Working towards creating the best

Student spotlight: Khalil Liouane (MSIT '23)

Monica Sumbi

Jul 14, 2022

“Life is easy. Get your pharmacy degree and do whatever you want.” was the instruction Khalil Liouane (MSIT ’23) received from his father after he graduated from high school. His mother is the owner of a successful pharmacy in Tunisia where he worked part time. The family expectation was that he would pursue a profession as a pharmacist.

Following his family legacy, he applied and was accepted into the prestigious Faculty of Pharmacy of Monastir in Tunisia. Always passionate about entrepreneurship and technology, he still found ways to pursue these interests. While in his pharmacy program, Liouane established an initiative that trained 150 high school students in IT skills. Looking back, Liouane says, “All my life, I have done things in parallel.”

At this point, it was evident to Liouane that the pharmacy career path was upstaged by his interest in entrepreneurship. At this career crossroad, he considered pursuing a degree in business but struggled with the dilemma to fulfill his family's expectation to enter into the pharmacy profession.

At CMU-Africa, I have learned to be a critical thinker, to create solutions and not products, and that good enough doesn’t count, always work towards creating the best.

Khalil Liouane (MSIT 2023)

Liouane had always excelled at math, so he thought that engineering could be a compromise that made both his family, and him, happy. While in high school, Liouane participated in Mathematics and Programming Olympiad exams and was ranked 17th on the global stage. “I love math and attending those boot camps in high school put me at an advantage because I was exposed to high-level mathematics for machine learning before joining university,” says Liouane.

As a first step in his path to engineering, Liouane was admitted to the Mediterranean Institute of Technology in Tunisia for an undergraduate degree in computer systems engineering. Alongside his studies, he worked at Flat6Labs, the leading accelerator in the Middle East and North Africa region, where he supported 20 startups in business development, sales, and marketing.

It was during his internship with the Anzisha Education Accelerator at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa that he first heard about Carnegie Mellon University Africa. A friend studying in Rwanda shared a photo of himself and the backdrop was CMU-Africa. Since Liouane is naturally inquisitive, he explored the CMU-Africa website to become familiar with the degree programs. He also took the initiative to connect with students and alumni on LinkedIn to learn more about the university. Shortly thereafter he made the decision to change his undergraduate degree to computer science with the plan to enroll at CMU-Africa in 2021 to pursue a master's degree in information technology focusing on IT entrepreneurship. He accompanied this decision by challenging himself to take an extra load of courses to meet the timeline to enroll.

The CMU-Africa community is proud to tout that Liouane is one of several students in the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program. At CMU-Africa, he is a student with a myriad of "firsts." He is the first CMU-Africa student from Tunisia and the first CMU-Africa student to register for courses at the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College. He is also the youngest student in his public policy class and contributes to discussions alongside executives from Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and Tesla. He jokes, "This is my way of making an MBA out of my engineering degree."

Liouane is a business-savvy person and parallels his passion for entrepreneurship with his master's degree studies at CMU-Africa. He established his second startup, Skills 21. The company has been selected by Deloitte as one of the most promising startups in North Africa. Skills 21 seeks to shape talent and build skills in tech sales, digital marketing, and growth hacking. His business model is cohort-based online programs with live sessions from industry experts.

"I am a strong believer in problem-solving through entrepreneurship," says Liouane. He also has spent time as a consultant, supporting and mentoring more than 50 startups.

This fall Liouane will begin his second year at CMU-Africa and he has expressed his ambition to establish a techprenuership forum for CMU-Africa students to discuss challenges and develop tech-based solutions for Africa.

At 24, Liouane has made huge leaps and bounds in his entrepreneurship journey and is continually challenging himself towards creating the very best. In closing, he expressed that he has learned three things at CMU-Africa, "to be a critical thinker, to create solutions and not products, and that good enough doesn’t count, always work towards creating the best."