By Riya Thakkar, Lead Applications Engineer and Functional Safety Manager, Sensata Technologies India, and SWE Ambassador to Pune, India.
Last July, when I got the news of being elected as one of the SWE Ambassadors, I was on a vacation with my best friends. One of them inquisitively asked me “So WHAT do SWE Ambassadors do?” Little did I know that with the Ambassador role, I had the power to create an impact and give back to the community and country at large.
Fast forward to today, we just finished TechFix (my Ambassador project), an exciting design innovation competition organized for engineers across India. TechFix 2018 included an ideation phase where students were asked to work on providing sustainable and innovative solutions towards bicyclists issues. We insisted on team participation with diversity (i.e., teams with different genders, colleges, and streams) and encouraged students to take help from our mentors (from Devise Electronics).
Back to how it all started, it really was this simple question from my best friend. The question was enough for me to go around and ask for what projects were available for me to lead and give back. After a lot of research and help from my mentors/peers, bicycle was decided to be the project for 2017-2018. There were several doubts amongst people I discussed the idea with in terms of future, feasibility, and finance. However, my co-founder Aditi and I were confident that we are going to make this happen. Does that mean we never saw failures? On the contrary, we failed in every possible way in terms of website development, sponsorship, marketing, core team retainment, finding right partners, etc. So, how did it work out in the end and what are the lessons for young people who dream to make a difference? The shorter version to my answer is start with “YOU” and start “NOW”. The long version includes my top 3 lessons learnt which I would like to share below.
Work on your “WHAT” before you approach people for their help
This might sound like the most obvious and simple lesson, but believe me it’s not. It is actually a big part of your sales pitch. Remember, when you are asking for help from someone, you are basically selling your idea. For the person to buy in, they need to know the background & context of the idea and your expectations. Otherwise, you will end up with delay, frustrations, and stress. So, next time you ask your volunteer to lead event management team or ask your editor friend to edit sponsorship template, be sure to research & provide solid relevant inputs.
Let your work speak for yourself
There will be times when your project is not doing so well in meeting deadlines and the end is not so visible. During these tough times, your well wishers including your family and friends might advise you to cut it off and end it. While there is no disgrace or shame in ending projects going nowhere, it will work out if you have an intuition and self-belief. From my personal experience, I would suggest you to better hang in there and put your head down to work on it tirelessly. Do not wait for weeks to explain it to them ‘why it would work out?’ or ‘why you would like to continue?’. When the results will arrive, they will know why you chose the other path.
If one Plan does not work, change the plan but never the goal
This is one of my most favorite quotes and I strongly believe and adhere to it. We learnt the gist of it hard way when we were working on website development for TechFix. It seemed that we got unlucky twice during the development and days went by without major progress. Due to technical issues with the website, we were losing student’s interest and registrations. Something had to be done and done quickly to reach our final Ideation phase deadline. We had missed deadlines in the past but not this time. We found out alternate means of using several free and paid social media services and student competition platforms and managed to stay relevant for students. We actively kept on changing our reachout tools and ensured that we were on radar of innovative students. So, at the end we did not change our goal of maximum student participations till a specific date, but ended up changing the way we got there.
Today, I am happy to share that we have received registrations from 52 students of 11+ different states in India. Out of which, 31 students with their respective teams have submitted their ideas for evaluation. As I am writing this, our judges are evaluating ideas to crunch out the top 3 winners. So, next time when I meet my best friend as we stay in different countries, I am going to proudly say, “Ambassadors help to make the world around them a greener, healthier, and traffic-free place.”
In the meantime, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to SWE, Aditi, Stueti,Paul, TechFix volunteers, judges, Devise Electronics team, and my family and friends for believing in me and guiding me through the journey of giving back!