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Meet Vaishnavi Jaiswal of Salubrious

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vaishnavi Jaiswal.

Hi Vaishnavi, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’m a high school junior and the Founder and Executive Director of Salubrious. I was born and raised in Gorakhpur, India. When I’m not sending emails or on calls for Salubrious, I can be found reading, coding (JAVA gang), or jamming to my favourite artists (#directionerforlife)

So where do we start really?

Let’s rewind back to my middle school years, the most popular question that was always been there, “Vaishnavi, who do you want to be when you grow up?”

Growing up, the woman who inspired me a lot was the Indian-American Astronaut ‘Kalpana Chawla’. I have always considered her as my role model and wanted to be an astronaut ‘just like her’ and looking up to her, it felt safe that if she did it, I can do it too.

Fast forward to high school, I started realizing my love for coding and started acknowledging the fact that I had always been scared to dream of a career in tech because I had no one to look up to, the only names that were said aloud were of White and Asian men.

I also started observing that the coding tutoring organizations in India were always gender-biased with their content, resources, and opportunities.

It was like that everyone is obvious with the fact that the Tech Industry is specifically for boys.

At that point I was just like, “Whoa, okay this does not feel right, nothing here feels right. I don’t know what’s going on” and what I realized was that in an area where tech is so accessible, we’re seeing these really enormous disparities in who is really accessing these opportunities.

I used the internet as my biggest tool and started looking up for #womenintech, which brought me down with the fact there are wonderful women out there making an impact but are hardly acknowledged and young girls like me who want to join this field lack support, resources and mentors, soon after I started interviewing women in the technology field and published them and that’s when “Salubrious” started initially – as a blog and soon grew into a non-profit organization with 100+ volunteers from 30+ countries and has impacted 50000+ students across the globe with our workshops, events and social media.

What we like to emphasize through our program is the idea of a STEMx narrative where we teach STEM in an applicable fashion, not a theoretical fashion to amplify the notion that STEM is a force for social good in a variety of ways regardless of what your passion is.

We try to teach these basic stem concepts while tying in an aspect of social entrepreneurship & tech leadership in every program.

While I admittedly have no idea where I will be in 5 or 10 years from now, I do know what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. It feels like a bold statement to be saying that at 15, but I truly feel that I mean it. While I can’t draw out a roadmap or detail the concrete milestones that I want to reach, I know what future I want to work towards: one where every single youth, regardless of gender and socioeconomic status, can use technology to make a difference in society. It sounds like a far-away goal to many – maybe a dream even — but with the work my team and I do every day, I feel like that future gets closer every day to being a reality.

I envision a world in which it doesn’t matter what background you come from or what you look like & everyone is treated equally, I imagine people working together, sitting across from each other and there is a diverse set of skills, a diverse set of backgrounds. People from all different socioeconomic levels, people of different sexualities, people of different ethnic backgrounds all come together to solve the problem that our society faces.

I hope that the work that we’re doing for Salubrious ensures that the younger generations face less of a hurdle in pursuing careers regardless of the genders they used to be tied to. With that said, I know that pursuing male-dominated fields could be a hard task, and you might not receive a lot of support from the school or from your immediate community. Know that communities like Salubrious exist online and are here to help and support you.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I’ve faced a fair amount of challenges in STEM and tech, specifically. Among them are sexism and ageism. I’ve touched upon sexism a bit in the sense that there are a lot of stereotypes about girls in technology, but also in India, there is the understanding that if you go into STEM, you become a doctor or an engineer. Entrepreneurship, Tech Leadership, still isn’t a very popular field; it’s not as normalized in the older Indian community. With ageism, on to other hand, I’d face it when I’d go into conferences or meeting rooms and I’d be the youngest person there by 10-20 years. I faced it when people joked, “Oh shouldn’t you be in school right now?”, I faced it when people turned down partnership proposals because they didn’t want to work with youth groups. Very early on, as a tenth grader, I had to develop thick skin and choose to—in a very Taylor Swift fashion—shake it off. I’d keep going to events and create opportunities to be heard by asking insightful questions during talks and not be afraid to approach strangers to elevator pitch Salubrious. I brushed off every rejection while every successful connection I made led to opportunities.

All of those struggles strung at first, but I think they made me, as cheesy as it sounds, a stronger person because I’ve been able to whether these rejections, especially since they are inevitable in the nonprofit space or in any type of founder journey.

We’ve been impressed with Salubrious, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Salubrious is a global nonprofit organization based in India that aims to educate, inspire, and empower youth to break gender barriers and use tech to make a difference in society. We operate out of the India, US, and UK and there are over 70 young people involved.

We started in 2020, since then, we hosted the Salubrious Pop-Up’s for, and by, students. Besides our frequent pop-up’s that aims to empower young women through providing mentorship, opportunities and inspiration, we also bring introductory CS, careers in STEM, and digital literacy workshops to marginalized communities with little-to-no access to tech. Our events have impacted 50,000+ youth and taught 100+ students to code for the first time.

Among the program’s endeavors is Tech Connect.

Tech Connect is one of the community development initiatives of Salubrious that aims to TIE: to Teach, Inspire, and Engage with students through sustainable outreach, education and empowerment. The first leg of the Tech Connect initiative was launched in July 2020 – online due to the pandemic.

I founded Salubrious when I was a 14-year-old high school sophomore. I didn’t accept the notion, despite what those around me would say, that tech was a ‘boy’s club’. I didn’t want to have to wait until I finished school and had worked a couple of years to make an impact on my community. I especially didn’t want to wait for the field of tech to change itself and sought to make it as inclusive as possible, given the resources I had in high school. Overall, Salubrious’s and my personal mission have become intertwined: to work towards a future where all youth (especially in developing countries like India) can enter tech and use it for social good, regardless of their gender or socioeconomic status.

What is one message which you would like to pass on to the younger generation?
A piece of advice which I would wanna pass to any young person who wants to pursue dominated Career fields is to simply remember that By being you , showing up doing the work adding to the representation you are paving the way for the future girls to envision this career in any fields apart from a gender stereotype. To me that’s meaningful because I hope that the work we do in Salubrious ensures that the younger generations face a less of an hurdle pursuing career regardless of the gender dominant

With that said, I know that pursuing male dominated fields could be a hard task, and you might not receive a lot of support from school or from your immediate community. Know that communities likeSalubrious exist online and are here to help and support you in case you need resources or people to bond with. Communities are there, all you need to do is look them up and find them. Lastly, regardless of gender, remember the inherent privilege of having an internet connection. we have 700 million Indians, that being around 50% who don’t have access to internet connection making it the highest no. of disconnected people globally

I think when we’re surrounded by many people with similar resources, it’s hard to remember that it’s not like that for everyone. Just be conscious of the privilege you have by having access to tech, maximize it, and use it to create social change within your little pocket of the world. That’s my advice.

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