Watch Tk's 30-second audition video that won her the role of Company Meeting co-emcee
Video producer and screenwriter. Film critic and script supervisor. Performer and makeup artist. Photographer, painter, and illustrator. Tsakane “Tk” Shikwambana can now add “virtual emcee” to her litany of professional credits and creative pursuits, after submitting her audition reel and beating out a competitive pool of applicants to co-host our 2021 Company Meeting last month.
Based out of 2U’s Cape Town office, Tk has been with the company since early 2020, right as COVID-19 turned the world upside down and moved nearly all of 2U’s operations online. Due to the pandemic, last year was also the first year since 2U began that we needed to cancel our annual Company Meeting—a week that otherwise brings eager 2Utes from around the world together to network and learn from each other, spotlight the successes of students and our university partners, and celebrate our own. Thus, there was a lot riding on this summer’s virtual Company Meeting to “make up” for lost connections and memorable moments. With her sunny personality, easygoing confidence, and good-natured humor, Tk more than proved she was up to the challenge to help make the week an unforgettable one.
Read on to learn more about Tk’s colorful career path and day-to-day work, how she’d craft the opening scene of her life at 2U “autobiopic,” and what this year’s Company Meeting theme of “Love Under Pressure” means to her.
A self-proclaimed "book nerd," Tk enjoys reading everything from fantasy to crime thrillers
Where were you before 2U, and what got you interested in your current career?
When you’re in the media industry, you sort of wear a hat for many things. You have your strengths in one specific skill but dabble in many others as well. “A jack of all trades, but a master of some,” as my mom would call it. Before coming to 2U, my main hats were scriptwriting, video editing, and assisting on film sets, either as a script supervisor or continuity director. Because of my theatre background, I also assist as a makeup artist for shows during the theatrical season.
I decided to stick to film as my main career because it’s an industry that keeps on growing and evolving. I mean, 20 years ago, who would have thought this industry would have a video platform specifically focused on education? And I love how we’re constantly finding innovative ways to engage with students through video. #EdTechIsTheFuture
What role does education play in your life, and what does it mean to you?
Education has always played a huge role in my life, and I've been exposed to its importance from a very young age. My family comes from a generation of educators. My mom is a teacher, my grandfather was a teacher, and I have various aunts and uncles who are lecturers, professors, teachers, etc. During family gatherings, we actually joke about how the education gene lives on because I now work in edtech.
Tk and her mom at her graduation from Film School Africa
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
I remember walking into the offices for the first time and immediately thinking I could see myself working there...
PICTURE THIS: Interior, 2U Cape Town HQ, Day. A stunningly glamorous but equally approachable Tk (played by an even more glamorous Lupita Nyong’o) sits waiting for her interview. A friendly face offers her water? Coffee? Did she just say breath mint? Tk says no to all of the above. Nervous. She looks around and sees people sitting on neon pink couches, typing away. Cool, she thinks. I like pink. She hears music playing in the distance, she wonders from where. “Oh, that’s from the coffee station,” says another friendly face. “Don, our barista, makes the BEST coffee.” Just as Tk begins fantasizing of the perfect cup, perhaps topped with mini-marshmallows, a third friendly face—clearly, an angel in disguise—kindly disrupts Tk’s daydreams and whisks her away to the best interview of her life. But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Lupita, oops I mean Tk, stands tall, takes a deep breath, and bravely walks toward the light, recalling the immortal words from Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV: “May The Force Be With You.” END SCENE.
I mean, the atmosphere was so inviting, everyone looked genuinely happy to be there, and I could see myself growing and doing what I love in this environment. What stood out the most was also the company culture and the diversity. Now, almost a year and a half at the company, I’ve met people from different religions, beliefs, and sexual orientations who I probably never would have met or worked with in my career. I really appreciate how people have the freedom here to fully be themselves.
Tk in the musical "Hairspray" back in her heyday as a performer
How would you describe your role at 2U as a video producer?
2U video producers are pretty much jack-of-all-trades. We get involved in the pre-production, production, and post-production process for online short courses. We collaborate with learning design right from the beginning and chat about which content in a course would be best delivered through video, podcasts, etc. Then we film the selected content with the course convenors or guest experts, helping to facilitate the shoot and direct the “talent.” One of the coolest parts of my job is that I get exposed to people like industry experts and faculty from top universities. It’s such an honor to get a front-row seat to all these interviews and lectures.
Finally, in post, we dive into making the content look the best it can by editing it. We collaborate with graphic designers and motion designers to create imagery and animations that enhance students’ understanding of the educational content, and then we help package it all together to deliver it to the student. It feels great to create a course that you know is going to impact people’s lives in a positive way.
Tk and friends adventuring in Lesotho, a high-altitude country landlocked inside the borders of South Africa
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Through our benefits with 2U, I love that we have the opportunity to take some of the short courses that the company powers for our university partners. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how everything comes together in the end. It’s so amazing to experience both sides of the coin, from playing a part to creating the course to experiencing it on the other side. Being a student who takes one of these courses is such a wonderful, impactful learning journey and it makes me proud of what we do every day.
What was your experience like co-hosting our 2021 Company Meeting?
It was such a magical experience, especially along with my “co-cee” KeKoria Greer who was Zooming live from the Washington, DC, area that whole week while I was six hours ahead in Cape Town. Her morning was my afternoon! I was a bit nervous at first because it was a virtual event, all happening through Zoom, and there aren’t that many “How to Be an Emcee for a Virtual Event” videos out there on the internet. But once I channeled my inner Lady Gaga, I was good to go! One of my favourite parts of the Company Meeting was our social networking session, where we all gathered in a huge virtual conference center to connect with fellow 2Utes from across the company. I also hosted some cooking demos with celebrity chefs—I’ve been sautéing my onions and saying things like “SOS” (sauce on the side) ever since.
One of Tk's many hobbies is portrait photography
The theme of this year’s Company Meeting was “Love Under Pressure.” What does that mean to you in your role at 2U?
I’ll echo this one phrase mentioned in our Company Meeting, about how diamonds are formed under pressure and intense heat. Diamonds are gorgeous gemstones, but people don’t often think about the tough journey they’ve taken to evolve into this final form. Now imagine if that pressure was LOVE. How much more can you become if you’re surrounded by love? 2020 was such a challenging year for the world, and this “Love Under Pressure” theme meant so much to me, because I believe the love and support we got from the company, and from my team, is how we all endured. We are diamonds now.
Learn more about us.
At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.