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Illuminate x Durham

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Hi everyone! My name is Michelle Kissoondass and I am a Grade 10 student at Pickering High School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about today!


What did I learn about the future in STEM and Leadership from the conference?

Throughout the day, I was able to learn about how it is important to engage ourselves in our community and how we need to create opportunities for ourselves that will make an impact. Ilona Dougherty mentioned how at the age that we are at right now our creativeness is at its peak and we tend to take more risks which can be very beneficial when it comes to making an impact. It is important to stay curious, stay respectful and remember that what we have to contribute is important. Once we stay true to ourselves, we can open more doors.


What did I learn from some of the keynote speakers?

Ilona Dougherty - Throughout Ilona's time at the conference, I learned a lot about how important it is to create opportunities that can make an impact and how we should do this while we are young. This is because our mind is at a stage where we have an advantage with coming up with and executing new ideas. Ilona reminded us that we need to stop looking at things as learning experiences but to think of those things as opportunities to innovate.


Dr. Fradin - During Dr. Fradin's time, she talked about how it is important to remember that you do not need to have people in your family that are part of STEM to be successful in the STEM field. She talked a lot about her story and the opportunities she had that landed her in the position she is in now. It was very interesting to learn about the things that she, along with her students, do research about. She also talked a lot about unconscious internalized stereotypes and how internalized stereotypes can lead to lower performance. Finally, she reminded us that we need to develop our own set of values and not let anyone define what success is for us.


Mackenzie Clark - The main focus of Mackenzie's workshop was to teach us about impostor syndrome, the effects it has on someone and how to beat it. Impostor syndrome can cause higher stress levels, a lack of self-confidence, adverse effects on aspirations and inhibiting the ability to enjoy one's success. Some ways to help beat impostors syndrome are to stop comparing yourself to others, to stop talking down on yourself and to focus on your value, not perfection. Another thing that she taught me was to take risks even if it comes to applying to a job that I am not fully qualified for. Majority of women tend to only apply for a job when they feel as though they have met all the requirements that the employer is looking for, whereas many men tend to apply once they have met at least sixty percent of the requirements. When she was in her first year of university, she applied to Google knowing that she didn't meet all the requirements and got rejected. Now, a couple years later, she has graduated from university with a job at Google after they contacted her asking if she would be interested in filling an open position that they had. It is important to not underestimate your abilities.


What did I enjoy most about the Illuminate x Durham conference?

I really enjoyed getting the chance to see how different teams interpreted the case study and all the different ideas that were presented in order to innovate healthcare. Although we were all given the same information, each group had their own unique ideas and perspectives on the case study. All groups found innovative solutions to help keep patient data encrypted and secure and all presentations were very well researched and constructed.


How am I going to apply what I learned in my future career goals and/or personal development?

In the future, I can apply what I have learned today to help me take risks and go for what I want in order to make my dreams come true. Throughout the conference it was made very clear that at this age, we have so much potential and that it makes no sense wasting it. I can use what I have learned to create opportunities for myself and motivate myself to set goals that don't limit my abilities.


It was a pleasure getting the chance to participate in this conference and expand my knowledge about the future of women in leadership and STEM!


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