Sanskriti Deva was very young when she realized the power of technology and her own curiosity. Born in India, she lived all over the world before she ended up where she now considers home, North Carolina. Before she was even in the 5th grade she became the radio host for the Voice of India, a radio show that aired every Sunday to thousands of listeners where she promoted Bollywood music and Asian culture. When she was in the 8th grade, she did an award-winning project on time travel in which she proved it was mathematically possible to go into the future, using relativity. She didn’t stop there, she then created a trash can that automatically sorts out your recyclable and compost items using image processing. Next, she worked on a biodegradable water bottle, an app that scans your food items and tells you what’s in them, and several other products. She was awarded prizes for her computer-based model on how to make nuclear energy completely sustainable by using a beta-decay model and a different uranium isotope. Sanskriti is now also an advocate for women and minorities and has worked with her local city council, mayor, and state house of representatives to spread awareness about public policies. She has gotten the opportunity to go to the White House and talk to national leaders about diversity in technology and she was recognized by her district superintendent at the State of Our Schools event for her many achievements and contributions, and was the youngest person ever to be recognized. Sanskriti has won NC Woman of the Year in Technology in 2018 for all her efforts. She is now a junior at the prestigious North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics where she is continuing to pursue research and her businesses like Eclect Inc. She has recently started a nonprofit called InventSTEM with her classmate to motivate minorities and those who are in rural areas to pursue technology and higher education. We got the chance to talk to this accomplished 17 year old girlboss and ask her about herself, technology, and the future.
- Let’s start from the beginning, how did you get into the fields of entrepreneurship and technology?
Ever since I was little, I really liked creating things, and always found myself wondering about how the world works, and how I could make it better. I remember doing things like trying to create outrageous inventions from the different toys I had. I didn’t realize then that what I was doing was engineerings and research. As I grew older, I learned more about these fields and learned that they were a passion of mine. Just like I did when I was younger, I started inventing things, but this time they actually worked and weren’t just toys. As I started to get patents on inventions, the business side of it came into play, and through experience I learned that I really enjoyed that too. I just followed my interests until now and found myself in the field of entrepreneurship and technology doing something that I really love. I love being able to create things through technology to impact people in a positive way.
- What would you tell a little girl somewhere who wants to get into the field of tech like you?
To go for it! As a girl I felt kind of intimidated going into technology because it’s such a male dominated field, and I didn’t really have someone that looked like me in it, but that’s exactly why we need more girls and minorities in technology. I would tell her to follow her passions and not give up. Oftentimes, people will underestimate you because you’re a girl, but don’t let that get to you, prove them wrong. And also, reach out to other women who are already in the field, you’ll find a wonderful community of women who would love to help, including myself. Focus on doing the action, don’t worry about success or failure, and just keep trying.
- To follow up on that, you’ve been an avid advocate for diversity in technology, what’s the importance of this?
Technology, like any other field, is one that should be diverse because diversity in a field allows for a wider variety of ideas to be created. We’re talking about diversity in gender, age, culture, religion, race, socioeconomic background, etc. Technology is a field in which diversity is important because it requires problem solving, and if we don’t have a group of diverse professionals with different worldviews and backgrounds a lot of problems will be neglected or solved not to their best extent. For e.g, a group of men probably can’t solve a problem that a woman faces everyday just because they simply don’t have enough experience with that problem, a group of women would probably do a better job. Different groups of people from different backgrounds offer different perspectives, that lead to different solutions. Representation is important in every field, including technology.
- What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career? The most important thing I’ve learned so far, I think, is to work as hard as you can, but also to not forget to take breaks and take care of yourself. In the beginning I worked nonstop without breaks, handling not just business but also school, extracurriculars, hobbies, and more. I started to burn out and become routinely tired. It’s so important to take breaks and relax no matter how stressful life gets. Don’t forget to eat healthy, get enough exercise, drink water, and be happy.
- How has being an Asian American woman affected your work?
Being an Asian American woman has allowed me to bring a new perspective to the table, allowing me to look at and solve problems in a way that others aren’t. My Asian American identity has imbedded into me the importance of hard work and integrity, making me more open to problems and solutions that exist both in the West and the East. It’s allowed me to be a more global person and experience different parts of the world starting at a very young age. Being a woman has allowed me to sometimes have a more empathetic perspective and look at the long term impacts of decisions and products, for example not examining things like profit but instead looking at how this product can help the most people. Often times I am the only person in the room who is a woman, or Asian American, or most times both. At first I was intimidated by that fact, but I now know that being an Asian American woman is my strength, and I hope that I can help get more minorities into the field so that no one else has to feel intimidated because of their identity.
- Who is your role model? What inspires you to get out of bed every morning and do what you do?
My role model is my parents. They’re the most wonderful people I know. They immigrated with me to this country, and have instilled in me all the traits and values that have made me who I am. Everything I do is to make them proud because they have given up so much to raise me and my brother, Sanskar, who is also amazing. The thing that inspires me to get out of bed every morning is the possibilities. The possibilities of what I can do, new friends I can make, what new knowledge I can learn, etc. Every new day to me is a new chance to do something great, improve myself, and better the world.
- What are you working on right now?
Right now I am continuing to scale my businesses and grow, working on new products, and such. I am also doing research at the school I go to, called the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). I am doing research on the architecture of neural networks trying to make them faster and am doing another project with my roommate in which I am trying to use deep learning networks to identify new exoplanets in the universe. I have also begun to create a nonprofit with one of my classmates called InventSTEM that aims to provide minorities and students from rural areas with more opportunities. We realized coming from areas with a large minority and rural population that there was a large disparity in academic resources for these students compared to their counterparts. We hope to bridge this gap so that we can have more diversity in the STEM field, especially in our growing state of North Carolina. I am just following my passions right now and trying to make the world a better place one project at a time.
- Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where do you see the field of technology going in ten years?
In ten years I’ll be 27, I hope that I continue to make the world a better place through technology and still follow my passions. By then, I see myself having larger more impactful tech business working in a larger and more diverse field. In the next 10 years I know that technology will become more imbedded in our lives and the field will grow because of that. I believe we will definitely see more diversity with more Asian American women and other groups front and center, instead of the sidelines like they have been. I feel like technology will be used for positive things like renewable energy. In the future I think technology will become more and more influential to humankind and bettering our lives, and I see myself being a part of that.