Inspiring a Spark – Deeya Bajaj

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Who?

Deeya Bajaj is an internationally-recognized adventurer, speaker, business leader and founder of the non-profit, “Ganga Vatika Home for Girls”. She has summitted the highest mountains in 6 of the 7 continents of the world: including Mt Everest and Mt Kilimanjaro. She holds the distinction of being the first Indian father-daughter duo to submit Mt Everest. Additionally, she holds the record alongside her father as the first Indians to ski across the Greenland ice caps among numerous other amazing accomplishments. In this interview, we will learn about her journey and what the youth can take away from it.

Quick Summary

What inspired you to pursue exploration and adventure? What have you been able to gain from these experiences?

Adventure had always been a significant part of Deeya’s life. Even before she was born, her parents had set up an adventure tourism company and were passionate outdoor people. This passion was quickly passed over to Deeya as she grew up immersed in a world of mountaineering, skiing, kayaking and other such activities. Over all of these years, Deeya learnt numerous powerful lessons and developed invaluable qualities such as leadership and resilience. From these experiences, she talked about three lessons in particular: 

  1. Preparation – Deeya claims that there is no substitute for proper preparation, especially when it comes to some of the more extreme expeditions. We should always expect a myriad of possibilities to occur. 
  2. Positive Outlook – There can often be times on expeditions when things are harsh and don’t always go as expected. If one’s attitude is to look only at the downside of the situation, it can prompt a ‘path of negativity’ to occur. It’s very important to stay positive and keep a growth mindset. 
  3. Strong Support System – Appreciating and supporting the people around you is very important when taking on expeditions and other such challenging tasks in all areas. As put by Deeya, we should learn to ‘take care’ of this support system and embrace how vital it is for our success.

Why do you think it’s important that the youth immerse themselves in these sorts of experiences which push them out of their comfort zone? Are opportunities such as these still available even with Covid present? 

Whether it’s with or without Covid around, being outdoors is one of the safest ways to interact with other people and spend less time with our screens. As opposed to certain other scenarios such as being situated in dense public spaces. In terms of the student aspect, Deeya strongly agrees that the youth should try to spend more time outdoors and challenge themselves. Hiking and other such activities are a great method of socialization. Deeya refers to the vast majority of expeditions she has been on which have evoked meaningful connections and conversations with the people she has done them with, many of which came from completely different backgrounds and cultures. As they all have a united objective and are in an expedition as a team, differentiated features are irrelevant as a powerful commonality brings the group together. This is something Deeya thinks is very important in today’s day and age, where people often try to differentiate themselves from one another, whereas we should be focusing on the ‘essential humanity’ that connects us all.

As well as being an explorer, you’ve taken your experiences a step further by advocating and sharing what you have learnt through numerous platforms such as public speaking. If you could narrow down, what have been some of the most significant messages you have tried to convey through these platforms? 

The most meaningful message Deeya strives to advocate revolves around is the role of Women, particularly in India. Considering the societal norms in India, Deeya felt very fortunate to have grown up in a family which allowed her to do whatever she wanted regardless of her gender. This built a sense of appreciation within Deeya and made her acutely aware that this wasn’t the case in many parts of the country. Through climbing with her father, Deeya sees herself responsible to send a message to the girls in India that they are able to achieve so many amazing things, a notion that is only amplified by the positive support of their families. Throughout Deeya’s numerous messages, the one that stands out is the hope that she will inspire a ‘spark’ within other women to think beyond what they think their capabilities are.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Deeya left us with the message that we should always dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. While on the path to achieving these goals, we should not be discouraged and instead take advantage of the resources that are available to us, whether it’s our family, schools or communities. If we work hard, stay positive and take the support of our community, we will reach heights much higher than mount Everest.

“If you work hard, stay positive and take the support of your community, you will reach heights much higher than Mount Everest.” 

Deeya Bajaj

Going in 100% – Dan Swift

Who?

Dan Swift is CEO of Empire Selling, a digital sales training and transformation company. Dan has over 20 years of leadership experience spanning sales, marketing, and business development, having successfully launched LinkedIn’s flagship product Sales Navigator and catapulted social media management technology Sprinklr to a $2bn valuation. With an emphasis on ‘bringing the human back’ to business, he believes that business leaders can be successful without sacrificing empathy.

Quick Summary

What inspired you to start Empire Selling? Was the journey to your current position a planned one or were there moments of contingency along the way?

Dan studied Geography in university but got his first job in sales. He enjoyed that experience so much he has remained in sales ever since. Over the years, his responsibility included launching various sales tools for business; e.g Linkedin Sales Navigator. While doing that, Dan noticed a gap in the market for a B2B model that taught other companies how to execute and sell using social media and digital tools. While he had the idea during his tenure at LinkedIn, it was when he was at Sprinklr that Dan got the conviction to start Empire Selling. He started with the support of several friends who came across the launch of Empire Selling. Soon after, they began spreading the word about Empire Selling and the rest is history.

Can you identify some of the biggest challenges you have come across while taking on various leadership roles? How have you managed to overcome these challenges?

Dan’s first leadership role in sales started in his early 20s; he was put in charge of a sales team of 20 people. During this experience, the most important lesson to him was that different people learn and work differently. There is no one size fits all solution to training and motivating your employees, it comes down to understanding and communicating with each person in your team in their own idiosyncratic way. Dan shared a story about someone who would constantly reject and put down his suggestions when he was asked to share them. Rather than get angry, Dan chose to speak to him about it and asked ‘Are you ok?’ Shocked, the man apologised and explained that he was going through a divorce. This was just an anecdotal story highlighting the need for compassion and understanding, especially if you were in a leadership role and in-charge of others.

If you could restart your journey from the moment you left school, what is one thing you would do differently?

In hindsight, the biggest difference that Dan would make it is to strike a better work life balance.  He felt like he could have gone out with his friends more, while still juggling his work commitments. He shared that there were occasions where he would be going into the office on a saturday, at the expense of hanging with his mates and that these were wasted opportunities. That being said, he acknowledges that he wouldn’t know if he would be as successful as he is right now, had he chosen to go out more. But, he still regrets it.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Breath. There are a lot of reasons why youths are under pressure at any one point in time. Be it from yourself or the people around it, whether its about university or job-searching. There are many highs and lows in life. What is more important is to breathe and do whatever you’re doing with passion and do it 100%. In times of pressure, find a way to give yourself a mental and physical break.

“Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so whatever you’re doing, do it with passion” 

Dan Swift

FROM THE GUEST STUDENT

It was a really great and pleasant experience to be able to have a chat with Dan for a bit. I felt it was very eye opening to various aspects of work and life, such as his experience battling anxiety for many years. Another point that Dan talked about which I thought was very interesting was his emphasis on the importance of personal relationships to work performance. Furthermore, this was a great opportunity for me to gain a bit of insight into the management and marketing of a company, especially since it is what I’m currently studying in university. 

  • Zain Azri, Undergrad at Exeter University

Lessons From a National Diver – Myra Lee

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

Who?

Myra Lee is a former Team Singapore National diver . In 2010, she competed in the inaugural Youth Olympics Games held in Singapore. In her event, she managed to persevere past a back injury she faced in the Girls 10m and made it to the finals. In 2013, Myra took part in the SEA Games and won a bronze medal. She subsequently took home the silver medal in the Women’s synchronized 10m platform at the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games. Myra is currently situated in a successful corporate role. In this interview, we find out how the skills she learnt as an athlete benefited her in this corporate role among various other advice! 

a quick summary

It was the very opportunity to compete in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics that inspired Myra to take on diving. Being someone with a strong background in gymnastics, she joined diving with a sense of optimism. However, while diving and gymnastics share similar skills such as an adequate level of ‘aerial awareness’, Myra described it as a completely different experience. One example being the level of pain one experiences if they even slightly miss-land a jump, which according to Myra is understatedly painful. But it was this very aspect of the sport that drove Myra’s passion for diving. The profound difficulty of diving only amplified the enjoyment Myra derived when she landed a ‘perfect jump’, a feeling she talked about as ‘indescribable’. 

Myra felt as though her character was refined during her years in diving. Myra talked about two specific characteristics she developed which helped her out in later walks of life. 

Teamwork – While diving is a solo sport, she was very much part of ‘team Singapore’, through experiences such as travelling abroad in foreign countries she was able to build a sense of companionship, a transferable skill for any workplace.

Absorption of Criticism – While it is always hard to hear that you are in the wrong, if you don’t take heed of criticism from the relevant figures such as coaches, you will find it very hard to develop. For Myra, this built a sense of patience and discipline. 

Myra referred to what an athlete experiences behind the scenes as being far from what is portrayed in news sources or social media. As all the best athletes can relate, Myra’s journey off and on camera did not come without the absence of failure and setbacks. The most significant of which for Myra was the back injury she faced in the 2010 youth olympics. As she dealt with the aftermath of the event, she described wanting to give up. Unfortunately, she failed to qualify for the 2011 SEA games and was finally accepted into the 2013 SEA games after years of persistence. Even by this point, she was told that she wasn’t good enough. However, while faced with the avalanche of setbacks, she did not let her failures define her. She also referred to the diving coach which ‘saved’ her and supported her throughout the 2015 and 2017 SEA games, emphasizing the importance of mentor-like figures in all journeys. 

Myra described the incorporation of sports into our education systems as invaluable components. Relating back to her experience in the 2010 youth olympics, she talked about how it can enable students to cope with failure and emerge stronger. It’s these skills from engaging in extracurricular activities which allow us as students build a breath of experiences and learn from them. A trait we have witnessed multiple of our experts exhibit. 

To conclude our interview, Myra left us with a very valuable piece of advice. She reminded us to not let our failures define us. While it can be very easy to let our failures overcome us, we should realise the amount we can take from it and use it as an opportunity to grow. 

“There is so much more that you can take away from your failures than to let it define you”

Myra Lee

The Role of Sport in Student Development – Jip Bartels

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here. Who? In this episode, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with Jip Bartels, currently 27, who is a former Ajax footballer, sporting coach, and Director of Montessori Sports in Australia. Originally … Continue reading “The Role of Sport in Student Development – Jip Bartels”

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

Who?

In this episode, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with Jip Bartels, currently 27, who is a former Ajax footballer, sporting coach, and Director of Montessori Sports in Australia. Originally from Holland, Jip had his sights on football from a very young age, however, it was during his AFC Ajax days that he experienced three crucial ACL injuries, that would change the course of his life. Shortly after the decision to stop playing professional football, he began to focus on his studies and got a Bachelor of Administration – and Organisation Sciences in combination with the Honours Programme at the VU University Amsterdam. After successful graduation, Jip was awarded the Student Talent of the year award. After finishing his Master Business Administration at the University of Amsterdam in 2017, Jip embarked to Melbourne in 2018 to play in the NPL and pursue his goal of re-shaping the way child-development is viewed through starting Montessori Sports. Outside of his work life, Jip enjoys volunteering in his community through organisations such as On My Feet; a channel to help the homeless population of Australia reach self-sufficiency.

A Quick Summary

When faced with a challenge, we often have two choices. Either, we let it overcome us or we can emerge stronger from the experience. When Jip Bartels faced life-changing injuries that deferred him from his promising football career, it was clear which path he took. While football has had a significant impact on his past, he has been using the skills he developed to pursue following experiences. Specifically stating that it helped him cope with the unpredictability of life and ‘control the controllable’. Evidently showing that sport is a tool which has invaluable benefits across all walks of life. Jip has channeled his passion for physical education through Montessori Sports where he aims to build the presence of sport in child development curriculums.  

As someone who has taken on the stance of both a player and coach. He has built a perspective on the recipe for success. As he put it, success revolves around not only ‘working hard’, but what stimulates a person to work hard. Coming down to two concepts, he views independence and intrinsic motivation as key factors. The best players have taken on a love for independent learning and finding new challenges. However, coaches have just as important a role to play. Judging players on short term success can inhibit long term motivation.

While coaching is his forte, another skill Jip is accustomed to is managing a series of tasks simultaneously. While running a business, Jip finds time to play in the NPL, individually mentor children, and volunteer with various organisations. As students, we often feel a weight of pressure when it comes to managing tasks in an academic environment. It was reported that students in today’s schooling systems show higher levels of stress than psychiatric patients in the 1950s. Jip’s philosophy revolves around finding a purpose to your tasks, as he stated, we need to start with ‘why’. What does this look like? Finding your passion and breaking it down into something you can do every day in a purposeful sense. 

As we concluded our interview, Jip left us with a memorable piece of advice; immerse yourself in opinions you disagree with. Other than suppressing our own opinions, we should be open-minded to learning about others. As he put it, “if we all stay in our bubble where it’s safe and known, we are not going to change much”.

“If we all stay in our bubble where it’s safe and known, we are not going to change much

Jip Bartels

Montessori Sport’s brings a re-defined vision to child development. If you would like to learn more about the exciting things happening at the company, be sure to check out their website.  

Want to get in touch with Jip? Contact him via social media or visit his website.

If you’d like to recommend us an expert to interview, or have any questions, suggestions or feedback in any shape or form, feel free to send us an email:

experts@discere.org