“It’s never about the tech, it’s the people”
Jeff Sandhu is the Head of 42 Kuala Lumpur. Driven by a passion for education, he’s also invested in the life of the students.
Hi Jeff! Tell us, what do you prefer the most about being the Head of 42 Kuala Lumpur?
The best thing about my job is being able to see how we’re making a change! Typically, and this is not just Malaysia but pretty much around the world, you would only hear about governments having goals and plans to develop new talents. Now, I’ve got my feet deep into the pool, and seeing the impact happening on a daily basis is truly rewarding. For example, I’ve got a cadet who was born deaf. He told me in chat that he discovered the world of coding about two years before his Piscine and was looking how he can improve himself. Lo and behold, he was one of the best students in our Piscine, and right now he’s doing really well as a cadet, including during hackathons with external people!
What were you doing before joining 42 Kuala Lumpur?
I was in the media field. I was overlooking entrepreneurship and new technologies for 11 years. I spoke to basically thousands of innovative startups, companies and organisations across the world. I used to travel quite a fair bit around! My job was to understand how these innovative companies are using technology to drive them forwards. Slowly I started to realise that the essence of this digital transformation vision that they have is actually the people. It’s never about the tech, it’s the people. That’s where my passion in education started to unfold. You can have the best technology in the world, if you don’t have the right people using it, then there’s absolutely no point.
42 Kuala Lumpur has Sunway Education Group as its main partner. The alliance of 42 and a university seems odd at first…
You would think that bringing in a disrupter like 42 is going to cause some unwanted discussions in a university! Thankfully, we realise that conventional education still needs to be around. What 42 Kuala Lumpur does is not to eliminate what has been built on for many years. It’s meant to open new opportunities for students who don’t go to a university, and to compliment those who can’t get a job after their studies. 42 Kuala Lumpur is, in a way, helping what has been established as Sunway Education Group, which is one of the leading education institutions here in Malaysia.
What do you like most about the 42 model?
It’s accessibility — but not in the traditional sense. It’s about giving people a chance to make that change, no matter where you come from, no matter what background you have. All you need is just passion and desire to want to make a change for yourself. That is something that is important to me.
What will happen in education in the next few years?
It’s hard to actually envision — and now, it’s even harder than usual. We’ve seen how even the last year things have accelerated so much. It used to be a slow change, but now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five years. What I hope to change is the belief in certification. I don’t think it is something that we should be bound to. Here in Kuala Lumpur and in Asia, if you don’t have those conventional education certificates, then you are kind of looked down: in the industry, within your own family… I hope that in a year’s time, we will see the impact of our 42 Kuala Lumpur students who don’t have conventional education backgrounds. I’m looking forward to help create that impact together with our cadets.