What advice would you give a 16 y/o version of yourself?

Hey! Some background for this question. I'm Taira-- a 16 y/o machine learning developer (and semi-competent full stack developer) from Toronto. I've built some projects over the past while (detecting exoplanets with AI and simulating rocket code), but I know that I've barely scratched the surface fo what it means to be a legit STEM/businesswoman. I want to change the world, and it's SO inspiring to be in this community full of crazy smart + successful wxmen, I just think I need some direction. I think that hearing advice you would give to yourselves is a good way to do that :)
A great question!!Treat people with kindness would be my advice. Very cliché, I know. But what I've learned is that, at every job that I've had since I was a teenager, there are relationships that have extended way after the job itself is over and many have become close friends, mentors, and people I trust and admire to this day.
Hi! I would tell myself not to care about what others think of me. At the end of the day, most people are focused on themselves and that's empowering. Giving yourself the freedom to be yourself & not holding yourself back are gifts. These are lessons I'm still working through at age 23. You have so much time, embrace it! :)
I would tell myself to ask more questions, not be afraid of feedback, and to participate in office politics.
Woah, wait, what? Participate in office politics? Would you care to elaborate on your experience on that?
All great advice above. I’d tell my 16y/o self that things will get better. Look after yourself, while remembering to treat everyone with the respect they deserve - learn the name of the security, catering and cleaning staff too. Always have a plan B. Back everything up before a change and have a backout plan. Dads right.... if you have the backout plan and aren’t afraid to use it, you won’t have to for the most part. Find what you like, work for it and always do your best - remember most people are doing the best that they can too. Mainframes rock!!!Wear sunscreen!
Hey @tairamehta - so wonderful to be connected! Thank you for reaching out to the community. What a great question! Looking back, here's what I'd say to my 16-year old self: - It's easy to spend your life pushing for more, more, more and in effect "waiting for it to start", but amazing things happen when you just let yourself be here now.- Nobody, no matter how old they are, "knows what they're doing". We're all, always, finding our way. - Be true to yourself. Have the courage to pursue what you want. - It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to change your mind. Back yourself. Forgive yourself. - You don't have to know all of the answers. You have nothing to prove. Life is a gift. Let yourself enjoy it. - You are worthy of love as you are, for all you are. - Pain is an important and necessary part of life, too. Your pain cannot hurt you. (I'm not sure that I'd offer her advice, because she likely wouldn't have taken it anyway. And some of life's most important lessons can only be learned through first-hand, bittersweet experience -- at least in my personal opinion!)And after all that, for you personally: you are already a legit STEM businesswoman *as you are*. You're doing great. Be kind to yourself. And let yourself have fun too! Happy to chat further if of interest. Much love!
Career, school, university and job does not define you! Make sure to have a personality and life outside of it ❤️Never make yourself more dull, smaller or more palatable for anyone who isn’t comfortable with your full authentic self. And listen to the little voice of doubt in your head when it comes to human relationships - if something feels off, it probably is.Oh and don’t drink too much alcohol, keep it moderate or don’t drink at all 😂Good luck Taira!!
#1 advice: Entrepreneurship is more about business than it is about the technology. Chances are if it's a startup, the tech isn't that advanced at all, because it has to address a current market need. So don't go down that career path if you want to work on real cutting edge tech. I think I have learned this too late as a tech entrepreneur. :( #2 advice: Oh yeah, also, at your age, not sure if this is the same for you, but for me there was A LOT of pressure to win the CWSF or get to ISEF science fairs. Don't worry about that - it's just one form of many forms to demonstrate your knowledge. Remember, it's the *work* that matters. So you can do your own projects, just like a science fair, and build up your portfolio. Going to ISEF is nice for the recognition, but when you are trying to intern at a company, they will likely go through your portfolio anyway - and the recognition is a 'icing on the cake'. So don't seek out winning the prizes, seek out continuously doing the best work possible and extending your knowledge.Taira, have you heard of TKS? I think they have scholarships, and it sounds like that would be your jam! Toronto is their main city.
Focus on more than just academics in college. I missed out on a lot of opportunities to explore things beyond the narrow "this is what I want to do for my life" area. It's okay, even good, to go off into the weeds.
I agree with this. I was very focused on my future and career. I should have applied to colleges that were further away. That said, I am super happy with where I ended up, so I am hesitant to say that I would change anything but I do wish I had applied to different colleges. I guess my advice is to not assume you are now what you will be as a adult and to consider some options that seem far flung or unlikely and give them a chance - maybe a college that is far away, or an elective that isn't at all what you think you are interested in. Explore a little.
Id tell myself the following: Life operates on a different set of rules than school. It's rarely sequential and it's a lot less egalitarian and fair than school. Achievement and success are different things to different people and it's OKAY. Have more fun and enjoy the journey and it' uncertainties. It's okay to not know what you're doing and to not have a plan.Whenever possible, treat people kindly. You have no idea what their journey has been like. If possible, lift others up without the expectation of reciprocation. There is room for all of us at the top.
I would tell 16 year old me (though she wouldn't have listened):- Have more fun, work less.- Care less about your GPA and more about what you're actually learning/building in class. GPA only matters up until your first job out of college-- the knowledge is for life.- Make bad decisions. Do the stupid, risky, impulsive things. All of the best things I have in my life today are a result of a stupid, risky or impulsive decision. Now is the time, when you don't have to support yourself or other people yet.- The moment you think you have it all figured out, is the moment you have it the LEAST figured out. The older you get and the more you learn, the more you'll realize how little you know, and how you have no idea what you actually want to do with your life. This is amazing-- embrace it, instead of fearing it.- Smile a lot. Everyone's just doing their best. Plus, it's good for your brain :)I have no doubt from your post that you are going to be a wildly successful woman in STEM and business. Becoming a happy, fulfilled and self-loving one is a much longer, more difficult journey, and infinitely more important."Success is not greedy, as people think, but insignificant. That is why it satisfies nobody." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
- Finances: Start investing now and understand investing basics (including retirement savings). I was great with budgeting, but if I weren't, I would advocate to really get a handle on budgeting first.- Personal: Invest in childhood relationships after you graduate from high school. My husband and I both have realized how important our childhood friendships have become in our later years.- Spiritual: Treat everyone with respect (and take the higher road when they don't reciprocate) and learn how to manage emotions (specifically anger).- Professional: Don't just try to get good grades, but really understand the material you're learning and set good studying/working habits now. If you focus on understanding the material and being disciplined about what you have to turn in, that'll set you up for the habits you carry on into college and beyond.
Hi Taira,I would say to myself don’t be afraid of anything including challenges. Surround yourself with positive, same minded people who are on the same page as you!
Taira, I’m 27. I remember at your age when I received advice from anyone who didn’t match my 16 year old definition of success, I sort of wrote it off. Totally ok if you write this one off too :)You see a lot of people in this forum are talking about treating yourself kindly, following the things you enjoy, treating others kindly, etc. Its not merely because you happened to get a bunch of softies in this thread, but rather...A lot of badass women have learned a LOT in life, and there are patterns! I personally entered the working world with a fire and ambition for success. Over time, after diving deep into the entrepreneurial community at college, working on amazing projects at Amazon post college, and then starting my own company, I realized that promotions, awards, recognition, and innovative projects alone did not fill my entire cup as a human being! Anyway, with that context aside, I’d tell my 16 yr old self:1. It’s ok and great to get obsessed with a passion, but don’t be an asshole and judge others for not being obsessed also. You should ACTIVELY try to keep your friends who have different interests. You won’t regret it five, ten years down the line. 2. If you come from money or have a safety net ( I did ), its best to realize early on that gives you a lot of freedom and leeway to take risks and dive deep. Not everyone has this privilege. Use with care and be aware that not everyone has the same boost! Be generous. 3. Like another commentor said, wear sunscreen! We live in a society where women get judged for their beauty and youth, and we come to internalize’s hard to avoid! Sunscreen is cheaper than other forms of beauty retention ;) 4. Be critical of the systems that you’re interested in. If you want to work in tech, investigate the negative side effects of hyper growth in tech and capitalism. This of course can come later when you’re older, but it’s worth developing this context, and I’m soooo happy I have a fuller view of the system I work in today.