Friends and computer science concentrators Manasi Maheshwari and Michele Wang wanted to learn about career paths at the intersection of tech and business, but they had trouble finding the stories of people they could identify with.
“Michele and I are both Asian American women. As we started looking deeper, we found that there are actually a lot of women and people of color who are making incredible strides in tech and business, but unfortunately people don’t know as much about them,” said Maheshwari, A.B. ’21. “So we decided to create a platform to share their stories.”
The twice-monthly podcast episodes feature candid interviews with a wide range of innovators, from Ime Archibong, head of New Product Experimentation at Facebook, to Sarah LaFleur, A.B. ’06, founder and CEO of women’s professional clothing brand M.M.LaFleur.
Guests share stories of the high and low points of their professional journeys and offer practical career advice and industry-insider tips. Many guests have emphasized that their careers followed unexpected and non-linear paths, said Wang, A.B. ’21.
“Ime shared how important it is to optimize for learning when you make career choices by picking the job that enables you to learn the most about the industry you are in,” she said. “He also discussed the importance of having a north star, which is an overarching purpose that guides your career path. Having that north star can help you remain focused even if you are doing different types of work.”
For Maheshwari and Wang, it is gratifying to be able to share these words of wisdom with a larger audience. As a peer concentration advisor for computer science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and an active member in the Harvard College Consulting Group, Wang has had many inspiring mentors and wanted to pay it forward.
A podcast felt like the right medium for Maheshwari, who co-hosted a Bay Area radio show in high school and joined Harvard’s WHRB when she arrived on campus. She first got involved in computer science through a Girls Who Code chapter at her high school and appreciates the importance of mentorship. Maheshwari was president of the Harvard Computer Society, where she helped launch initiatives to foster entrepreneurship and promote social impact tech on campus, and wanted to help other college students discover their own paths in tech.
The friends began discussing the idea last spring and started working on the podcast in earnest over the summer while they were struggling with the isolation of social distancing.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, all internships were online. It can be hard for students to find out what they want to do if they’re not there physically,” Wang said. “And everyone was really isolated at this point in time. So we thought it could be a nice way to bridge the connection between people and have something to bring us together.”
They built a website and cold-emailed tech leaders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. As individuals responded, the podcasting pair leveraged the networks of their guests to find new ones.
At the same time, they began creating content for social media—distilling tips from each episode on Twitter and building Instagram infographics about topics important to tech and business. They also post book reviews and share lighthearted jokes and memorable quotes on social media to to keep their audience engaged.
“We really want our podcast to appeal to a wide range of listeners, so it is not just catered to business or computer science majors,” Wang said. “We really hope everyone, regardless of their academic and professional interests, can find something valuable in the podcast, whether it’s the concepts that our guests discuss or the life lessons they share in our conversations.”
They plan to continue featuring diverse guests who leverage tech to solve big problems in research, finance, and journalism, Maheshwari said.
To the co-hosts, the chance to interview individuals who are doing groundbreaking work is fun and inspiring. Maheshwari especially enjoyed learning about the technology behind Madison Maxey’s e-textiles company, Loomia. And Wang felt encouraged by LaFleur’s personal account of feeling imposter syndrome.
“Representation matters,” Maheshwari said. “If our listeners hear people they relate to doing incredible things, it can ideally help them feel that they can do that, too.”
Topics: Diversity / Inclusion
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