This article is a part of the reportage of an event – Degrees of Success.
There were two career panels conducted. They had eminent speakers discussing their career paths, South Asian culture, gender and childhood. While the first panel observed speakers from Lotus STEMM, the second panel had diverse panellists from different backgrounds and ages.
Career Panel – 1
The first career panel featured the Lotus STEMM team. It had Shefali Chaudhary, senior developer at Citi Canada; Priya Iyer, a public health professional and freelance writer; Dr Nida Rehmani, a mentor for the Global STEM Alliance & New York Academy of Sciences and; Mariam Raza, a Professor and Program Coordinator at Conestoga College. The event was moderated by Shaiya Robinson. (In the same order of the photographs)
The panel talked about career goals in high school. The panellists reflected on how clueless they were about their career. Mariam Raza confessed that she did not know what she wanted to do in High school. When she finally figured it out, she took the courageous step to go back to school after she had two kids. Priya resonated with the sentiment. She had a vague idea of what she wanted to be but was influenced to pursue public health by her parents. She did end up in that field. However, she has expanded to writing now. Nida Rehmani reflected that she grew up in India, where society believed girls should go into medicine. She did not succumb to that pressure and pursued her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry.
Later the discussion shifted to gender discrimination in science. Mariam shared how her family dedicated a lot of time training her older brother to become a doctor. She said, “All the physical, emotional, material resources were pooled towards my brother. I did feel that I shouldn’t aim so high and that maybe I should just get married.” Years later she realized she wanted this for herself. Priya spoke of gender discrimination in context with public health. Nida spoke about how she broke the stereotype that women are only educated to get married. It was difficult for her as there were no role models available. Then, Shefali Chaudhary brought to light the mentorship program offered by Lotus STEMM.
This session addressed pertinent issues of gender bias and gendered stereotypes seen in STEMM and South Asian communities. However, these topics may have been heavy and out of reach for the younger participants who would have been more interested in advice and motivation.
Watch the full panel discussion here.
Career Panel – 2
The second career panel had an interesting and diverse panel. There was Arushi Nath, a ten-year-old co-founder of a science & space exploration enterprise called HotPopRobot.com, Riya Karumanchi, a sixteen-year-old CEO of SmartCane, Prieeyya Kaur Kesh, CEO of Our Wave Hub and Kalaichelvi Saravanamuttu, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, McMaster University. The event was moderated by Mariam Heba. (In the same order of the photographs)
The discussion began with the question, how did you get to this stage of your career?
Riya Karumanchi shared she was nicknamed the “question box” in her childhood. She realized that the technology of white cane used by the visually impaired was obsolete. She said, “Technological success is not distributed equally in this world and I decided to do something about it. I added features such as GPS, AI and object protection to the white cane and called it the SmartCane.”
I believe that age is just a number. If you have an idea, no matter how old you are, you have the power to change the world.– Samaira Mehta
The other panellist followed with their stories of resilience and persistence. Arushi talked about how her journey started with curiosity.
The panellist also discussed what it meant to be South Asian to them. Prieeyya said, “I am proud to be South Asian. We come from the culture of hustle. There is something innate about being South Asian and working hard. I think of my work as an ode to everyone who came before us – From my mother who sacrificed her career to raise her kids and to my grandmother who didn’t speak a lick of English. For all the opportunities they didn’t have, we need to make the most of what we have. To waste it is an insult to their hard work’ Riya and Kalaichelvi echoed the same sentiment of being a proud South Asian. Whereas, Arushi said ‘I don’t think much about race, age and gender. It all doesn’t matter as long as everyone can do whatever they want to learn.’
Kalaichelvi while answering a question about failures said self-doubt has always been a companion and there have been moments of deep discouragement as well. “The passion for science and joy in what I was learning is what kept me going.”
Roopali Chaudary, the Founder of Lotus STEMM ended the session with a quote from Samaira Mehta, a fifteen-year coder and inventor – ‘I believe that age is just a number. If you have an idea, no matter how old you are, you have the power to change the world.’
Watch the full panel discussion here.
Edited by: Hansika Chhabra
Manasvi C M
Manasvi is an aspiring science communicator who has blogged at various platforms such as Lotus STEMM, Science Gallery, The Life of Science, Back your science and Sciteum. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Plant systematics. In her free time, she can be found cooking with her grandma, ranting on twitter and humming to Taylor swift.