Fatima Dicko is currently an MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Founder & CEO of Jetpack.
Fatima came to the United States from Mali at a young age. She grew up in New York City and received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University. Afterwards, Fatima moved to Baltimore to work as a Senior Engineer at Procter & Gamble on the Upstream Innovation team. This 5-person technologist team was responsible for developing breakthrough technologies 3–10 years away from market. She worked on wide-ranging projects that involved design thinking, technical modeling, formulation design and 3-D printing rapid prototyping.
After moving to Baltimore, Fatima realized that many people around her were not living healthy lifestyles, nor did they have the right exposure and resources to learn how to do so. To tackle this problem, Fatima ultimately left P&G and became the Founder & CEO of mybestbox, a lifestyle brand to help people jump-start and maintain healthy lifestyles in a convenient and affordable way.
The company assembles boxes with essential, high-quality products that cover a broad range of health and wellness areas. After two years of running mybestbox, Fatima and the mybestbox team discovered unique consumer insights that they’ve used to develop a new business model for Jetpack. Jetpack uses social networks and human interactions to make consumer products available in real time.
1.When did you know you wanted to be in tech?
I was born in a small village in Mali, and I struggled with health issues as a child. Consequently, my family immigrated to the U.S. in hopes of obtaining more advanced medical support for me. When we arrived, we lived in a tiny, one bedroom apartment in New York City. My father worked as a security guard to support the family while furthering his own computer science education.
As a child in a new country, I was confused as my parents and I acclimated to American culture at the same time. Learning English alongside my parents made it difficult for them to help me with my homework. Socially, I had a hard time communicating with other students because I was still learning English. I ended up with a lot of time to figure out what I enjoyed.
I discovered my passion for analyzing and deconstructing computer hardware and began harassing my father to explain the mechanics behind everything, even amusement park rides. I slowly realized these weren’t just quirks. They were special talents that revealed my potential. I was born to be a technologist.
“I genuinely believe people are our greatest assets and the world will do itself a great disservice by not finding ways to fully leverage the inner gifts of people from all walks of life.”
2.Who’s been a role model you look up to?
I find inspiration in many of the women around me every day: my mom and the phenomenal women I have the privilege of calling friends. I look up to any woman who fearlessly challenges the status quo and refuses to be limited by other people’s perceptions of her.
One woman who currently comes to mind is Ursula Burns. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at my Columbia Engineering commencement. When Ursula Burns was named CEO of Xerox in 2009, she was the first Black woman to lead an S&P 500 company. She consistently repeats a quote her mom would say: “Where you are is not WHO you are. Remember that when you’re rich and famous.” Raised in a single parent household, she embodies the essence of a fearless leader who values the content of one’s character as one of the biggest signs of success.
3.What gets you out of bed in the morning?
People. I get out of bed every morning with the dream of utilizing the power of people to change the world. I genuinely believe people are our greatest assets and the world will do itself a great disservice by not finding ways to fully leverage the inner gifts of people from all walks of life.
My company, Jetpack, aims to harness the power of people to address pressing psychological pain points. By pre-stocking people with the most important consumer products and using technology to connect them with people who need them, we set people up to develop emotional connections with those around them. I’m constantly thinking of new ways to build upon the model and wake up excited to implement and share the ideas with other people.
4.What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey?
Other people’s preconceived notions and subconscious biases.
I’m a Black woman who constantly challenges the status quo. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I believe that my dreams are valid. That also makes people uncomfortable. When someone has preconceived notions around who I am or what my capabilities are before that person gets to know me, I can feel that negative energy. This energy misconstrues my cerebral silence as ignorance, my humility as incompetence, and my curiosity as lack of knowledge.
“The mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, came to [my company’s] grand opening and said our company “is an example of Baltimore businesses that the community should support.” I felt so much pride that day, primarily because it was proof that growing technology ventures and prioritizing marginalized people do not need to be mutually exclusive tasks.”
There are so many brilliant women in this world who become forced to prove themselves rather than enjoy and appreciate the journey of personal growth, self-reflection and the pursuit of knowledge.
5.What’s it like to go to grad school and run a business at the same time?
Being an entrepreneur while learning at Stanford has been super awesome. I get to apply super interesting concepts that I’m learning in class to my startup in real time. I can also take classes that focus on the areas of my company where I might need the most support. Stanford’s especially an amazing place because I have the privilege of being around so many people who challenge myopic thinking.
That said, self-care has to be a huge priority that isn’t sacrificed even during times that things start to get crazy.
6.Describe a time you were proud of yourself.
Last year, my company was fortunate enough to open a warehouse in West Baltimore and construct our own end-to-end fulfillment center. We wanted to choose a location in Baltimore that could also benefit from the growth of our company. I made the decision to pick a warehouse that was in one of the neighborhoods impacted by the Baltimore unrest in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray.
Everyday I’d look out of the warehouse windows and see businesses that were burned down during the unrest. It inspired me to take control of the infinitesimally small portion of the world that I represent. The mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, came to our grand opening and said our company “is an example of Baltimore businesses that the community should support.” I felt so much pride that day, primarily because it was proof that growing technology ventures and prioritizing marginalized people do not need to be mutually exclusive tasks.
7.What’s something you want to get better at?
8.Comfort food of choice?
Public Answer: Thai Food! Private Answer: Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits?
This changes all the time. Currently, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
10.If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
An astronaut! Let’s go to space!
11. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Take pride in and ownership of your unique gifts. There’s great beauty in being different and great beauty in imperfection. It’s okay and actually a wonderful thing to not think like the rest of the world.
I would also encourage myself to read up on Wabi-Sabi earlier, a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Most importantly, I would tell myself to always prioritize self-care which begins with a strong foundation of self-love.
This interview was originally made by Medium