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Shalaka Ekbote is the Founder and Owner of STEM Birds, an education platform for young people in STEM. We love hearing stories like Shalaka’s and seeing more folks championing diversity and being part of the movement for an equality-driven tech future. 

We hope you find Shalaka’s story and passion as inspiring as we did - keep reading to hear more about her journey. 

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to a career in tech and what your career progression has looked like since?

My academic journey laid the foundation for my future passion for technology and education. I have a Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Telecommunications which left me hungry to continue learning. I then pursued a Master's degree in Software Engineering and Telecommunications, which underscored my passion for technology and teaching others. This led me to launch STEM Birds, where I've channelled my technical expertise into a passion for teaching. 

What motivated you to start/launch STEM Birds? 

Drawing from my background in software engineering and telecommunications, I was profoundly passionate about championing STEM education using innovative methods, particularly for the younger generation. I found such joy in interacting with children that it became my catalyst for the company. The name STEM Birds embodies the soaring aspirations of young minds reaching for 21st-century skills. It is more than a platform; it's a symbol of introducing creative teaching techniques, immersive hands-on learning, and cutting-edge technologies into the educational landscape for our aspiring students.

If you could share a challenge you’ve encountered in your career and what impact that has had on your work? 

While we faced various challenges, COVID-19 was a significant hurdle for us, as it was for many people. Shifting STEM Birds classes online during the pandemic was especially challenging for young students who found it tricky to engage with new technology. This transitional phase from in-person to virtual classes wasn't easy, but it empowered us to be creative and develop new teaching methods to make sessions enjoyable. This experience taught us to be adaptable and resilient as we discovered new ways to teach effectively.  

What advice would you give to someone who might be considering a career in the tech industry?

I would encourage aspiring tech enthusiasts to embrace curiosity - you can never stop learning. I recommend exploring all the diverse aspects of tech to find your passion and be unafraid of challenges. I would also like to remind everyone that every setback is a stepping stone! 

If you could change one thing to make tech a more inclusive/diverse space what would it be and why?

I believe that to foster inclusivity and diversity in the tech industry, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we approach education. I would advocate for equitable access to quality tech education from an early age, regardless of a person's background or circumstances. This would help bridge the existing disparities, allowing young people from all walks of life to explore technology. By providing resources and mentorship opportunities to underrepresented groups, we can tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives which ultimately would drive innovation and inclusivity in tech. This is why I have also started STEM Birds Robot Library for kids where they can borrow robots at a low cost to learn tech skills early on. 

What excites you about tech?

Tech has a boundless capacity for transformation and innovation. It has the power to reshape our lives, from simplifying tasks to addressing bigger and more complex global challenges. The prospect of being at the forefront of this evolution is incredibly inspiring!

QUICK FIRE ROUND: What is the best investment you've made in your career under $1000?

Online courses and learning resources 100%. There are so many online courses that can expand your knowledge and skills significantly. While most courses have an off-front cost, they provide a wealth of information and expertise that makes them a worthwhile investment in my eyes. 

QUICK FIRE ROUND: What's a quote or mantra that you live by?

There is no shortcut to success.

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