By Bianca Silva
New Jersey native Kevin Celisca has a vibrant background. He has studied abroad, built homes in West Virginia and previously worked as an auditor. In the back of his mind however, there was more he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to focus on the things he was most passionate about — education and technology — which led him to create Integrate Tech in 2014.
Celisca speaks with The Haitian Times on the inspiration behind the software Integrate and how he hopes to transform the way students perform in the classroom through technology.
Congratulations on the success of your company, Integrate Tech. What led you to create the company?
After I graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University, I was fortunate enough to get a great and stable job as an auditor at Ernst and Young. However, I was very unhappy with my work. It was around this time that I was reached out to by my now co-founder, Maxwell Witt, whom I had met while studying in college. He pitched me several ideas he wanted to pursue, and I immediately resonated with the idea that would grow to become Integrate. I knew then this idea was going to shape [the] future of education.
I struggled with school when I was younger, so I recognised the value that Integrate could bring. Through modern technology, no child should have to struggle as I did. The reason that Integrate resonates so much with me is because I’m literally building a product that could have helped my younger self, and I know that it can help many others who struggle now as I did.
One of the main purposes at Integrate Tech is to help teachers and students manage the classroom through technology. Why do you think education and technology go hand-in-hand?
I believe that technology is the future, if you can utilize it correctly. Did you know that around 60 percent of K-12 schools in the United States now use laptops or tablets in the classroom? And this number is growing each year. The problem is that most schools have a hard time figuring out which software to use to help with the various managerial and academic needs of a school, all the while balancing a limited budget. Students are also incredibly technologically savvy, and have been able to abuse the current classroom tech by cheating on tests, going on social media, and playing games during class time. These are just some of the problems that we are solving with Integrate.
I think education and technology go hand-in-hand because cutting-edge tech allows us to harness the data that schools have been collecting for hundreds of years, and identify students learning styles and their strengths and weaknesses. With these understandings, we can help teachers and students to become the best versions of themselves and it’s all thanks to technology.
During your time at Fairleigh Dickinson University, you had the opportunity to study abroad in addition to building houses in West Virginia and visiting the Navajo children in Arizona during your spring break. How do you think those experiences shaped you into the person you are today?
I was incredibly privileged to have been able to study abroad so many times with the help of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Studying abroad transformed my perception on life through meeting new people, experiencing the rich history and different cultures. These experiences helped to broaden my horizons and helped shaped my path to entrepreneurship.
You seem to wear your Haitian heritage on your sleeve and have a great fondness for your grandmother who raised you after emigrating from Haiti to the United States. What advice do you have for Haitian Americans who want to become successful and overcome the obstacles that are ahead?
My advice to my fellow Haitian Americans who want to become successful and overcome the obstacles ahead are as follows:
Get a mentor in the industry that you are interested in and put your blood, sweat, and tears into it. A mentor can give you industry insights to get you started and help put you on the right track for success.
Do your research. Read books on personal development and skills needed to help you become successful in the industry you’re interested in pursuing. The right books will give you different perspectives on how to tackle obstacles you will face in business and in life.
Be open to different perspectives and constructive criticism. I am fortunate to have met many people through networking from different walks of life such as investors, business owners and those who work in Fortune 100 companies. The feedback you receive from having a diverse group of friends [who] give you constructive criticism helped me obtain a more well-rounded and global perspective. Lastly, you must check your ego and know that you don’t know everything. Ego can kill your opportunity and success if you let it. Be open to learning, and take every opportunity to see things from a new perspective, even if you don’t agree.