The President’s Volunteer Service Award for Shubham Banerjee for the year 2018. Category: Gold under Education
I have been asked many times by parents who wanted to know more about my journey so that they can talk to their children. I think it is time to make my thoughts public so that I can simply send this article link. Coming from a high school senior; Specifically when you mix the following: a High School Student , award winning innovator, startup company founder, a professional speaker or athlete as a QB for Varsity Football; I have seen failure more often compared to success very early in my life. I have always embraced my failure with open arms and found a way to recover and learn from them. In other words , I am a teenager.
I am not those bookish kind or nerdy. I take time to understand my subjects in school. In other words, I am always a slow starter. Just because, in my mind I need to comprehend, why I am doing it, how I am going to do it. My focus has never been on cracking exams or being measured against my grades. Similar to what my football coach Hank Robertsmentioned on TV (ref: 49ers Cal-Hi Sports program). I define my own path, where I favor my life's journey as a teaching tool, continuously failing and then recovering. And I have failed a lot. But at the end of the day, my nonchalant attitude towards life gave me enough room to think deeply and recover with time and opportunities. Sometimes at the cost of making my parents really angry.
I want to describe my life (as of now) as a sum of all parts as described in the below picture. On your right , you will notice my trajectory for my soft skills development and on your left, many years of continuously trying to learn some hard skills that I love and got exposed in life. In the center , you will see the central pillar as I progressed through grades in a formal education setting.
Formal education as a central pillar
The central piece here is my formal education in school (I will be graduating from high school in 2019). This has been a central pillar in having a disciplined and structured life. Waking up everyday early to be in school on time. Following directions from my teachers and making new friends in a diverse environment. This pillar gave me avenues to learn social skills, follow a structured curriculum and make lifelong friendships. Above all, I learned about our society, structures and relationships. I am still learning and will continue to learn throughout my life.
Soft skills development
I was born in Hasselt, Belgium. As a young kid, I remember multilingual capabilities did not go well with me. I was unsure of myself when communicating. I had issues trying to switch between Flemish, French, Dutch, English and Bengali (that's what my parents speak at home). I had confidence issues. I started to be unsure of myself and stammered while talking. When we moved to San Jose, California and started to attend kindergarten, I was way behind on reading and writing capabilities as was expected at my grade level. My kindergarten teacher Ms. Burnette went above and beyond to bring me to the level by the end of the academic year. I learned and also methodically followed through with help from my teacher and from my mom at home. My confidence went up and I started to integrate better with my peers from first grade onwards. Now, fast forward to middle school. I attended a private school in San Jose. Which had focus on pure academics and encouraged the students to participate in debate. I watched the seniors of the school participate in debate competitions and how fast they spoke on different topics. With a little bit of encouragement from my mom, I signed up to be part of the team. Its an understatement to say, I failed miserably for couple of times. Now, I can't even look at those old videos. It was very bad. Then with repeated practice and help from after school mentoring, I prepared for debate competitions. After participating for couple of times , I got the hang of it and then went ahead and participated in open invitation events and represented my school. Around my 8th grade , I came within Top 25 of High School Public Forum Invitational competition and then went to win a 3rd Place at Santa Clara University Dempsey-Cronin Invitational on November 2014. Eventually in 9th grade onwards , I turned into a professional speaker and currently represented by WWSG. You can also view some of my keynote speeches on my website. Around the same time when I created Braigo , the very first live interview I gave was on CNN. You can see for yourself , how lost I was in my first live interview. But later on with time and many many more interviews, I have learned what to expect and how to give interviews. You can check many of my interviews in this link. I was unsuccessful, so many times. But the key part was, I had an open mind to absorb criticism and through self reflection , I improved. Any student, like me, needs to fail numerous times and be provided with the time to improve with more opportunities.
Hard skills development
Participation, collaboration and inquisitiveness is key in this area. I participated in my first ever science fair when I was in 3rd grade and got a participation ribbon. That was my first entry into understanding the steps of the science fair process. I followed what was asked by my teacher and came up with a board explaining to the judges. I was placed 2nd at the School Science Fair in 4th Grade - Topic was Playing video games increases hand and eye coordination. Then went on to again win 3rd Place in 5th Grade Science Fair - My motivation to think about understanding the Global warming came from - The documentary "Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore. If you look at the topics for my science fair, those were taken from my interest and day-to-day life growing up and asking questions. I did not participate in science fair in my 6th grade as I was adjusting to the demands of my curriculum and a new school environment. Also at the same time , I was focusing on picking up debating. Then in 7th grade, I developed Braigo and won 2014 Synopsis Outreach Foundation n+1 Prize for Physical Sciences - Next breakthrough in science or engineering - Synopsis Outreach Foundation (April 2014). My journey has been very well documented by both Lego and Intel. I thought at that time about the purpose of science fair. It cannot be that I win awards, create a resume and at the end don't benefit mankind. The article written by Jenn Choi , "Science fairs aren’t actually preparing your kids to do anything" is right on target. I decided to continue on my journey in creating Braigo Labs Inc. and continue on my path in making an end product. Along the way , I have won many international and national awards and recognitions and got the title of the youngest entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding for a startup. But, what many of you don't see is the struggle that went behind taking a new idea from science fair to something even bigger. I have faced many rejections and on-line hatred. But nothing deterred me from taking my journey forward. At the same time maintaining my grades and continuing my path in High School. Between 9th grade and 10th grade summer, I also landed up with a summer internship at Intel in their Healthcare Division doing analysis on human genome. That was my way to understand more about our human body and how technology could help us decode the mysteries of life. Well my science fair journey ended after my 7th grade since I was already engrossed into real life and learning things much faster and interacting with many industry veterans and researchers. I didn't care much about how my University application will look like , or am I taking the right courses to have the 4.x GPAs to get into the right University. I started to care more about my life's real learning and how I am evolving with the right motivation and with the right opportunity. I learned so many things by doing and meeting interesting people. I got the opportunity and I continued on the path that was self fulfilling for my own intellect. There is no end-goal or a calculated approach. I am just taking my life forward. Don't get me wrong, I want to go to the right University that has the environment for me to learn by giving me the environment to be curious and experiment. But in my short time, I understood, learning can happen anywhere than what my grades and test scores say about me. I encourage others of my age to take the journey that interests them without an end-goal in mind. Failing is a perfect recipe for success. Experiences that come with it is invaluable. If any of you think that getting a B is depressing, when you are a straight A student? then think differently. In real life , you need to deliver on expectations and there is no straight route to reach your goal. Real life is unforgiving, if you are a teenager like me, take your time as a teenager to handle the stress of being unsuccessful so that you can rectify your course of action quickly. Go out of your parent's shadow and safety net.
Fail and fail miserably early on in your life, so that you develop the willpower to overcome challenges by yourself. When one door closes, the other door will always open.
Here are some of my own personal thoughts. If you find sentence construction errors, or grammatical errors in this article. Thats because , I am in high school and I am still learning and not proof written for perfection by professionals. You can read more about me on my personal website www.shu.today.
This article was originally published on Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fear-failure-single-most-challenge-you-need-overcome-shubham-banerjee/
Gordon Moore influenced the creation of my generation of alternative thinkers; Where I am able to use low power, high processing speed and low cost processors to develop impactful solutions to benefit humanity. The birth of Braigo is just an example of what can be achieved at a low cost and high flexibility to develop solutions for the visually impaired. I am happy to have been able to shake hands with him in my lifetime.
Many of you may have heard about Braigo or Braigo Labs, if not, a simple "google search" will give you an idea. There are three articles that referenced me and how Braigo is evolving, "Science Fairs aren't actually preparing your kids to do anything", "Want to invent the next big thing? Think like a kid" and "10 lessons on developing ideas from Shubham Banerjee's story". This motivated me to write down my personal thoughts. I have been asked this question many times by the media over the course of one year; Why I did not stop after winning the science fair? Through this post, I am explaining my thought process and how the environment at home impacted my decision.