⛰ My first real conference
March 2019 | Vancouver, Canada
I had the opportunity to speak at BC Tech Summit in Vancouver. I was sooooo excited! To pay for my flight, I remember practically emptying my whole bank account; I had $36 left. I was crossing my fingers that it would be worth it.
It ended up being fantastic. I got better at networking and having meetings. I had thought-provoking conversations about Quantum Computing, Blockchain and AI. Overall, well worth having $36 in my bank for two months. Before this point, I had 276 connections on Linkedin, most of which were from my TKS network. During this trip, at a LinkedIn social hour, in particular, I got 500 connections. It seems like such a small, dumb thing now, but back in March, it felt like the hugest deal.
🙏 Experiencing mental clarity and discovering my passions
April 2019 | a hill in Como, Italy
I was in Italy for a "relaxation," but I spent most of the time learning (it was relaxing mom!!!). I was working on a women's reproductive health project. I spent time reading research papers and learning about problems in women's health.
There was this one day where I hung out on a hill. I read a book (zero to one). I spent the rest of my time learning about endometriosis and post-partum depression. I felt passionate and peaceful. This was one of my favourite days, ever. And all I did was sit on a hill and learn. I taught myself two main things: I don't need a lot to be happy, and I am most satisfied while being intellectual. It was such an enlightening hill; I wrote a blog post here.
🚀 Seeing startups and innovation in action
May 2019 | Toronto, Canada
CDL is a startup incubator in Toronto. Every two months, they host a CDL event where startups and mentors come together. The mentors meet with startups and give them advice; the startups try to change the world. They have a high school girls program where (you guessed it) high school girls can shadow the mentors during their meetings and network during the day. I went to CDL 2 times this year.
I love learning about the intersection of business and technology. I could jam out to pitch decks, market share and user experience numbers all day. It has been an invaluable experience for me. I'm incredibly grateful!
I've met so many fantastic role models. Shoutout to Stephan Uhrenbacher, Barney Pell, Ash Fontana, Tony van Marken, Luke Tucker, Amy ter Haar, Hassan Bhatti and Eva Lau for being some of the most remarkable people I've met!
🎤 Building Confidence at Corporate Galas
May 2019 | Toronto, Canada
I had less than a week's notice about speaking at PWC's V2R Gala. I put together a presentation for the day, but my slides didn't end up working anyway. I had to adjust my entire talk on stage. I was also about to have my first fireside chat... ever... with Peter Coffee, the VP of Strategic Research at Salesforce (no biggie).
To be honest, when the clicker wasn't showing my slides, my life flashed before my eyes. It was probably my worst nightmare. Having 200 people stare into my soul on stage didn't help my nervousness. But at that moment, I had to make a choice: I was either going to freak out or give it a shot. I gave it a chance: I explained a technical concept in easy words/analogies.
The talk went well, and I learned a vital lesson: be yourself . I was funny, smart, and energetic. Before that point, whenever I gave presentations, I almost put on a "persona." This was the first time I was genuinely comfortable being me in front of other folks.
🌎All things Microsoft at Microsoft Ready
July 2019 | Las Vegas, USA
I spoke at Microsoft's largest internal event and met the CEO (Satya Nadella). This experience was simply unreal.
At one point in my childhood, I wanted to be an actress (didn't everyone?). I tried out for the middle school talent show three times. I never got in. Tried out for the school play twice, only got to be in the supporting cast. By the time I was in high school, I let go of any hope I had to "present." It started becoming terrified of talking in front of people.
In grade 9, I took a drama class for a school credit. I hated presenting it (mostly because I was scared of embarrassing myself). Through TKS, the program I've been a part of for the past 1.5 years, I went through training to start becoming a world-class presenter.
I gave my first talk in January 2019 to maybe 100 people. Somehow, in July, I was speaking at the T-mobile arena in Las Vegas in front of ~30K Microsoft Employees and partners. I was a teeny tiny bit scared (ok a lot scared). But I got a standing ovation afterwards.
There was extreme clapping for over a minute. It felt like a lifetime. I've always wanted to showcase myself and create presentations that people enjoyed. I felt like I was in a movie. When I feel low-confidence, I think about this talk, and my confidence jumps right up again.
I was at Microsoft Ready with Nadeem Nathoo, the co-founder of TKS. We tried our hardest to find Satya Backstage, but we failed. Later on, during the conference, we figured out how to get into a dinner at the Four Seasons, where I got to meet Satya. It was pure #hustle. We set a goal to meet Satya at around 3:30 pm, and we met him by 6 pm - not bad for the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world!
Meeting a real-life superhero was unreal. UNREAL. This is cheesy, but if you put your mind towards something, and then hustle, you might find a way to get it.
🔬 Seeing Biotech in action
Aug 2019 | Delft, Utrecht and Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This summer, I lived in The Netherlands. Fun fact: it's the home of cultured meat!!! I visited labs, met biotech founders and got a sneak-peak into the world's most exciting bio-innovations. I saw the first cultured meat bioreactor, stem cells being grown in labs and large bacterial fermentation vessels. One of my favourite parts was heading to DSM (a biotech hub) and touring around the scientific paradise.
It was enchanting to see bacteria, fermentation and cells in power. I'd been studying biotech, namely cells, reading tons of research papers; seeing it all in real life was thrilling. This experience re-connected me with science and the power of biotech. The coolest part was experiencing the culture of people. All around the facility, people were excited about the science they're working on. It was an intellectual environment. On the walls, there were bacterial diagrams, and there was even a microbial museum!
I also cooked the first JUST egg in Europe! JUST is a food-tech company from SF; they have an egg product that mimics the taste of real eggs... without chickens! We made some definitely not illegally imported JUST eggs. I was tasting the future 🍽.
Ah, the nerd in me was screaming.
⭐My IKEA dreams coming true
Oct 2019 | Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo / Almhult, Sweden
When I was a kid, I was OBSESSED with IKEA. Like day-dream obsessed. Most children spent their alone time fantasizing their crushes, and I spent it imaging billy bookshelves and Poang chairs. All I wanted for my 'sweet 16' was to visit the original IKEA store. My parents thought I was crazy and thought I was joking. I wasn't.
Later in life, I rediscovered IKEA's awesomeness through reading the 2019 sustainability report. I instantly reached out and had tons of meetings to ask more questions.
I didn't expect anyone to respond to my LinkedIn cold reach outs. I ended up having some fantastic meetings.
One of them was with Jason Gould (IKEA's chief tech evangelist). After that meeting, I got invited to the Copenhagen IKEA Digital Festival. I was JUMPING with joy. They were able to fund my trip, making my IKEA dreams a reality.
I visited the offices in Malmo and Almhult. What I loved most about these visits was how 'full of life' and excitement people were. It was an exciting atmosphere to be in. I even got to talk to the CTO about fixing IKEA's backend systems, and digital infrastructure... talk about fun times 😍.
I also met IKEA's CDO, Barbara Martin Coppola, who has been a complete inspiration of mine.
If I had to pick one highlight from this year, this would be it.
👋 Conversation with Scott Penberthy
Oct 2019 | Toronto, Ontario
At IKEA's Digital Festival, I had the opportunity to watch Scott Penberthy's talk (he's the director of applied AI at google). Right after, I rushed to have a conversation before he left for his flight, and it turned out that he would be in Toronto in a few days. We scheduled a meeting at the TKS HQ, where ten other students and I got to have a Q&A session.
Beyond the stimulating conversation, I was excited to make experiences happen for other people. I could've had a 1:1 meeting with Scott, but I chose to share the opportunity. We got real-world advice (i.e., how to get hired @ google 😉), and it was a pivotal experience for many of us.
It's important to be helpful and support other people . I'm really grateful that I got to learn so much from Scott, and share the occasion with some of my most awesome friends.
🦄The World's Biggest Tech Conference
Nov 2019 | Lisbon, Portugal
If I were to describe my week at Web Summit in one word, it would be "intellectual."
As a speaker, I had the opportunity to hang out in the Forum (the lounge). I spent all day, every day networking and having mind-blowing conversations.
This experience solidified my learnings from my past year, and my what my ambitions are going forward. I knew that I loved the Web Summit environment (smart people that want to change the world), and I strived to continue being there.
If there's one thing that pushes me, I desire to be in high-thriving environments. And not just to "be" in them. I want to earn my spot and belong there.
🏘Building the future of housing w/ Sidewalk Labs
Dec 2019 | Toronto, Canada
One thing we do at TKS is real-world challenges with different companies. This year, we had a challenge with Sidewalk Labs. My team ended up building a recommendation around co-living, item sharing and fractional ownership to increase housing affordability in Toronto.
This was an insanely valuable learning experience for many reasons. We went into it knowing nothing about the real estate market, but very quickly got caught up.
I had a minimal network in regards to real estate and housing affordability. Still, I ended up connecting with (and having calls with) over 30 relevant people in less than three weeks!
I gained knowledge, expertise and network in such a short period. I was proud of myself.
Our recommendation might have a real-world impact! Another one of the best parts of this experience was my team. Shoutout to Anupra, Alishba, and Mishaal - you guys are fantastic, and I learned so much working with you! Making lifelong friends has been an ongoing struggle for me, but the 4 of us bonded well over this experience. We even came up with a cool name for our squad: cheaper homies 😎.