Alumni Spotlight – Ananya Panchal

Alumni Spotlight is where you get to meet our wonderful STEAM Summit Alumni. In the past three years, we were lucky to have influenced over 60 young girls who are aspired to become young entrepreneurs in the STEAM fields. Each year, these young girls would work in teams to come up with New Venture App ideas during a two-day STEAM Summit. At the end of the Summit, they would present their ideas in front of a panel of judges.

Through this experience, we want to encourage young girls to develop their interests in STEAM subjects as well as entrepreneurship, and to empower them to become the next generation of female scientists and women entrepreneurs.

In today’s Alumni Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to our 2014 STEAMer, 2015 Social Media Coordinator, and 2016 STEAM Mentor – Ananya Panchal.


Tell us a little more about yourself!

My Name is Ananya Panchal. I’m 16 years old, I will be a junior at Basis Independent Silicon Valley this August. I live in Los Altos California.

What was your STEAM Team’s Business and App idea?

SHAMI, An app for students, by students where high schoolers and college students can create a profile to sell and buy their used books and also just other things they wanted to purchase for lower prices or wanted to sell to make some money.

What was your best memory from the 2014 STEAM Summit?

My favorite memory is and always has been at the end of the second day when we get a cake and celebrate because at that moment it doesn’t matter who won first place and who won last place, it doesn’t matter who earned more money or who had a better idea. All that matters at that moment is that we all, a group of brilliant individuals came together and made friends and learned so much information and gained the experience of a lifetime.

What was your biggest takeaway? And what did you learn from STEAM Summit that later affected or changed you?

At these summits we learn so much more than just how to create a business plan and pitch to a panel of judges. We learn how to work as a team, how to deal with conflicts, how to compromise and how to stick with an idea that we truly believe in. But I think the most important thing, that I was able to take away from my first summit was that people WILL talk about you and what you are doing and they WILL think you are crazy, but being judged is inevitable, so you might as well do what you want, and follow your dreams because that way you get to where you want to be.

I learned that there is a difference between living and surviving and that it’s okay to fail again and again and again because that means you are trying, and you are taking risks and that you ARE living, instead of merely surviving.

What’s your dream career look like? And how are you achieving your goal?

I love writing, it has always been a huge passion of mine, so my dream job is running a successful publication that is very community oriented. I write and create not only written pieces but videos and photo journals of topics that interest me. I’m working towards achieving my goal by creating a portfolio with writing and learning computer science since that can help with creating an online publication.

Have you been criticized or stereotyped for choosing STEAM as fields of interest as a girl?

Living in Silicon valley I have never really been criticized for that because we are so fortunate but I do know that this isn’t a reality for a lot of other girls in other countries.

What is your aspiration?

I want to make a difference for people, for a community. I’m really passionate about human rights and things like LGBTQ movements and feminism and I want to create articles, photos, videos, just have a collection of media and information on these topics. I also would love to hold events where people from different cultures and backgrounds who have dealt with social issues can come and speak and share.

What is the biggest obstacle you are facing?

I think my biggest obstacle is the pressure and emphasis modern education puts on standardized testing and grades and there’s so much pressure on having perfect grades. There are so many brilliant people out there and they don’t get a chance just because they may not be super “book smart.” I honestly believe school doesn’t test intelligence, it tests obedience.

Who’s your role model?

This is a very hard question. I think my role model is my mom. She is so focused in what she does and so inspirational. Her mother passed away when she was just 16 from cancer. She moved to the country at 26 and started a life for herself. 4 Years later her Dad passed away and 12 years later, today she owns and runs a successful staffing company and has raised a family. She has won so many awards and loves what she does.

If you have one advice for the new STEAMers, what would it be?

When I came back to be a mentor and the social media coordinator, I was even more excited to return. It was great to see Haritha and Shreya and Patricia and the rest of what I like to call my “ASTRA family”!

But I was also looking forward to being back in that room at Microsoft where I could be myself and meet a ton of new girls that shared the same aspirations as me because that feeling of belonging is the best. It’s like a warm, fuzzy hug. The girls that I have met over the past three years, I know on a different level, they are so welcoming and enthusiastic and I can’t imagine creating these astra memories with any other girls. I feel so lucky to know such a driven, talented group of people who even though I may not see that often, I can still call my friends. So I guess my advice would be to stay in touch with the people you meet because they truly are amazing.

Editor’s Note: Astra is proud to share Ananya’s inspiring and empowering video on Feminism. 

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