The Importance of Mentorship for Young Women in STEM

Enjoy this guest post, written by Avery Phillips. – Kimberly

There’s a very big, and very important, conversation happening right now around the technology sector. Women are embracing their truths, speaking out, and bringing awareness to the various serious problems that plague male-majority industries.

It’s a conversation that has been long overdue, and it’s bound to lead to some overwhelming changes within the technology (and any other) industry. And it’s certainly true that dismantling the toxic behavior embedding within Silicon Valley culture will help reshape the diversity of the workplace. However, there are other issues still preventing women and people of color from joining the technology field. Continue reading

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Young Community Volunteer Makes a Difference with Autistic Children through Music by Nithya Tippireddy

Whenever we would go to India, my mom would take us to her friend’s house. That friend, who was affected with a form of muscular dystrophy, could only move her feet. I remember first visiting her 10 years ago; a shy and naive seven-year-old, I hid behind my mom, staring mortified at her distorted features.

Concerned about the resistance I showed towards this friend, my mother encouraged me at fourteen to volunteer at FCSN, a special needs center, hoping to increase my exposure to the disabled community. I recall being nervous my first day, completely unsure how to react when engulfed by meandering kids who were flapping their wrists and incoherently asking my name. Asked one day to help a young autistic girl use the restroom, I stifled my initial horror at this request and led her inside, soon realizing that yelling instructions from outside the stall doesn’t work.

Despite initial resistance, I opened up with further visits. As I worked with these children, I noticed their impatient expressions and hurried nods, indicating that they understood me perfectly but just couldn’t respond verbally. I was determined to find a solution to break the communication barriers that afflict the autistic community.

I realized the power of music as a tool of self-expression and communication after helping out with the annual drama play. I witnessed the perfect sense of pitch and rhythm that these students had, and I stood awestruck by how beautifully they joined together, each playing by ear. Their potential inspired me, and I started and taught a music program at FCSN to bring these passionate but often-neglected children comfort, patience, and musical knowledge gained from my ten years of violin playing.

As the lessons progressed, I saw their bodies move to the rhythm–however boisterously or gently–and their previously-screened states surface as their eyes closed with the melody. I finally gave them a voice, redefining language through music. At our first recital, parents were stunned. They saw their children, who had never spoken a single word in their lives, suddenly releasing all their confined emotion through that small, wooden fiddle.

The music program started with just violin instruction, but seeing my progress, others were inspired to join. It has slowly expanded to piano and singing lessons as well. I initially worked with one student, and we’ve now expanded to four instructors and 25 children. I track the music schedule, organize our performances, and regularly discuss our progress through informal emails and monthly meetings.

The musical engagement in these lessons goes far beyond self-expression to greatly enhancing the children’s social skill set, allowing them greater concentration and eye contact. Children sing repetitious songs and simultaneously tap drums with shocking results. After a year of lessons, Kate uttered her first word. And it wasn’t just her. Other students began speaking, and we continued to refine our songs, adding useful phrases and social cues that greatly help their development and coherence.

I see the impact I’ve made on this community. I focused on opportunities for them to express themselves and engage with their world in ways they couldn’t before. Witnessing students transform during violin class or say “mom” for the first time motivates me to further explore the effects of music therapy and the human brain to better the lives of disabled individuals.

During my Freshman Biology, I had discovered my passion: neuroscience. I grasped the concept of neurotransmission. I saw that within microseconds, the human brain could send a signal to each and every cell, tissue, and organ in the body.   

My interest in the brain grew with my volunteer and research experiences. I was exposed to the human aspect of neuroscience as I worked with autistic children, visualizing their symptoms and behaviors. Researching at UC Berkeley this summer, I studied mouse models to investigate how slight neural microdeletions cause autistic symptoms. I observed the genetic mutations under the microscope and recalled the special needs children I work with. A slight shift in their genetic code produces this life-altering disability.

Volunteering at St. Rose Hospital, a safety-net for the low income population, I feel grateful as I use my knowledge and services to aid and comfort patients. As a neurologist, I will further help underserved communities and continue to uncover what makes humans such complex and unique individuals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nithya Tippireddy is a high school student in Silicon Valley.  She wants to be a neurologist to help many underserved communities globally.

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Scientist Comedian Finds an Algorithm to Bringing Laughter to the World by Vidushi Somani

I stood in front of hundreds of people, worrying that the microphone would slip out of my sweaty hands. Suddenly, my throat swelled up, and my chest became heavy. I took a moment to reflect on how I’d ended up on this stage. This was different from anything I had done before.

For years, I had entertained my parents with stories from school and accents I picked up. My parents would hang on every word, laughing hard. Then they would invite me to perform in front of their friends. Embarrassed at first, I became more comfortable the more my audience laughed. Soon, I was making up stories on the spot, coming up with new ways to embellish and exaggerate to get people howling with laughter. Almost every week, I’d find a new family to entertain.

But this was different.

Watching YouTube videos inspired me to expand my audience to more than just my parents and their friends. So, I made my own videos. What began as my random ramblings in front of a camcorder in the living room grew into fully-scripted, elaborate videos. I spent hours recording and editing my creations before finally posting them online. As the views and positive comments rolled in, I felt a thrill of accomplishment; every time someone complimented me on my videos, my self-confidence soared higher and higher.

But this was different.

Public speaking wasn’t new to me. I felt comfortable talking in front of people during school presentations or theater performances. I’d danced in front of thousands of people many times before. I usually jump at the chance to make new friends, eagerly engaging people of all kinds in conversation wherever I go.

But this was different.

With hundreds of people staring at me, my head filled with doubts. What if they didn’t laugh? What if they hated me? I couldn’t re-record or go to my room. I had to be spontaneous and lively right now. I took a deep breath, wiped my hands, and just began talking. As the laughter heightened, my body loosened, my voice became louder, and I got sillier. It didn’t matter if someone didn’t laugh or if a joke didn’t work. It happens. I can never be perfect. But if I make even one person laugh, I know I have succeeded.

Being a comedian is a lot like being a scientist. I design jokes–my experiments–and test them, changing words and punchlines–the variables–when they don’t work. As a comedian, I spend months coming up with ten minutes of material. As a scientist, I wonder if I can design an computer algorithm that produces jokes to stimulate laughter for a target audience. I want to work at the intersection of the brain and computers, developing artificial intelligence to bring laughter to the world.

A major in neuroscience or computer science would allow me to turn my ideas into true inventions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Vidushi Somani is a high school senior in Silicon Valley.  She has her own Youtube channel with 80k views –

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Your Credit Impacts More Than You Think

Contributed article in our career series. Enjoy! – Scrappy Kimberly

When was the last time you checked your credit status? If it’s been more than six months to a year, you may want to make this a priority. Though it may not seem like a big deal at the moment, as companies begin to become increasingly dependent upon credit to determine eligibility for products and services, a poor credit history could mean the inability to get even some of the most basic things.

Don’t believe it? Here’s how a negative credit rating can impact your life. Continue reading

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Complex Systems View at the Emergence of Communication from Cells to Societies

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

The unifying theme of this book is that communication is an underlying fabric of life, as fundamental as matter and energy are to our world and, more importantly, to our understanding of the world.  This book is also a non-exhaustive account of interesting, out of pattern communication and social behaviors that we can observe in animals, or in the biological world; among us, humans, and between us humans and other species.

While we know that communication is fundamental to life, in any form or shape it comes on our planet, the goal of this book is to show that there are aspects of communication that can be universal and transferable from one species to another and that it is what enables collective behavior in social animals and humans. At the same time, there are aspects of communication that are unique to each species or ecosystem, that communication has evolved both alongside the genetic evolution, the social evolution that is characteristic to a subset of living species, and the cultural evolution that is characteristic not only to humans, but also to whales, dolphins, primates, elephants, and many more.

Continue reading

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3 Tips for Women Entering the Welding Field

Contributed article in our career series. Enjoy! – Scrappy Kimberly

Fields like welding can seem challenging for women. While it does have its fair share of challenges, times are changing and more and more women are considering a career in welding. You may have to navigate a bit differently if you want to prevent incidents and perform to the best of your abilities. With that in mind, here are three tips for women entering the welding field. Image Ref: Royalty Free Photo

Have the Right Protective Gear

Women have different frames than man. Not only are they often shorter and lighter, but their hands also tend to smaller. Continue reading

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4 Wardrobe Hacks for Female Entrepreneurs

When you work in a large corporation you’ll likely follow a dress code, so a few variations on classic outfits can keep you looking professional for years. But when you leave this world behind to go self-employed, a sudden fashion crisis often accompanies the many other challenges of working for yourself. So here are four wardrobe hacks for female entrepreneurs that will restore your sense of style. Continue reading

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When My Personal Finances Almost Ruined My Dream Job By Avery Taylor Phillips

I have always been a spendy person. I love to shop (who doesn’t?), and I love to pretend like I can afford that $800 couch I saw on Apartment Therapy. If you give me a credit card, it doesn’t take long for me to fill it up.

Well, when my side-hustle started to pick up steam, I thought I was well on my way to being a professional artist. Sales were increasing, profits were almost matching the income I was making at my day job, and it seemed like my ideal job working for myself was just over the horizon.

Unfortunately, my habits soon caught up with me. This is the story of how I found out (the hard way) that my personal finances ruined my dream job.

Continue reading

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A Book to Restore Hope . . .

Hi! I am Shalini Trefzer, the (first-time) dreamer, writer, and author of The broken gods, now available on Amazon Kindle. Many, many years ago, this book started off as a collection of poems I wrote during a challenging period. Then, the more I wrote, the more I realized that stories are a powerful way to help us identify with people and circumstances very different from us and ours. Which seems like a good thing for the world and times in which we live. Even though the genre I chose was fiction, I have written the book from the perspective of technologists, of whom, I am one. The journey of the characters starts in the Silicon Valley and the rest, I invite you to explore for yourself!

In the book are many projects and initiatives which can be (and in some cases, are being) run to help our world. If one of them grabs your fancy, please reach out to me to explore potential collaborations.

With love and gratitude, from Basel, Switzerland. – Shalini Trefzer

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A New Era of Corporate Social Responisibility

Today, socially responsible companies tend to attract more consumers as well as the best talent, according to a 2015 global corporate social responsibility (CSR) study by Cone communications, a public relations and marketing company headquartered in Boston, NY. The study revealed that consumers are increasingly demanding companies do more to address global social issues (including gender and other diversity inequities), as well as environmental issues. Specifically, 90% of the consumers who took part in the study said they have come to expect companies to participate actively in CSR activities while 84% said they actively seek out responsible products. See the infographic below for all of the details.

To learn more, check out the infographic above created by Norwich University’s Online MBA program.

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