#WĀHINEWEDNESDAY: Shalini Guleria
Achieving success and helping others find their potential
Shalini Guleria is a young woman and scientist of many accomplishments! At the age of 25, she has already completed a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering, a Masters in Tissue Engineering (both at the University of Waikato with First Class Honours) and she is currently undertaking a PhD at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute in Melbourne.
Alongside her outstanding academic achievements, Shalini started up her own social enterprise in 2018, called Science Box. With the aim of “bringing the magic of science to children through the use of basic household items”, Science Box has been a massive hit in New Zealand and has made its way overseas!
While there are many more accolades to add to Shalini’s inspirational journey, we wanted to know more about the amazing woman behind the achievements and so, without further ado, here is a Q&A so you can also get to know more about Shalini Guleria.
Describe yourself in three words, and explain why you chose each word to describe who you are...
Persistent: no matter how many challenges I have faced in my life (personal or professional), being persistent has always helped me to overcome these challenges. I don’t like the idea of giving up or accepting failure, so I try to do everything I can to make my situation fruitful in some way or another.
Curious: being a scientist, I have always been curious to learn more and gain knowledge from wherever I can. Knowledge is limitless and my curiosity allows me to learn/explore different things, which I can then apply in my life.
Hardworking: I have always believed that to be successful it is 20% luck and 80% hard work. For me, hard work has always been the key for me to achieve anything significant in my life.
Imagine it’s your 30th birthday - what have you achieved?
By my 30th birthday, I would like to have completed 2 years of postdoctoral fellowship in breast cancer research, either in New Zealand or Australia, in preparation to lead to a career in breast cancer research. As well as expanding my social enterprise “Science Box” by launching new events and also forming collaborations in third world countries to teach science to underprivileged kids.
Tell us one thing about science that you wish more people knew about…
People generally have a perception towards science that it is too hard or something that they can’t associate with. But the fact is, science is all around us! Our human body is a working model of science. So we are constantly applying scientific theories in our day to day lives, it is part of us.
Have you faced any hurdles or barriers as a young female scientist? If so, what sort of hurdles/barriers have you faced?
I have been quite fortunate to have worked in very welcoming work environments as a young female scientist, so I haven’t faced a lot of hurdles or barriers in my scientific career so far. So far, the people I have worked with have valued my knowledge and given me and my ideas complete support, despite me being a novice in the field of breast cancer research.
You said that you want to be a person who “can lead others to be a leader and find their hidden potential”. In what ways do you hope to do this?
I hope to do this by giving others opportunities to take on leadership roles and direct a team. For example, while conducting Science Box workshops all the volunteers are given an opportunity to host their own sessions, this lets them explore new aspects to their personality as well as providing them with confidence to be a leader. For me, being a leader has never been about directing orders but it has been about making my team realise the potential they have and how they can utilise it.
As a young leader yourself, what do you think the world needs more from young leaders right now?
The world needs young leaders to be motivated and keep pushing forward, despite what this world throws at them. This world is constantly changing and we are faced with even more challenges than before. To tackle this, our young leaders need to be resilient and be open to the possibility of moulding with the change. Being resilient also means to be patient, changing one's ways can be a difficult task and requires patience to adapt. If our young leaders possess these two qualities i.e. resilience and patience, our world will only get better.
What would your number one piece of advice for young women who want to kick ass in life be?
There are often times that we might envision some great ideas, these ideas could be to change the education system, to help the poor, save the planet etc. What stops a person from going ahead with these ideas are thoughts like “ I don’t have time, I will do it when I have time”, “I don’t have the money or resources” or “I don't have a team”. To all the young women out there, if you have a vision that you truly believe in then get started, make the time and slowly but surely money and resources will naturally start coming your way. And, if you get your message out there, you will slowly build a team that believes in what you do. Don’t let your conflicting thoughts overpower your true passion.
If you have a dream, chase it no matter what!
Don't be scared if things don't work or it takes time. Be patient and have faith in yourself to make your dream a reality.
Lastly, is there a motto or quote that you live your life by?
I love this quote by Martin Luther King: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Sometimes you only need to see the first few steps to make things happen and, in no time, you will be climbing the stairs one step at a time.