Daniel Kamau

Jenna Marynowski, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 15 February 2022

Daniel Kamau (’20 MBA) graduated into a challenging environment but saw an opportunity to start his business – SketchDeck.ai, which applies artificial intelligence and machine learning to build tools for the construction industry. Here, Daniel reflects on his journey through the MBA program and on what he’s learned in the early days of building his business.


BAA: What influenced your decision to pursue an MBA from the Alberta School of Business?

I always wanted to go to grad school, but I wasn't sure exactly what I would study. In 2017, I started to question the value that I was adding to the construction industry in my role as a structural engineer. Although it was a rewarding career path, I knew there was more I could do. I wanted to be more involved in solving large-scale problems that construction companies and professionals were facing. At that point, I decided to go back to school to pursue an MBA. My goal was to learn what it takes to lead large-scale projects, large teams, companies, or movements. I wanted to be a better leader, understand more about business, make meaningful connections, and expand my career opportunities. An MBA seemed like the way to go.

I spoke with a few friends who had attended the Business school. They all had very impressive backgrounds and had transitioned successfully into the next stages of their careers thanks to the program. What sold me the most was not only the fact that the Alberta School of Business had well-known faculty, but there was also the option for students to complete a joint construction engineering degree and business degree. I was sold.

BAA: How was student life for you? Were you involved in student groups or other activities that have influenced your post-graduation journey?

When I started the MBA, I had just become a dad for the first time. It was a busy time at home with a newborn so my student life outside of the classroom was limited. I focused on a few extracurriculars. I got involved with Net Impact because of my passion for advancing social good and volunteering with non-profits. That was a great experience! I was paired with a great group of students and together we worked together on sizing a target market for Women Building Futures, a local non-profit focused on empowering women through job retraining and work placements.

BAA: Can you tell us about your journey since graduating with your MBA?

Well, 2020 was a very challenging year for a lot of people. I graduated in the middle of the pandemic which made finding work extremely challenging. I had a few options that I was very excited about, but nothing panned out, so I decided to act on a business idea that I had started to really entertain and think about during my final year of the program. It was a big risk, but it's been very rewarding, and I've learned a lot and had an amazing time trying to uncover pain points in the construction industry and build out meaningful solutions.

BAA: You've recently started a new business - SketchDeck.ai. Can you tell us about your business and how this opportunity came about?

SketchDeck.ai, is focused on building Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) powered tools and platforms for the construction industry. Our flagship product is a material counting tool that automates data extraction from construction drawings. There are a lot of companies that turn down bids because they don't have the time or manpower to put together an estimate or a bid. We're building a tool that can automate the manual, repetitive tasks of putting together a bid and allow companies to focus on the more challenging parts of winning a job and ensuring profitability.

BAA: How has your Alberta School of Business education influenced your business?

The MBA has influenced my business the most when it comes building a team. I have had to think more about the interests, skills, and experiences of the people that I work with how to leverage those attributes to solve customer problems. I also think my education has helped me become more self-aware. I have a good grasp of my strengths and weaknesses and have learned how to work effectively with other high performers and people with very diverse backgrounds and expertise, which has influenced the business positively.

BAA: What have you learned in these early days of running your business that you would pass on as advice to others?

I've learned two big lessons. First, ask the hard questions, even the ones that we may not like the answers to. In my opinion, this has been the best way to uncover big challenges and identify which ones are worth solving. Asking questions also means not rushing to push a product or a technology, before finding out the why. Second, the most important part of any business or movement is the team. Great feats and hard problems are not solved by individuals they are the work of high-performing teams that have a bias for action and that are able to iterate on solutions that work.

Find out more about SketchDeck.ai on LinkedIn.

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