June 30, 2023

Hailing from a still-developing Northeast India, Sangeeta Gupta, Community Programs Manager at Orkes, shared her presentation on STEM-ulating diversity with Aspire alumni on May 4, 2023.

Her discussion included key moments in her life and stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion — especially in STEM — in dispelling preconceived notions about what kind of person “fits” into the mold of a particular role. She encouraged these young leaders to reflect on their own biases and work towards creating a more inclusive workplace as future leaders.

Gupta asked alumni to picture a scientist and describe what they saw. Most envisioned a man in a lab coat with safety goggles–a stereotypical scientist. 

I realized that if I have to stand out [and] be someone who people will hear and take seriously, then it’s time that I participate in these initiatives.

They reflected on these biases and Gupta openly shared about her own experiences. She spoke about how lack of diversity within a field influences our idea about who should fill the role. 

By diversifying the workplace, she believes we can begin to eliminate stereotypes, thus opening different careers to more individuals. These passions for diversity in the workplace stem from Gupta’s own experience in STEM and the technology industry.

When she first explored computer science, she noticed she didn’t fit people’s stereotypical interpretation of a professional in this field, leading to a feeling of isolation. This, combined with the lack of mentors and role models in India at the time, made Gupta want to be the role model herself. 

“I realized that if I have to stand out [and] be someone who people will hear and take seriously,” she said, “then it’s time that I participate in these initiatives.”

She has since made it her life’s purpose to make the technology industry and other spaces more inclusive. Gupta also strives to stand out among her peers so she can make a difference and give back by mentoring others.

Finding her Tribe

Gupta’s first introduction to the job of community managers – the role she now holds – was during her undergraduate years. She was selected among 60 student leaders in India to volunteer for the Google Student Facilitator Program. Although entering the role of event facilitator and public speaker intimidated her at first, she continued to push herself to grow. 

This experience developed her interest in building communities who strive to make a difference in the technology industry and increased her confidence that she could be a part of this world.

“Communities are ingrained in us as humans,” she said. “We have this constant need to be connected.”

When she became a volunteer at Meta as the youngest community lead, she had more belief in herself. While at Meta, Gupta also continued her passion for making technology a place for everyone and earned a Champion of Diversity Award for facilitating conversations with women in technology around the world. 

She then went on to complete her Meta Community Manager Certification, work within the Facebook Community Partnerships team, and finally take a role at Dataiku in 2022. 

Dataiku was a place where Gupta truly felt part of an environment where everyone believed in each other. Unfortunately, Dataiku had to lay off most of her team that year. 

My job title cannot define my love for communities or my love for giving back to people.

Although this moment was difficult, it allowed her to discover the importance of self-care, finding inspiration, and not letting work define her. 

“My job title cannot define my love for communities or my love for giving back to people,” she explained.

Today, Gupta strives to supplement her new job at Orkes with volunteer experiences that make an impact in the world, which is what brought her to Aspire Institute

Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion with Aspire Alumni

Gupta really enjoyed her session with Aspire alumni and they inspired her with their honest thoughts and opinions.

“Having the courage to unmute themselves [and] share their stories – that’s really inspiring,” she said.

As Gupta shared honestly about her journey, alumni opened up and contributed their thoughts.

Thelma Lamnda, a 2022 Aspire Leaders Program alumna from Cameroon, made a statement that really stood out to Gupta.

“Growing up, I always felt that being a leader means that you have to be very tough and show no weakness,” Lamnda said. “As I’ve grown up and been exposed to various experiences, I’m slowly changing that notion. I feel that a leader should be human too and instead of being feared, I want to be a leader who’s loved.”

Another alumna responded to Gupta’s question: “Why does diversity and inclusion matter to you?” Her powerful statement asserted that we do not get to choose our identity or where we’re born, but we can choose to accept the only truth that matters.

“We live, are born, and die, and we need to give each other a platform and chance,” she said.

Mindfulness and Giving Back

Gupta plans to focus on her mental health and continue finding ways to empower others as her mentors did for her. She’s excited to build communities from the ground up in the technology industry again and seek out mentorship with an open mind.

“I don’t know everything, and there is still so much more to learn,” she said.

One piece of advice from her former manager at Dataiku, John Jordan, has stuck with her all this time. 

“You don’t need to have all answers today,” he said. “You do, however, need two things – intent to create value and the passion to succeed.”


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