By Jewelle Saunders
“What motivates me in everything that I do is the movement that comes with curiosity,” says Jonathan Puerta Pereira, a 2021 YLAI Fellow.
Jonathan’s curiosity has incited his globe-trotting entrepreneurial journey, impacting his own community in Colombia and beyond. As the former CEO of TASKME, a social organization aimed to help youth in Colombia develop their entrepreneurial skills, Jonathan then went to earn his master’s degree in the U.K. on Innovation & Technology Policy with a focus on artificial intelligence.
From here, Jonathan has gone on to work alongside organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other international institutions on AI-related topics as a consultant, researcher, and policy advisor.
The YLAI Network team spoke with Jonathan to gain some insight into his social ventures, thoughts on the rise of artificial intelligence, and any advice for fellow network members looking to jump into entrepreneurship.
Inspiring an entrepreneurial path
Born and raised in Medellín, Colombia, Jonathan became inspired by recent developments and advancements in the city, inciting a change in his perspective and priorities. After graduating from the University of Antioquia, witnessing the innovations in science, technology, and strategy in this community only increased Jonathan’s curiosity.
Inspired by Stanford Professor Bill Burnett’s “Designing Your Life,” Jonathan co-founded his first organization, Design Your Nation, a small social business accelerator for young innovators, helping to launch more organizations within Colombian communities. “Young people not having access to good opportunities like formal employment can have real consequences on the community and families within them,” says Jonathan.
When asked why he was driven to then shift his experiences with Design Your Nation to launch TASKME, he spoke about the need for employability within his community, discovering that “companies state they need young people and want to hire young people, but that is not reflected in the real labor market.”
From here, Jonathan and his co-founders pondered how to take young people’s excitement for innovation and allow them to gain experience in a real company. TASKME was a platform that encouraged youth employment through the development of young people’s soft skills, connecting them to the business sector with existing projects to gain experience and make a real impact.
Design Your Nation and TASKME’s workshops, programs, and trainings impacted hundreds of young leaders in Colombia. Despite closing TASKME when Jonathan went to study for his master’s, his co-founders’ involvement in other social enterprises in Colombia ensure that their innovative trainings and programs live on.
Advancements in artificial intelligence research
“It’s very interesting to be a part of this age where new technology is being developed,” says Jonathan.
After graduating with his master’s in Innovation & Technology Policy and working with a consulting firm in Europe that innovates policy research, Jonathan has seen the real-life impact of the progress of artificial intelligence. “Compared to other technologies, AI has such profound effects on the economy and on society, and there is a lack of talent to develop AI solutions.”
When asked about the danger of AI, Jonathan says he can see that “there is a lot of risk of AI exacerbating biases and fake news.” Jonathan spoke on the clear role for regulation in overcoming these obstacles and dangers. He notes that regulation is “very crucial in terms of fake news, misinformation, and data privacy.”
Some of Jonathan’s research includes a project on the state of AI in Colombia and he aims to return to Colombia one day to continue developing innovations in technology and AI to continue building up the community.
Trusting the process
Jonathan’s YLAI Fellowship experience was virtual, taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic. He commended the program for enhancing his curiosity, widening his perspective, and expanding his international experiences. “This experience allowed me to open to the world while being in my home,” says Jonathan.
The YLAI experience also allowed Jonathan to connect with like-minded leaders who inspired his own entrepreneurial mindset. “When you’re in the same program, in the same group, in the same experiences with everyone having their own motivation, it gives you energy to do more for yourself,” he says.
Jonathan’s advice to fellow young leaders and network members is to trust the process and trust the journey. “Life throws different paths in front of you that you can take; just trust the process because at the end of the day, the path you take puts you in a good place.”
Thank you for your insight and advice, Jonathan! Learn more about advancing your business or organization and leading with authenticity and integrity in your community and beyond with new #YLAIforIntegrity resources.
The YLAI Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. government.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.