Lessons From IDEA CEO Dr Corrin Varady, & How He’s Creating Change

Get ready for 2020 with the advice of a global thought leader.


Nadim Nyker |

2020 is abound and we at MH are all for going into the new decade prepared to succeed, and create change. So we sought the advice of Dr Corrin Varady, the CEO of IDEA – a digital education company that aims to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged students across Africa.

Corrin shared how he gets motivated, how he stays focused amidst industry pressures, and how he plans to change the lives of others with education. Learn from him and head into the new decade inspired.

Find A Purpose And Stay Motivated 

“I am driven, on a daily basis, to contribute towards giving back that same opportunity I was given, to students across the African continent. I am not motivated by the business of my business, but by our mission and purpose as a team to bring democracy to education,” says Corrin. With the 36-year-old having to unlearn and rethink what he thought about the world around him. 

“I was 20 when I ended up in East Africa and I thought I knew a lot about life and the world around me,” he adds. “At 28, subsequently, I spent a decade unlearning everything I thought I knew and it made me even more grateful for the education my parents had given me.”

Routine Is Good, Especially With Business 

“Starting a business is one thing, but having the idea and concept is exciting. However, that part is often the easiest. Delivering on the daily operations and activities every day is certainly the part that is most draining,” says Corrin. “I make sure that I start each day with a clear connection to my personal purpose, the company’s mission and, importantly, my goals for the day.”

Corrin plans his goals two weeks in advance, which allows room for error. “I usually have these already planned out two weeks before I start them. I then meditate and get to work early to start the day.

“I make sure that I start each day with a clear connection to my personal purpose, the company’s mission and, importantly, my goals for the day.”

Life happens and even CEOs mix things up– although not always on purpose. Recognised by Microsoft as a global thought leader on education, Corrin works with IDEA across Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, having to constantly mix up his routine. “I am not sure I mix things up consciously, but because I am constantly on the road across South Africa, to East and Northern Africa and Southeast Asia, life can sometimes seem to get mixed up on its own.”

“Meditation and boxing may seem a world apart, but both actually help me achieve the same result of getting focused and energised.”

The CEO uses meditation to keep focused while one the road, too. “I am a daily meditator, which is the only way I find peace inside a fairly busy meeting and travel schedule. I also destress through boxing,” he says. “Meditation and boxing may seem a world apart, but both actually help me achieve the same result of getting focused and energised.”

Related: This Fun Boxing Workout Will Build Strength & Confidence!

Have A Five Year Plan

Corrin spent the last 12 months at Stanford University’s Seed Transformation program, reflecting on IDEA’s five-year strategy. In doing so, he has set four goals for the company over the next five years, and these are no easy tasks:

  • “Meaningfully impact 20 million global students’ lives.”
  • “Implement our personalised artificial intelligence framework (where every student’s content curates according to their needs).”
  • “Take an African education company global
  • “Scaffold between our markets’ home language and English (so we can embrace all global languages and develop students’ English instruction education at the same time).”

Related: What Happens When I Meditate? Here Are 5 Surprising Benefits

See Through A Different Perspective

“Corrin has had some life-changing experiences. One of them being featured in the documentary ‘The Road to Freedom Peak,’ which saw him ride bicycles across Uganda with a former child soldier, questioning the support given to post-conflict communities. The documentary was premiered by Fox and Netflix globally with critical acclaim.

I spent a decade in the conflict-affected parts of East and Central Africa which taught me that no matter what obstacles appear in your life, never give up.

“The reason we shot the ‘Road to Freedom Peak’ was because of the extraordinary stories of resilience and determination from former child soldiers or conflict-affected children in Uganda as they struggle to return to a ‘normal’ life,” he says. “I spent a decade in the conflict-affected parts of East and Central Africa which taught me that no matter what obstacles appear in your life, never give up. Many thousands of children were abducted by warring groups and kept for months and years to fight causes they never understood.

“But while war is newsworthy and interesting, the period of rebuilding once peace is secured gets very little attention.” This is where IDEA played a significant role in helping youngsters build their lives through education. Corrin’s work is more important now than ever in the developing world. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Index of African Governance, young Africans across the continent have become increasing ill-prepared to enter the job market due to education standards.

“An important milestone of my life in Uganda came recently,” Corrin says. “Jonathan, the young Ugandan ambassador in the documentary, who rides his bicycle with me from the border of South Sudan —we climb Mt Kilimanjaro together and end up with His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip in London— graduated. Jonathan joined our program 11 years ago and in early December 2019, I attended his university graduation ceremony as he was awarded his degree with honours.

“I was so proud of the tenacity and perseverance he demonstrated, against all odds. It is that resilience, which I previously never had, that I now walk through life with; because of people like Jonathan and the students I worked with in Northern Uganda.”

IDEA Digital Education is an innovative EdTech company that has created high quality, personalised digital education content and software for students and teachers globally. 

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