Meet Mentra: The next revolution in recruitment
We interviewed Jhillika Kumar regarding her journey at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Throughout the interview we came to learn of her business Mentra, the next LinkedIn for the neurodiverse population. She created this company with fellow student and current COO Conner Reinhardt while studying STEM subjects at Georgia Tech. We at Cybernews Academy wanted to highlight their incredible work and how they are using technology to change the recruitment process for neurodivergent individuals. The duo states that “whether that's autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or learning differences, our mission is to unleash the cognitive potential of humanity,” which is exactly what these young entrepreneurs are doing.
Small but mighty
Mentra comprises mainly neurodivergent new graduates who understand what it’s like to navigate the job market. This team works with various employers with over 1000 employees, primarily focused on enterprise companies within the Fortune 500 who have been hiring for Menta. This team constantly learns from their customers and can analyze what recruiters seek. During our interview, Jhillika exclaimed that her organization is “a small and mighty team with big motion.” Founders Jhillika and Conner met at college and created Mentra alongside their computational studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
According to Mentra’s website, “Neurodiversity is the product of natural variations in human neurology that lead to differences in cognition, sensitivities, and perception. This includes ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Epilepsy, OCD, Parkinson's, Traumatic Brain Injury, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Tourette’s, learning differences, and much more. Jhillika explained that neurodivergence is “the diversity of how all our different brains work. Some individuals might identify as neurodivergent either from a diagnosis or self-diagnosis. However, neurodivergence is the understanding that everyone’s brain perceives the world differently.” Jhillika believes the neurodivergent movement is best represented by one of the four pillars of accessibility–mobility, hearing, vision, and cognition. She further explains that neurodiversity is zooming in on the cognitive and looking at how our brains work differently.
During our interview, Jhillika Kumar revealed a shocking statistic: "There is a 40% unemployment rate for neurodivergent individuals because the system isn't designed for this population." Furthermore, Conner Reinhardt confirms that "30 to 40% of neurodivergents are unemployed." He expressed that this number for people on the spectrum is just a subsection of neurodivergence, meaning that this number could be as high as 80%. By utilizing cutting-edge technology, Mentra encourages individuals to access jobs in various industries, including computing and technology sectors, through its sleek and accessible design. Mentra adopts artificial intelligence technologies that make the job search fruitful and simplistic. Mentra's mission is to empower neurodivergent individuals to discover their brilliance and break into the workforce. Jhillika mentioned how "hiring managers and recruiters are motivated by filling roles quickly, not necessarily by understanding the individual." So, that's where Mentra comes in, as this recruitment platform assesses a person holistically rather than viewing them as a role filler. Mentra is "on a mission to activate the neurodiverse workforce of tomorrow" by employing various technologies. Mentra aims to make the workforce accessible by "intelligently matching neurodiverse individuals with employers that value their strengths."
The mechanics of Mentra
Mentra analyzes over 76 data points to accurately connect neurodivergent individuals with jobs that “optimize for career success without relying on traditional measures of job fit.” According to their website, “Mentra’s key innovation lies in its matching algorithm that learns from an employer’s hiring needs and candidate’s strengths to create career success.” Mentra analyzes these data sets to highlight vital attributes that make the job seeker unique, such as the ability to hyperfocus on something they’re passionate about, problem-solving, innovation, and creativity. Then, Mentra identifies all this data to make the job match best suited to their neurotype. This is what Jhillika called a three-sided marketplace “where we have job seekers that match with employers to find specifically neuro-inclusive companies. The third side is this whole ecosystem of service providers. This is anyone who empowers the job seeker to get to their work, job, or future job.” This incredibly innovative process looks at nurturing and supporting individuals throughout their employment.
Neurodivergence and professional life can be challenging to balance due to the accommodations needed to allow that person to thrive in their field. Mentra ensures that all information, not just general employment information, is used when making those connections. “What accommodations does that person need? What are their sensory preferences? What are their neuro-exceptional strengths? These are all facets of neurodiversity that are considered within the Mentra model. Mentra also utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) that automates the data collection process while building a matching algorithm that can deeply understand all of the aspects needed to go into making a good match.” Conner adds that the retention rate for every one of the placements made across the companies is 97.5%. Incredible!
The meaning behind Mentra
The story behind Mentra’s founding is heartfelt and personal. Jhillika founded the company at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studied Computational Media. Jhillika met the co-founder of Mentra, Conner Reinhardt, at a TedXGeorgiaTech, where she shared the story of her non-speaking autistic brother Vikram. Through technology, Jhillika discovered that her brother was super intelligent, as the technology he interacted with allowed him to realize his full potential. “Due to its accessible design, it allowed him to interact with technology, and we were amazed by that.” Just one year later, he learned how to type using a letterboard, which was “earth-shattering” because Jhillika and her family realized Vikram was “brilliant the whole time.” This moment inspired the creation of her start-up, as she wanted to help others access their brilliance. Jhillika observed a gap in the market and “wanted to build a business based around tapping into neurodivergence worldwide, as these individuals are often overlooked and underestimated.”
Conner discussed the challenges of employing the typical, one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment. “Some of the largest barriers to hiring and recruitment are the general communication challenges and ability to navigate this process.” Due to this approach to recruitment, it might be difficult for those who are neurodivergent to attend a typical interview, answer specific questions, or be in certain environments. However, neurodivergent individuals don’t have an issue fulfilling the job role and performing functions necessary for that position. Conner provided an excellent example of the cyber security field being one of the critical areas where neurodivergent individuals can fill a vital need and outperform standard workers. “There’s a lot of research and examples on this, but many neurodivergent individuals can fill many roles in cryptography as these individuals may recognize patterns that many others can’t.” Conner added, “We’ve seen statistics that show that people who are neurodivergent are 30% more productive on average.” Mentra is working to unlock this overlooked talent pool by highlighting individual potential.
What makes Mentra unique
Jhillika discussed the different types of technology used to facilitate these job matches. "We use a lot of OpenAI's technology to dive deeper into the job description and understand what the company is about and what environment it's likely to have." The company utilizes AI and different algorithms that learn from everyone's needs, both the potential employer and the employee. Mentra is unique in its use of technology to help match individuals with potential employers. There are over 40,000 neurodivergent job seekers signed up for Mentra's website. This means there is a lot of data to be used only by Mentra. Jhillika expressed that her company takes data privacy very seriously, as they collect lots of personal information. "We're not using that or selling that to companies. We're not sharing that within organizations, but we're using this data to help individuals better understand themselves." Conner added that 70% of our data is not collected on any comparable service," which makes this job search engine one of a kind.
Mentra is a phenomenal company with big ambitions and even bigger results. The future of the business burns bright as they plan on getting as many neurodivergent individuals hired as possible. Both Conner and Jhillika mentioned that they want to see more people entering “fulfilling and meaningful careers that match their skills.” Regarding the corporate American standpoint, Mentra intends to go international to change the sentiment around how companies hire and retain talent. Both founders hope to continue building a holistic solution for company-wide-neuro inclusion by empowering an underserved population.