Jhillika Kumar is a 21-year-old social impact entrepreneur, Diversity & Inclusion community builder, and Grace Hopper Celebration keynote speaker as an advocate for disability empowerment. She is the CEO & Founder of Mentra, a startup focused on enabling neurodiverse individuals to find meaningful careers by activating their talents. Jhilika’s passion stemmed from her personal experience and life’s inspiration as the sister of a non-speaking autistic boy, Vikram. Although he has never spoken a word in his life, at the age of 27 Vikram communicated his first words by typing on a letter board. This lit her fire to advocate for the millions of neurodiverse individuals across the globe who are often shut out of classrooms, workspaces, and policies as they are discriminated against because of their incapabilities. Jhillika’s call to action from the 2019 Grace Hopper conference is already resonating with hiring leaders around the world. While studying at Georgia Tech, Jhillika inspired young innovators to come forward and contribute to a team that is truly a grassroots movement driving inclusive thinking. Together with Mentra’s co-founder, Conner Reinhardt, Jhillika led a team of neurotypicals and neurodiverse individuals to collaborate and innovate- putting minds and hearts together towards the greater good of society leveraging evidence-based entrepreneurship and a human-centered design.
Mentra aims to get 100,000 neurodiverse individuals into meaningful and lasting careers by 2025. The Mentra platform is the brainchild of passionate disability advocates that are trying to place neurodiversity at the core of recruiting in a way that scales, treating every individual as unique and more than just a resume. The Mentra team believes that the best way for a person to reach their highest potential in their careers is by finding a job that aligns with their work ethic, cultural values, personality, and environmental preferences in the workplace. The job-finding process is suboptimal for almost everyone, but its most prominent failure is evident in the neurodiverse community, where unemployment and underemployment rates often reach above the 80% mark despite the unique and oftentimes extraordinary abilities that this community has to offer to the labor market. Invisible barriers permeate the process from searching, applying, and interviewing for a position all the way through to retaining and advancing in a job once on the inside of a company. Mentra’s key innovation lies in the proprietary dataset that captures valuable relationships between characteristics of neurodivergent candidates and workplace environments that they are able to thrive in.