Duncan McIsaac

Founding Software Engineer
A bit about Duncan...

Prior to joining Curious Cardinals, Duncan led projects at Kiva.org responsible for lending tens of millions of dollars of microfinance capital to borrowers in over 70 countries. Things he likes to do: use tech to build trust and stability, mentor, create psychological safety, have coffee chats.

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What piece of advice would you give parents with unengaged students?

There’s always a path between a kid’s interest and what they learn in school; the trick is to identify the chain of topics adjacent to the interest that eventually connect it to traditional education. It’s easier to nudge a student toward school starting with an interest than it is to convince them why engaging at school is important.

What was the most surprising part of the college experience for you?

Beginning freshman year, I pretended to be a grad student because they had access to more interesting case competitions and curricula (with no pre-requisites). Surprisingly, actual grad students, professors and the administration were totally ok with this, and college was a lot more intellectually stimulating as a result.

Why is passion so important as it pertains to learning?

Everyone is capable of being passionate, but passion is not a prerequisite for learning nor doing your best. Passion is cultivated by learning, doing, taking risks, failing and succeeding. Passion is important because it keeps you going, but so can the pursuit of passion.

What kind of impact would you like Curious Cardinals to have?

As a high school student, I liked math. At the end of junior year, all of my college application drafts were for engineering programs. Over the summer I took a three week intensive engineering summer camp where I realized that although I liked math and engineering, I didn’t want to spend four years focusing on it. When I got home, I changed every college application to a humanities-focused program, and wound up in a humanities/tech hybrid at Carnegie Mellon University. I want Curious Cardinals to help students identify, explore and expand their interests. But K-12 education requires students to make very large and consequential decisions based on assumptions about what they’d be interested in studying at college, so if Curious Cardinals can help a student realize that they’re not quite as interested in a topic as they thought they were, I would consider that a win too.