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 – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_P9-DU9KF4bLqlemA4kdEQ

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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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Time Management Quiz: Do You Have Time for This? Rate Yourself by Kathryn McKinnon

Time Management Quiz: Do You Have Time for This?
Rate yourself on your ability to accomplish the following:

I have time for creative or strategic thinking.
I stay focused on one thing at a time.
I have time to do what I enjoy most.
There is meaning and significance to my work and my life.

I feel connected to my company’s mission and purpose.
I am connected to my own life’s purpose.
I have opportunities for learning and growth.
I have time to do my best work.
I minimize interruptions and distractions.
I schedule time for my highest priorities.
I have systems in place to manage my time successfully.
I stay positive throughout the day.
I maintain a sense of energy throughout the day.
I understand what it takes to be successful at my job.
I balance my work and personal life.
I disengage from work.
I build healthy boundaries with my time.
I manage perfectionism and minimize procrastination.

If you don’t have the ability to accomplish the items from this Quiz, then what do you have time for and how do you spend your time?

Demand for our time is exceeding our capacity, draining us of the energy we need to bring our skills, talents and sense of purpose to our lives. Increased competitiveness, a leaner work force and a requirement to do more with less are adding to the pressures. The rise of digital technology is exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests we feel compelled to respond to 24/7.

The truth is that we always have time for what’s most important to us. How do you  prioritize your day?

If you can’t accomplish as much as you want, especially when time and quality are of the essence, begin by tracking your time to notice how you’re prioritizing your work and tasks. You’ll start to notice patterns and unproductive habits, what distracts you, what interrupts you, the choices you’re making with your time and what gets you off track. Once you know this, you can begin to make better choices with your time. If you don’t track your time, you’ll never know what’s getting in the way of your productivity.

Or if you’re Stressed, Frustrated and Overwhelmed…

…You’re not sure how to get started, and you’re ready for executive coaching, I’d love to be the one you reach out to for help solving your time management issues and challenges.

Contact me at support@Kathryn-McKinnon.com for a complimentary Discovery Session to identify your biggest time management issue and uncover steps you can take to solve your issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathryn McKinnon, a Harvard Business School and Fortune 500 Executive Coach, Time Management Expert, Bestselling Author of Triple Your Time Today on Amazon, Speaker, Seminar Leader and CEO of McKinnon & Company dedicated to helping executives, professionals and business owners reduce the chaos and stress, add order and structure to the day, boost energy and explode productivity to achieve the best results with your time. https://www.Kathryn-McKinnon.com

 

 

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Women in Business – The Legal Art of Self-Defense

Contributed article in our Women’s Health series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

There was a time when women were called the “weaker sex” or the “fairer sex,” both implying that she was too weak to do much about defending herself if the need should arise.

Royalty Free Photo

Things have changed greatly in the past few decades and women are now better armed than many men and can fend for themselves with the right set of ‘tools.’ If you are a woman in business, chances are at some point in your career some ill-advised robber will try to attack you for perceived money or goods they think you might be carrying. Why not focus on learning the totally legal art of self-defense? Continue reading

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Introducing Siren Song California … for a Sound Life

Founders Captain Charles Buckner and his very scrappy First Mate, Dr Diane Pennica (inventor of Genentech’s Heart Attack and Stroke drug t-PA, have together launched Siren Song California, a Community Outreach Program in Southern California. Visit their website at http://sirensongca.org/.

Siren Song California’s mission is to leverage the extensive boating network in Southern California to provide a free day of sailing on the ocean (Sound Life Event) to health-challenged individuals, their families and caregivers, and youth development organizations (Siren Song’s VIPs).  Sponsors help provide the boats and meals needed for the VIP Sound Life events.

Captain Charles & First Mate Diane

VIP organizations include Southern California hospitals, veterans groups, human services and local youth development groups.  Sound Life Events are scheduled to start in April, 2017, and support VIPs from Olive Crest olivecrest.org and the Marine Corps League – Southcoast Detachment.

The First Annual Siren Song Regatta will be held off Dana Point Harbor, with four VIP Sound Life Boats included in the race, followed by a VIP awards/recognition ceremony and dinner for all racers and Siren Song sponsors at the Dana Point Yacht Club.

Additional Sound Life events are being scheduled throughout the year.  These events will culminate with a Year-In-Review Banquet to share VIPs’ experiences and highlight planned events for the coming year.  The banquet will include the Founder’s Award presentation to recognize Siren Song’s most active and generous contributor(s).

Siren Song California … for a Sound Life

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My Scrappy and Resilient – Driving Strong Results Discovery by Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy

 

A few months back I received an invitation to explore an opportunity (I call it my “shiny object”) to join a Private Equity firm’s platform company as their Chief Financial Officer. The role seemed to meet many of my criteria for great jobs in my career, but most importantly it also had a very high degree of challenge and learning opportunities. I felt that my entire career had led me to this opportunity, and I was confident enough to give it my all.

The first step was an interview with the CEO and several key stakeholders. This was a lengthy process that included several phone interviews, in-person meetings and traveling to meet several board of director members at the firm’s headquarters.

As part of the process I completed various assessments. I’ve done many of these in the past, and have embraced the opportunities for self-awareness that they offer.  But something was different this time. This was the first time that I was scheduled to meet with a consultant as part of the assessment, “the guy from Boston” hired to form an opinion about my ability to meet the requirements of the CFO role.

It makes sense that an investment firm would want to do this kind of research before they make a substantial investment in such a key position. Naturally they’d want to know what kind of professional they are getting.

Fast forward a couple of months . . . on a Friday afternoon I was advised that the investment firm decided to pass on both of the two final candidates, including myself.  Ouch! The “shiny object” was gone. Gone, gone, gone. It was a moment where rejection and self-doubt overwhelmed me.

I was alone in my car driving around aimlessly when I decided to just park. As I sat there I decided to challenge my thinking and acknowledge my emotions. The great thing about embracing the fact that I felt rejected and incompetent was the deeper connection to the many “Why’s?”. I felt an irresistable need to find wisdom in this experience.

Days later, after I had time to process and understand how this experience was going to add value to my journey, I decided to reach out to “the guy from Boston” for feedback. He had met with me in Florida a month prior, and after four and a half hours of intense questioning about my life journey, he had drafted a report for the investment firm. He agreed to a call to debrief with me his assessment.

And this is where my scrappy discovery took place. The headline of his report to the investment firm described me as: “Scrappy and Resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds”

Scrappy, what did he just called me? I’m scrappy? I was referred to as “scrappy” by a perfect stranger, and this was his professional opinion that he shared with a group of investment professionals! Is that even professional?!!

This man just met me, and after four and a half hours he concluded that I was scrappy. “Scrappy” was not what I had in mind as I put on my business jacket, my best watch, and arrived with confidence to meet the consultant from Boston sent to assess my ability to deliver results.

Many experiences have had a great impact in my life and the day I was called a “scrappy one” is one of those. The more I thought about it the more wisdom I found in this scrappy word. A quick google search for the definition of scrappy yielded synonyms such as feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent, dogged, aggressive, and forceful. Dictionary’s provided the following definitions:

“Having a strong, determined character, and willing to argue or fight for what you want” – Cambridge English Dictionary

“A person who is little, but can really kick some ass” – Urban Dictionary (Yikes!)

I thought I would be clever and write about how impactful this word was to me, but then I discovered an entire website with the intention of connecting scrappy women to each other. Led by Kimberly Wiefling, the founder of scrappywomen.biz, here I found a bunch of women who were unapologetic about being scrappy! I couldn’t stop smiling when I found an entire community of other remarkable, inspirational businesswomen who are not afraid to share their scrappy wisdom with others.

During the past few years I have spent a significant amount of time learning about my role as a servant leader and my effectiveness as a conscious leader. I’ve deeply considered my ability to understand the world around me and my ability to make an impact. Here’s what I am absolutely sure of . . . that there is so much more I still have to learn! And nothing excites me more than looking forward to spending the rest of my life learning – learning from others, learning from past struggles, from success, and most importantly from failures. There is so much wisdom in each moment, and every experience we are given is an opportunity for growth.

I am a businesswoman, and an entrepreneur at heart. I’m sure I was born with a shovel in my hand so that I would be ready to assist my father in mixing concrete when necessary. Ever since I can remember I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was simple to me, “I love construction and playing with the cash register.” I wanted to be a top financial executive of a construction firm! I lived my dream for many years, and my heart still wears a hard hat. That heart with a hard hat is eager to explore the next steps and bigger challenges.

After 20 years of a successful progressive career as a finance executive in the construction industry, and most recently CFO of a large national electrical contractor, I have decided to pause for a moment. I am determined to take the time I need to search deep within myself in order to align the second half of my career with my personal values and purpose. As someone in a field and a role where certainty and risks are constantly being evaluated, defined, measured and accounted for, I have decided to embrace uncertainty and take a risk in order to build a legacy of which my children will be proud. This journey is not shaped by a new job or even a well-defined business plan at the moment. It is a fluid process filled with wisdom and inspiration from many sources.

Today I have chosen to challenge my lifelong thinking of what I had previously assumed success looks like. I’m not sure what the future holds, but one thing is certain in a world full of uncertainty – when you are scrappy, you work very hard and will deliver against all odds! I am committed to continue to be a scrappy woman in business with a big servant heart. And I’m thankful to “the guy from Boston” for sharing his feedback.

For many years now I set my intentions for the year around three words to live by.

In 2017 I’m committed to these 2 words: Create, Connect and be Inspired.

I look forward to continuing to serve the industry I love while creating a legacy for my children, intentionally connecting with the community around me, and finding the wisdom and inspiration in each moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marielle Rodriguez Mundy was the former CFO of Miller Electric Company.  She is a business professional, who is scrappy and resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds!!  Currently, she started her new venture, she consults for a family own business assisting with strategy oversight, exit and ownership transition from the CFO perspective.

Mariellie R. Mundy, CPA, MBA
The Mariellie Mundy Company
Mmundy@marielliemundy.com
904-608-0080 

 

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WHY PUT ON A SHOW IN THESE TURBULENT TIMES? by Pamela Rose


As if spending two years researching, writing, collaborating and rehearsing with extraordinary artists wasn’t challenging enough, lately I’ve been dogged with the question  – why bother, in these turbulent times, to ‘put on a show’?

BLUES IS A WOMAN is a story I can honestly say that I’ve been driven to tell.  The fierce, audacious voices of women in the blues have always inspired me – and of course, carries on the mission of the Wild Women of Song project to honor key women in music.
I began my career as a blues singer: a teenager belting out Bessie Smith and Koko Taylor songs. The fierce, independent messages written and sung by powerful women, helped shape my own identity as a feminist — especially in the mostly-male world of live music in the early 1980’s.

What I did not imagine was just how RELEVANT it all has turned out to be. In Act 2 of BLUES IS A WOMAN, the ensemble turns an eye to post WW2 music and culture.  Everything was changing so fast – as soldiers returned home from the war, there was an uneasy feeling that somehow things should, but wouldn’t, go back to the way they used to be.  Lots of women didn’t want to give up that factory job.  Proud black soldiers couldn’t stomach being called ‘boy’ again.

It was a tectonic shift in American culture – as Aretha sang “Respect” and “Freedom”, protestors took to the streets for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  Nina Simone’s “Backlash Blues” is an extraordinary cry against political hypocrisy.

Why put on a show about women and the blues?  Well, as it turns out, there couldn’t be a more important time to remember and celebrate our cultural inter-connectedness.  It turns out this is exactly the right time to celebrate black culture, it’s importance to all popular music, and to hear the voices of powerful women.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Pamela Rose is a professional musician: vocalist, bandleader, songwriter and educator. While performing weekly in the Bay Area, Rose has also been touring nationally with the Wild Women of Song project, a concert series devoted to giving voice to remarkable women in American music.

Upcoming shows:
Thurs Feb 2 – Angelica’s Redwood City, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Thurs Feb 16 – BLUES IS A WOMAN show debut – Kuumbwa Jazz Club, Santa Cruz, 7:00 pm
Thurs March 2 – Angelica’s Redwood City, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Thurs March 30 – BLUES IS A WOMAN CD Release and concert – Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, 8:00 pm
www.bluesisawoman.com
www.pamelarose.com
prosesong@gmail.com

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How to Extract Prejudicial Data from a Political Survey by Yael Ben-Shachar?

How can you extract prejudicial data from a political survey? That was the challenge I faced when I began my summer internship with Tobias Konitzer of the Stanford Communications Department. At first, I was unsure about how a mathematician like myself could contribute to a study about politics. But I was both surprised and delighted to find out that math was the secret ingredient in solving the problem.

Before digging into the work itself, I first had to master a challenging statistical program called “R”, which would play a major role in helping us squeeze bias out of existing poll results.  I also had to learn the ins-and-outs of a proprietary algorithm that Tobi had developed for collecting and organizing large-scale data quickly and accurately.

Still, I had my questions about what we were attempting to do. I asked the project head: “How can polls be biased when the data is a reflection of the people being polled? And, if there is bias, how are we supposed to ferret it out?”

“Most people view polls or surveys as sources of scientifically-developed data,” Tobi explained. However, the history of political polling tells us otherwise because results frequently underperform our expectations. For example, pollsters were far off-base in the recent Brexit vote by British citizens. Furthermore, while the average national results of the Obama vs. Romney presidential election were largely accurate, many individual polls were consistently wrong.”

“If polling is a science, how could so many polls provide contradictory results, and how could polls such as those in the United Kingdom be so far off the mark?” I asked.

Tobi had the answer: “Bias of one form or another is often built into the polling instruments themselves,” he told me. “Such bias can result from the choice of questions posed by pollsters, how those questions are phrased, the groups that are selected for the sample, the size of the sample, and whether polls are self-selected or randomly selected in a scientific manner by a third party.”

Now, this project was getting interesting, and Tobi had my full attention.

The goal of my summer internship at Stanford was to use “R” to mathematically strip all possible bias out of a poll for the upcoming presidential election, and thus produce a more accurate result. The data we used was biased towards one side of the political spectrum because the poll was published on a website viewed almost exclusively by voters who shared that point of view. I used the algorithm to manipulate big data sets containing demographic data for both Republicans and Democrats. Then, I put my math skills to work, using the “R” program to squeeze out biases. After a substantial amount of work, we began to see different results, and my concerns about our ability to actually find and remove bias faded.

Several weeks into the project, I was thrilled to find that the polling data began to shed its built-in favoritism and actually lean towards the opposite side of the political spectrum, as was reflected in more well-regarded polls. With additional work, the data would eventually contain almost no bias, making the polling much more objective and reliable.

Although the results we were seeking seemed anti-intuitive at first, it turned out that the meticulous process we used, helped along by my love of and expertise in math, could achieve what had seemed impossible when we began. Additionally, I realized that I had developed a new skill set using the “R” program and Tobi’s algorithm for data collection and analysis. These skills could have applications in many other areas, including data gathering for school assignments, or analyzing future polling results.

I now realize that our work could have a genuine impact on the accuracy of critical information and that math could be even more powerful than I thought. Meanwhile, I’ve personally learned to take most polling data with a grain of salt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yael Ben-Shachar is a senior at a Silicon Valley High School. Volunteers for Boys and Girls Club teaching students math and reading skills and training other volunteers. Works with special needs children, specifically a boy with autism all year.
Learned how to squeeze prejudicial data out of large polls using sophisticated statistical programs at Stanford.
She is a Journalist for her school newspaper.

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