Tech, Savings & Being A Student
We're on a roll, and if you haven't heard by now, you should definitely start tuning in to the Chirp! Last episode, we had a phenomenal conversation with self-made personal finance guru, Brenda Olmos. She joined us via the interweb to talk to us about, mastering the art of personal finance, dedicating oneself to helping others, and taking the time to learn the ins and outs of how to secure a promising financial future. It was a great discussion, and you should definitely check out Story 16: Take The Taboo Out Of Your Finances before your dive into this week's festivities!
This week we moved into the world of Gen-Z and welcomed our first student to The Chirp. A rising star in the technology industry and future graduate of UC Davis in California, Miko James is taking the world by storm with her refreshing commentary on the tech industry as a diverse and inspiring female voice. A Youtuber, a podcast host, a product manager, a student, and a burgeoning thought leader in technology, Miko does it all and her perspective on the ways people borrow money from each other is a refreshing take on an old adage. You'll hear stories about broken promises, uncomfortable asks for help, and what it takes to plan for a fulfilling future - enjoy!
This Episode In A Nutshell
Being a student is tough. And, being a student, Youtuber, content creator, podcaster, product manager, and black woman in tech, to be frank, is nearly impossible. However, our guest, Miko James is pulling off the impossible and making it look easy while doing it. Although only 24 years old, voice of The Black Enterprise Network, Miko is all too familiar with the world of borrowing and broken promises. A childhood riddled with financial commitments gone sour and focused on making the dream of a promising career her reality, Miko for a long time grew financially by herself, without any help at all. Considering the successes Miko has garnered thus far, surprisingly, even she has had to turn to her family for help in a time of need; making a self-proclaimed uncomfortable situation of having to borrow money for the very first time a necessary one in order to secure her own financial future. Listen to Miko as we learn about the world of early-career tech and come to understand that even the best of us need a helping hand every once in a while.
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Audio Transcript of Story 17: I'm Not Comfortable With It, But I Need To Borrow Some Money
What’s up, everybody! Welcome back to another episode of The Chirp. We are here to bring you stories about lives and relationships being affected by money and loans, how it makes us feel, how it makes us act and how we all learn to exist in a world where we all financially support one another.
We have a great episode for you today. My guest today is Miko James, hailing from San Francisco. Miko is finishing up this year in UC Davis, she is about to start as a product management intern when she finishes. She also has a growing Youtube channel under the name Miko J where she gives her viewers breakdowns and commentaries on pop culture events and happenings. Very entertaining and informative, I would highly recommend it.
And Miko is also the host of her own podcast, The Black Enterprise Network, where she interviews black professionals in the tech industry and entrepreneurial roles. As you can imagine, a highly busy individual, but she was generous with her time and information and energy and I had a wonderful chat with her about her own take on lending, the financial state of being an intern, a student, in Miko’s case both, and what young people on the cusp of going out in the world on their own can do to be smarter about their money.
Do stick around until the end to learn how you can check out Miko’s content and where you can find it and as always, I hope you all enjoy.
Miko, thank you so much for joining me today on The Chirp. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. How are things?
Yeah. Nice to finally meet you too, Cam. Things are going pretty well. Just kind of busy right now.
Brilliant. I was doing a bit of research. You’re a content creator, YouTuber, podcaster, a student, an intern, so you have a huge amount going on. So let's dive right in and can you tell me in a nutshell, if it's possible, a little bit about your journey and how you got into content creation as well.
Yeah. I'll try to summarize it as best as I can. So currently I go to UC Davis. I started in 2016 wanting to be a forensic scientist so I went to major in biological sciences. They're not like chemistry, so I wanted to figure out a different route of making a decent income, but also being challenged at the same time.
I kind of fell into computer science and that was going on, but you know, life circumstances happened and I didn't really have the energy to commit to 40 to 60 hour weeks on homework assignments because computer science professors will deal out projects and say, “Okay, this is what you work on in the real world”, but it's not true.
When you're an actual software engineer - I mean, you might spend hours or days or weeks on a problem, but it's not as stressful as a school assignment. Yeah, with that I still continued the route of doing computer science but in a professional field. So I switched to cognitive science, which is just philosophy, psychology, and a bunch of other things about the mind. With computer science, I only have to take four classes, computer science, and some calculus.
And with that, I was able to secure some internships in tech. So I interned at Slack twice as a software engineering intern. Both front end and backend. Again, just coding in general, they always say it takes a specific kind of person. That doesn't mean you have to be super smart or like Mark Zuckerberg level or whatever. It just means you have to really enjoy solving puzzles and not being frustrated.
And for me, I don't know. I was just annoyed that every time I fix something, something else breaks. The second I fixed that there was something else that needed to be done. And you’re always testing the code after. It's not like when you make a project that you could be done, it can look ugly as hell and you do that.
But industry level, it was just kind of very dull and boring and yeah, very overwhelming. If you don't really care for code, which I, I know I didn't, but yeah, doing two internships, really honed that in. With that, I transitioned into product management. Not because it's something I actually wanted to do, but that's because I… sometimes I blindly listen to people and they say that product manager is the easiest transition from engineering.
And I'm like, “Okay, sure.” But this field is, I would say it's a bit more competitive because, as I'm sure you might know. There are always going to be hundreds of roles for engineering. You need to have the person build the thing. As long as you pass the interviews, you're fine. But product management, you're going to be competing with thousands and thousands of applicants for one to two spots for the most part.
And if you're lucky, some companies will have like five to ten spots, if that, and even then it's even more competitive. I feel like I lucked out getting my first internship at WePay last summer, not the best company, still grateful though. And yeah, interviewed over the last couple of months since January.
And I'll be in New York for Datadog doing product management. So that's the school-to-career progression. As far as content goes, it kind of just happened.
And your YouTube videos, well, they were shorts, but you were documenting your new internship as well, which was cool. So it kind of transitioned nicely I thought.
I wasn't really documenting it. I think I was just trying to create a tech channel to be helpful to people because everyone's always going to be asking, “How do I get into tech? How do I learn how to do coding interviews?” Stuff like that. So the YouTube channel was mainly just starting with, what do I know, and what can I share?
But again, I just don't care for it. I guess, creating content about something I'm working on, some people can do it, but I just like talking about stuff I'm passionate about.
Fantastic. And what do you think are some of the major financial drawbacks of being a student, being an intern, being the kind of the age that you are before you really go out into full-time employment and you're totally on your own.
Have you any kind of examples that have affected you in terms of being in that position?
Yeah, a hundred percent. There are a lot of professionals that tell you this, and I agree to an extent. Being a student. It's a pretty big advantage if you have, aside from homework, very limited responsibilities.
You can start a startup, you can start a side hustle, YouTube channel, whenever you have extra free time. But at the same time, your income is so inconsistent. It can be frustrating because right now, my issue with being a student is I want to have money to outsource...like I don't enjoy editing every single week.
I want to be to the point where I only have to do it once or twice a month for two videos, but doing it every week and having to edit my podcast episode every single time. You can't do that as a student and you have to be a little frugal and in between groceries. If you have food stamps that helps a bit.
And then rent and then other external bills and just taking care of yourself too. So it's that balance of, I want to spend so much on my business side hustle, but I can't because my income is not consistent enough. And the thing about doing internships, even if it's in tech, you can make up to $30,000 for three months, which is great.
But It doesn't last forever. That money goes away really quickly, which is what I've learned entering the last couple of years. So I think that's the biggest drawback. If you're someone like me that wants to have a side hustle and be a student, but if you're just being a student you're chilling.
And in general, throughout your life have you had any of your relationships be affected by money or loans? Because we’re very interested in hearing stories like that from our guests.
A hundred percent. Mine might not be in my twenties, it'll be from when I was younger, just go along with it! So when I was younger, I would get a ton of money for doing chores. Like making maybe 60 to a 100 dollars a week from when I was aged eight or something around there, up until middle school and high school when chores ended and I got my first job in high school, but that's entirely different.
So I'd have a ton of money saved up. I'd have my mom's store some of it, I'd store some of it myself. But the thing is that when you have siblings, like older siblings, that don't entirely have themselves together, it can be a bit frustrating to say, “Oh, can I just borrow $20?” And I never saw that $20 again.
And that would be so consistent even with my mom, just telling the siblings to just kind of back off a bit, but I'm always so willing to give that. After a while. I think it took me to being 13, 14 years old. I finally put a stop to that after years of letting them borrow money. It just became way too much.
So now as an adult, I barely let anybody borrow money from me. It's not a fear, but just a thing of, well, I won't get it back. And now that I'm an adult and have more money if I let you borrow like a hundred or like a thousand dollars am I ever going to see that money again? So, yeah. Yeah, that's kind of how that started.
Yeah, absolutely. And one thing that we always talk about on the show and hear lots about is family values and where they've been rooted from. Kinds of things that have come from early family life and that exist today in people's money management. And the one thing I really like to listen to is, does a guest come from a family where lending is encouraged or lending is allowed and where generosity is existing as well?
So is it safe to say in your position, that you were overly generous and there was a borrowing nature within your family, but it didn't really work out for you. And as an adult today, it's gonna make you a little bit wiser?
I have a different take on this. So for me now, I feel like seeing how my siblings have consistently borrowed from my parents and other people without really consistently paying the back, I felt like I had to kind of be the person to never borrow money. I suppose I'm just like, you know what? I'm just going to take care of myself. I don't need anything from anybody.
I think I'm doing pretty okay between these internships, tax returns and part-time jobs on campus. I'm doing okay. And I think it's been a hindrance because I can be honest about it now. I don't feel as bad about it, but in the last couple of weeks, I've asked my mom if I could borrow money from her so I could just get the business thing going between YouTube and the podcast.
Because as you know, equipment, software outsourcing, subscriptions, it adds up! Because in summary, I can't do everything. Like I was designing my thumbnails and stuff. I noticed they suck, my quality sucks!
So that means going to a freelancer and paying them about $50 a thumbnail, which sounds cheap, but it adds up. I got money to pay my friend to start editing my videos in the upcoming weeks because, again, burnout is really a thing between school and wanting to be a side hustle person.
So for me, it just sounds simple, but just getting the courage to borrow money from my mom and then just ensuring her that I’m going to have a full-time job next year. I will pay you back by then, but just that internal thing of feeling like I will never be able to pay them back, like my siblings have in the past.
So just that kind of feeling, but it's, it's weird to borrow money if you've never done it. Like this is my first time ever doing it in my 24 years of life.
I'm sure she has all the faith in the world in you and your future. Back to #InternLife. What is kind of some of the advice that you can give other interns to keep somewhat financially stable?
I myself was an intern at 28 in a recording studio. Family was hugely important. I worked in sales, tech sales as well. It can pay quite well. It's a hard thing to walk away from, but it wasn't for me, it’s my passion doing this kind of stuff, so taking an unpaid internship was quite difficult for me, but obviously family was a big one in terms of keeping myself afloat.
Is that the same for you? What advice would you give to other interns who are maybe worried about taking the plunge?
Yeah. I mean, you guys probably gonna hear this a lot from older people too, but just save your money the best you can. Because like with Slack, I feel like the first time I did okayish.
But of course those checks hit every time! The mall is right down the street in San Francisco!
Spend, spend, spend!
A little bit, you get a little bit tempted to buy an outfit and stuff like that. But at the same time, I was putting away a few thousand dollars at a time, every month into my savings account for like emergency funding, which thankfully I did have some emergencies come up, so that money came in handy.
But you know, whether you're making $2,000 a month or $5,000 a month, just find ways to save as much as you can, especially if you're not guaranteed to have a full-time offer by the end of your internship. Even if you think you're doing a great job, you never know what can happen. So try not to splurge too much, save as much as you can.
And when you get a full-time offer, then you can kind of go a little ham because then you make a full salary. So that's kinda what I would say in regards to saving, you can read a little bit.
You can breathe a little sigh of relief?
Haha, yeah a little bit.
Yeah. Fantastic. In one of your videos as well that I really enjoyed, (well I enjoyed all of them, I watched about 10 of them), one of them that I enjoyed was you were kind of talking about passive income courses and things like that.
Do you think that students are falling prey to these, not get rich quick schemes, but these kinds of passive income models that can guarantee you a steady stream of passive income? Have you seen any of your peers falling victim to these-losing money or investing money and I'm not getting it back?
I haven't seen anyone I know of that's fallen prey to it, but I know it's a thing, which is why research is very important when it comes to all my courses.
Actually, I have fallen victim to it actually; me! So basically, with the pandemic happening, I really wanted to kickstart writing and blogging, which at the time, I didn't know blogging was dead, but the way these people marketed it, they're like, “Blogging's alive! You can easily make six figures on it like we have! And the course in general is self-paced. You know, do it yourself, have a specific niche, et cetera. But what I noticed after the first few lessons and then being a part of their Facebook group which they didn't answer any of the questions, by the way, they just had a random admin in there.
I was like, “Oh my God, I got scammed! I got duped!” And it all started with a YouTube video. It started with ‘How you can make six figures on a blog today’. And they had like a million views on it. So I thought it was legitimate. And to an extent it is, but blogging is dead, blogging is not a thing anymore.
And when you're new to the world of content creation. You can fall prey to that. And unfortunately, I wasted a ton of money on courses which is why going back to my point of research, try to find YouTube video reviews on the course and see what people say, try to find all my communities, do some Reddit searches and see what people say, because I think what's benefited me the most of the courses that have been worth it.
Like part-time YouTube, it's active, it's alive. There's tons of good content out there. There are tons of people that have proof of success, not just the actual creator of the course. Of course, the creator of the course is going to say we made six figures and they had little testimonials.
It just didn't seem as legitimate versus the tons of videos about people sharing their feedback and opinions. It's not always worth it for some people, but for other people, active community actual admins that are on YouTube are doing this actively and have grown and there's proof. So do your research before you pay a few hundred dollars on a course and you should be fine.
And you know, with the YouTube channel as well, and that's blossomed into something more. And then you have your podcast, The Black Enterprise Network, how did the podcast come to fruition? And why did you kind of come up with this idea? What was the thought process behind that?
Yeah, it was something I was thinking about, like when I entered Slack in person in 2019, It was a building of at least… - it's way bigger now since being acquired by Salesforce. But at the time it was like a thousand people in the building with 10 floors. And you would think that's a lot of people, which it is, but at the time, every single floor I went on, there was always someone that looked like me, someone that was black.
And it was just kinda cool to see because that's not common in tech, especially in the Bay Area. Like the percentages are very low. It's like usually less than 10%, less than 5%, depending on the company. So for me to have a black manager and her manager to be black as well, that doesn't happen. And it was really cool to just go to these networking events and meet other black entrepreneurs and see what they were doing.
And I was like, wow, I know so many great people. Maybe I should do something about it, right? I didn't until 2021. The pandemic happened where, you know, everyone has this quote-unquote “free time to explore stuff”. Everything was way more locked down in 2020. You couldn't even go to the grocery store.
You couldn't go to the library, can’t go class, couldn't do anything. So I was like, you know what? When my mental state was still pretty fresh, I was like, let me start this podcast. I mean, no one has anything else to do. These professionals are caged in as much as I am. It's a good time to share their stories and share inspiration.
A lot of black students or black people you meet, they don't think it's possible to get into tech. Because again, there's like this preconceived notion that you need to be a super genius, which you don't, you just need common sense.
I worked in tech sales, you definitely don't need to be a genius, if that’s the route you want to go down!
Yeah, they're quite a lot of dumb people in tech, haha! So yeah, I just want to inspire some other people in my community.
And going back to the story of you plucking up the courage to ask your mom for a loan, and it not being very ‘you’, and not something that you're comfortable with.
I'm kind of curious to know what was her reaction? I would assume that your mother would be like, “Yeah, of course, this isn't a regular occurrence. This isn't something that happens all the time that I have to worry about, and you have a very bright future.” What was her reaction when you did at ask for that loan?
Yeah, her reaction was very positive. Like she understands what I'm trying to do with this content thing, thankfully. Not all parents are understanding of that. And I was just explaining to her for months on end like, “With my money here from the internship, I'm going to do this, this, and this. I've already kicked off this, I've done this with this guest. I've done this video.”
Like she gets it. And she understands that I have to pay for certain services and people to get things done quickly and efficiently so I don't burn out, and she’s just a very supportive parent that just wants the best for me. So she was totally fine with it.
She knows I'll pay it back once I get a full-time job next year, I think it was just me freaking out about it as someone that's never done this. And then just saying, “Oh, I'm so sorry. I don't usually do this.” And you know, just her reassuring me that it's fine.
Brilliant. And this future you speak of. The channels are growing, the content is flowing. (That rhymes. That was pretty cool.)
But in terms of your future, your financial future, you're in the home run of your academic life. What are your plans financially, work-wise, but also you know, professionally with the content creation?
Yeah like I'm counting down the days till I can get a final internship next summer because this summer didn't work out, unfortunately, and get a full-time job after that because full-time interviews are crazy. They're insane. So once that is secured, just the basics of paying off student loans, credit card debts, get that out the way.
And then work remotely in California. I still love California. Only people from California love California, but when I stay close to home, that'll probably be the most expensive part. But yeah, just going to plan out how and where I want to live to be cost-efficient. I'm going to be a late bloomer for driving but that's totally fine.
When you live in the city, you just take BART, transit, bus, whatever. I'm cool with it. And yeah, I think when you're, depending on what you do, when it comes to being a creator, I feel like it's easy to do that on the side when you have a full-time job versus being a startup founder on the side and having a full-time job. As a creator, you don't necessarily want to hand off your work, but you are just going to burn out after a while.
I've been doing this for like a year for YouTube and then basically two years for the podcast and I'm ready to hand it off, but it requires money. And thankfully with tech jobs, they pay pretty well. So working remotely, outsourcing, and dedicating a few thousand dollars to team members, will skyrocket the business.
That'll help me accelerate because right now I feel like I'm going slower than I'd like to, but I'm excited. I'm excited. Very busy because then I’ll just be just a content creator. Right now it's a student intern, contractor kind of job.
Do you think that you'd like to do the content creation full-time? Is that your main passion or are you looking to focus on something else?
It's definitely a goal, it just takes a bit of time. It can take anywhere between two to five years, give or take. It'll just depend on how things go for me this year. Like if I'm able to be monetized by the summer, that'll accelerate. And by monetize on YouTube, I mean a thousand subscribers, 4,000 hours of watch time, which I believe is doable with the pace I’m on right now.
But there are people with 10,000 subscribers that can make six figures. You don't need a hundred thousand or 500,000 or a million to be full-time. I just want to make sure that my debts are paid off, and that I have a ton of money saved. I've got some stability and I kind of want to do the thing that most of the time creators do like, when you have your job and you have your side hustle, does your side hustle make as much as your job, If not more?
So I'm probably going to lean that way to where I start making six figures from content, then that's it. I quit my job. So that's what I want to do.
I’d like to get your thoughts on debt students. Because I'm from Ireland, from Europe. It's not really a huge worry for students where I grew up. And I know that it is quite a concern for American students.
What are your feelings on it? Do you feel it's something that's going to haunt you for a while? Do you think that you've got it under control? What are your emotions about it?
Yeah, I would say I've got it under control. I mean, again, I can say not everyone's in the same position. So when you're in tech that student loan debt stress isn't as terrible, of course, because of how much you make. Depending on your debts, they get paid off in like a few years. And for me, I'll probably be able to pay it off in like one to two years, because I don't have that much.
I have about maybe 10,000 or less give or take. So I'm not too stressed out about it. I think just in the moment of having to take the loan out is kind of like how I had to borrow money from my mom. I was just freaking out because I had never done it before. But yeah it's just trying to not forget about the loans, but just know where you're going and that they will be taken care of eventually.
Brilliant, Miko. So if people want to watch your YouTube channel, listen to your podcasts, read your blogs or your articles, what are all of your handles? Where can people find you?
Yeah, I need to set up a LinkTree. My current thing isn't the best. So for YouTube, it's just Miko J. It'll be a cartoonish thing of me with headphones. And for the podcast, BlackEnterpriseNetwork.FM. And for social, if you just go to the YouTube channel.
They're all intertwined.
Yeah, you could just go on my LinkedIn and find everything there. It's my full name. Kimmiko James. So, yeah.
Brilliant. Miko, it was such a pleasure talking to you. I was a fan all day watching your videos, and to actually have a chat with you, It's great to hear your story and your take on things, of your financial debt, how you're handling things, and clearly, the bright future that you have. So thank you so much for coming on The Chirp today.
First and foremost, I find it most impressive to be finishing up a Batchelor’s degree, on the hunt for a full-time job, hosting a podcast, and running a Youtube channel! Kudos to Miko for her commitment and for all her roles that she has.
The more I spoke to Miko the more excited I became about her future. Like a character in a gripping tv series, I’m seriously keen to find out where her journey will take her. I asked her what she would ideally like to focus on, job-wise, and I was delighted to hear that the content route is one that would be ideal for her, because she does a great job.
I also liked how reserved she was about lending. She is tentative to lend money to her peers as her siblings in the past have shown her how lending can be done wrong and she knows that, sometimes it can lead to a bad situation.
And yet, even though she wasn’t comfortable with it, even though it stands against what she believes in, Miko did ask her mother for a loan to help with her blossoming content creation campaign. To ease the workload of creating content and delegating to other professionals is a wise move and one that isn’t cheap! Miko recognized that sometimes, It’s totally cool to ask for help, especially from those who support you and support your dreams.
From our brief conversation, Miko seemed like a sensible human being and really emulated the ideal lender for me. Wary of her borrowers and understanding those who she should lend to and those she shouldn’t, and knowing when the time is right for her to ask for help.
So, thank you all for joining us again today! Be sure to check out Miko on her Youtube channel, her podcast, Black Enterprise Network, and give her some love. We’ll be back in 2 weeks with another episode. We’re gaining on our 20-episode milestone this summer which is pretty cool, and we will continue to bring you some interesting stories about loans and lenders.
Stay safe everyone and I will see you very soon. Take care.