mission is to make education and career navigation accessible to 8 billion people by turning brands into metaversities, while helping anyone navigate an intellectually and economically fulfilling career.


Training and learning systems currently in place will not meet the needs for the future workforce. The current educational infrastructure does not engage the next generation at the same level as commercial video games nor does it accommodate personalized learning or equitable access to digital workforce opportunities at scale.  


[DK]: Can you tell us a bit about the application you have available on the marketplace? How does it work, and what Microsoft products did you use during development?

[NT & TS]: We currently have our mentorship platform and data tracking platform on the marketplace and used Azure Cloud Services to host it. The platform connects students worldwide to virtual workplace learning experiences facilitated by Fortune 500 companies and their corporate mentors seeking to fill talent shortages and develop a diverse workforce pipeline. Additionally, it equips students for success by tracking students' every achievement, certification, and meaningful accomplishment and compiling it into a digital portfolio.


[DK]: How is Stemuli leveraging AI and machine learning?

[NT & TS]: In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. Experts say artificial intelligence will take jobs but also create new ones. According to “The Future of Jobs” report from the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.


Stemuli’s focus in driving equitable economic mobility is to utilize AI and video games to help the 50 million plus learners in our K-12 system train for jobs that don’t exist yet. Our product leverages AI/ML through career discovery by matching learners to careers based off their interests and passions, through training by auto recommending content to learners based on their career pathway, skill level, and also accommodates different learning styles (audio, video, text). We are excited to leverage AI/ML in the metaverse to accelerate the development of our product and build storylines that create inclusive, personalized learning experiences.


[DK}: What does Juneteenth mean to you?

[NT & TS]: To us, it symbolizes freedom, resilience, and the ongoing fight for equality. It's a time to reflect, celebrate progress, and commit to dismantling systemic barriers. At Stemuli, we embrace Juneteenth's spirit by empowering individuals through education, technology, and workforce development. We honor our shared history, celebrate growth, and recommit to creating an equitable and inclusive future for all.


[DK]: What are your greatest achievements to date?

[NT & TS]: Students who have used our Navigator have experienced accelerated math proficiency by an astounding 2.89 years, while their peers who are non-users have struggled with learning loss. They have consistently outperformed their peers, achieving scores that were 10+ points higher in Math, Science, and Reading district assessments. Our learners have collectively earned over $1.7 million through summer internships, with an average hourly wage of $20. Furthermore, 73% of our students have graduated high school with an associate degree, and 80% of our students have achieved mastery in math. We have been honored to receive the Dallas ISD Industry Partner of the Year award and were recognized as the Most Transformational App for Kids by Forbes and Yass Prize. Our participation in the prestigious 2023 JFF Labs Innovative Pathways to Technology Career Cohort, where two cohort companies merged into Stemuli, further highlights our commitment to innovation and collaboration.


[DK]: In what ways does your solution cater specifically to marginalized communities or support initiatives related to racial equity and empowerment?

[NT & TS]: The current generation of students are now at risk of losing more than $17 trillion in lifetime earnings due to COVID-19-related disruptions, which is approximately 14 percent of today’s global GDP (The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery,” by World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF). The new projection reveals that the impact is more severe than previously thought, and far exceeds the $10 trillion estimates released in 2020. 


This brings even more challenges to traditionally marginalized communities because our centuries-old, outdated education models continue to deepen the workforce-ready skills gap, impacting almost every industry vital to our country’s economic future.


We’ve recognized the urgency of addressing the inequities that hinder economic mobility starting in our K-12 systems and we strongly believe that by leveraging AI and the metaverse, there is an opportunity to propel the world closer to a future where every individual has equal access to opportunities. The metaverse has the potential to provide access to all students, at every level of their educational journey, no matter the barriers they’ve faced through upbringing, socioeconomic status, location, and what resources they have access to.


[DK]: What excites you about the future of EdTech?

[NT & TS]: We are thrilled about the future of EdTech and the possibilities it holds. The ability to provide education access to learners worldwide is incredibly exciting. Personalized learning experiences tailored to individual needs and interests will revolutionize how students engage with content. The innovative teaching methods made possible by EdTech will enhance educators' abilities to deliver dynamic and engaging lessons. Data-driven insights will enable targeted interventions and personalized support, leading to improved student outcomes. The collaborative nature of EdTech fosters connectivity among educators, students, and communities, creating a global network of learning. Lifelong learning and upskilling opportunities will empower individuals to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. The future of EdTech is filled with potential, and we are eager to be part of this transformative journey, making a positive impact on education for generations to come.


[DK]: What advice would you give to other technology leaders or organizations who want to improve education and develop workforces?

[NT & TS]: We’d advise efforts to embrace collaboration by forming partnerships with educators, policymakers, and industry leaders. By pooling expertise and resources, innovative solutions can be created to address the evolving needs of learners and the workforce. We’d also emphasize prioritizing equity and inclusion, ensuring that initiatives focus on providing equal opportunities and overcoming digital and socio-economic disparities. Lastly, we’d recommend adopting learner-centered approaches that tailor educational technologies and programs to individual needs and aspirations.



Join the marketplace community today! Just click "join" on the upper right corner of our marketplace community page. You can also subscribe to the community to stay updated on the latest stories of how these inspiring leaders carved their career paths, what lessons they learned along the way, and more. 


Have questions for Daniel, Naomi, or Taylor ? Comment below to continue the conversation!






1 Comment
Version history
Last update:
‎Jun 20 2023 10:27 AM
Updated by: