STORY AND PHOTO BY DANA HUCH
When Los Altos sophomore Shreya Anand looked around at the names of the audience on her Zoom screen, she spotted enough “Dr.’s” and “Ph.D.’s” to “totally freak out.”
Anand was attending a conference — the Global Community Bio Summit Program, hosted by an organization focused on making STEM knowledge more inclusive and accessible — to share what she’s learned through creating her own podcast, “All About Her,” where she interviews women in the STEM field.
Anand started the podcast in June of last year, seeking guidance from women who have navigated their respective STEM fields to get where they are.
“I think I’m learning about the good and the bad of behind the scenes with each of these careers,” Anand said. “And while it’s kind of scary, it’s also opening me up to a new world of possibilities which I never imagined before.”
The list of careers in STEM is a long one, and it’s only growing longer; but most of these positions are held by men, which left her wondering what her future in STEM could look like, not just as an ambitious student, but as a girl.
Beyond discovering what she wants to do in life, Anand hopes that putting the project out into the world will inspire other girls like her.
“The only way that we can overcome challenges and disparities is by talking about them,” she said.
Anand has released eight episodes so far, each featuring a different STEM professional. Already, her guest list has included a mathematics professor, a U.S. government data scientist and a climate scientist. Hearing these accomplished women open up about their struggles, Anand said, inspired her to put herself out there and speak at the Bio Summit Program about her own perspective.
In fact, after Anand gave her talk, messages poured in from her audience, offering help to spread the word about her podcast. This was just one of the ways Anand’s project has opened avenues for developing supportive connections in the STEM community.
Opportunities to receive backing from established STEM professionals didn’t come easily, however — Anand said that at first, it took a discouraging number of cold emails with no responses to find guests. But once she had a few interviews under her belt, networking became a natural part of the process.
Nowadays, there are some weeks in which Anand has an interview every day.
As she’s gained experience, Anand has been able to loosen up from her preplanned questions and allow the conversations to flow with her guests, making room for more depth. In fact, she’s already started to receive valuable advice that she can use herself in the future.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten in all of my podcasts so far is from Dr. Catherine Pomposi,” Anand said. “She said … that you’ve found your passion when going to work stops feeling like you’re actually going to work and it starts feeling like you’re really enjoying what you’re doing.”
More than that, Anand’s noticed that all of her guests have made some form of the statement, “I’m always growing,” which is another important lesson she has taken from her podcast; despite it seeming like a large risk to shift the focus of their careers, these women see change in professional direction positively and embrace opportunities to be challenged.
And while she’s learned a lot from her guests, Anand has certainly learned quite a bit on her own. Perhaps most impressively, she had no audio production experience prior to creating the show, but blazed forward with her solo project and learned what she needed to along the way.
“I sat down with iMovie and I was just like, ‘Alright, let’s find some elevator music — let’s put this together,’” she said.
As Anand has continued to learn and grow with her podcast, she’s kept in touch with previous guests, giving updates about progress in her journey.
“[Previous guests] are still really invested in it,” she said. “Even after they’ve done an interview, they always like to see where I’ve gone and things like that. It’s just really great to see that community building up.”
In the future, she envisions the community of supportive STEM professionals she has found through the podcast expanding to be globally inclusive and help girls all over the world. Her most recent interview was with an international guest, which was a “really big step” for Anand.
Her hope, she said, is to empower girls in other countries to even create their own version of an “All About Her” podcast.
“My real way to make an impact in the STEM world could be to just be a creator and to spread information about doing research and the different aspects of STEM,” Anand said.