Step out of the box

An e-learning platform that offers a plethora of streams, MyCaptain is a gateway to more offbeat careers

January 09, 2021 06:00 pm | Updated March 02, 2021 11:25 am IST

Encouraging people to follow their dreams.

Encouraging people to follow their dreams.

“O Captain, My Captain!” This phrase from Walt Whitman’s famous poem was immortalised by Dead Poets Society , a film that spoke of seizing the day and finding your passion. And so a group of engineering students, who were inspired by the film and its themes, named their start-up MyCaptain. The idea, explains CEO and co-founder Mohammed Zeeshan, was to encourage students to follow their dreams and pursue offbeat careers.

MyCaptain is a platform for students who wish to explore alternate careers such as comedy, writing, filmmaking, music production, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, photography, graphic design, and more. They offer over 35 different courses in varying fields that are taught live by mentors or ‘captains’ who are young professionals in that area.

“With these mentors, the aim is for the students to be comfortable with someone they can relate to and be inspired by them in their chosen fields,” says Zeeshan.

The beginning

MyCaptain began in 2013 when Zeeshan and his friends — students themselves at that time — realised that they had all been forced into engineering, when they had other interests. “I wanted to be an astronomer, one friend wanted to be a writer/journalist, another an economist,” recalls Zeeshan. They soon discovered that most of their college mates felt the same way. They also noticed that this was a problem that students across the country faced and that those who wanted to do something apart from engineering, medicine or law did not know where to go or how to do it. Many struggled to find guidance and were unable to find a platform that would help them grow and acquire the required skills. So the group of 19 year olds decided to try to make a difference.

MyCaptain works with about 250 mentors, most of whom are from organisations such as Apple, Google, Commune, Platform for Artists and others. “Apart from regular referrals or applicants, we partner with organisations where people can either sign up to be mentors or have courses ratified with them. We sit with their experts and design a suitable curriculum, ensuring students get a first-hand experience on what to expect from those industries,” said Zeeshan. Mentors are selected on the basis of their achievements and passion for education. A new mentor shadows existing mentors to get a hang of the process. Lessons are also conducted from remote locations that are suitable to the mentors.

Looking ahead

Like most e-learning platforms, MyCaptain has witnessed a surge in new users amid the pandemic, with enrolments more than doubling in the initial few months. “COVID began closer to the summer when most people were looking for new interests to focus on. This boosted our growth. However, post-July, we noticed that this began to flatline. Naturally, this meant that COVID alone cannot bring in the users and we would have to use this opportunity to build from here,” Zeeshan adds. They hope to be able to add at least 90 courses in the year ahead and to shift from beginner courses to more advanced three- to six-month programmes that will not only facilitate internships but also placements for jobs. They have begun tying up with organisations from various sectors such as The Minimalist, Filter Copy and others to run the courses enabling them to partner directly with industries.

Zeeshan also points to the slowly decreasing number of students who are writing competitive exams over the past years. “There has been a large shift in the way students are looking at their careers today. Because of the readily available content seen through different forms of media, people have started to realise that there are opportunities in more creative fields as well. One of the most popular courses we offer is the psychology one, followed by writing. This shows that, although we offer business and technology courses, students come to MyCaptain to explore the more offbeat courses.”

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