One student’s experience at TEDxUW

For the past four years, the University of Waterloo has hosted TEDxUW, each year bringing forth speakers who have achieved amazing feats and success in their career and lives, and each year the speakers bring their unique stories to the stage in an engaging and thought-provoking manner.&nbsp;</p>

This year’s topic resonated deeply with UW, because much of the success of students, professors, and staff would not have been possible without it. The topic? Collaboration.

The conference this year, held  Nov. 14, reflected upon the 23 years that UW has ranked first place in innovation and the role collaboration has played in the success of graduating students. Take for example Harry Gandhi, a UW student and one of the speakers at TEDxUW. His passion for health care has led him to found Madella Health, which strives to create wearable technology to help monitor health. 

With his team, he is developing contact lenses that help with monitoring a person’s glucose levels, which could tremendously help in identifying patients with diabetes. Out of 2,800 applicants for the 2015 Thiel Fellowship, Gandhi was honored with $100,000 in funding. 

Collaboration, in this sense, is the glue that binds people together in the spirit of bringing their ideas to life. More often than not, the outcome of that collaboration is something more valuable than first imagined, in part because of being able to share unique perspectives and because of the number of opportunities that arise from the experiences. 

Collaboration can take many forms, not only in the dimension of teamwork, but also on the level of intrapersonal communication, which occurs inside of a person. Many times, our fear-driven, inner dialogue can prevent us from collaborating. 

Gloria McRae was afraid of what was beyond her independent and successful life. In university, Ricardo McRae studied fine arts and afterwards he worked in technology because he was afraid of becoming a starving artist. It was only after finding the courage to change their lives and live more authentically that these two speakers found each other, and since then have been “collaborating in this crazy adventure, leaving that familiar path behind, one hand in each other’s, and all those fears shlepping along in the back with [them], to live free and to feel free.” Collaborating with their fears, rather than avoiding them, was what helped them move forward in their lives and build a life together that truly reflected their hearts and minds. 

Another dimension of collaboration is its relation to one’s story, or as Jagneet Singh would say, one’s narrative. Singh, a UW graduate, created the social movement “#WhatCanIDoForYou,” ultimately garnering him recognition as a social entrepreneur and motivational speaker. During his talk, Jagneet asked, “What is your story? What have you been through? What is the collaboration of experiences that have made you who you are?” which at times can be daunting to think about, especially considering the majority of students’ focus can be more centred on getting that grade, passing that class, and balancing both school and social life. 

If Singh could do university all over again, he advises students to fully utilize their circumstances. “The resources that we have in our professors, our clubs, in Velocity, in our programs — the things that we have at school, I think you only really realize the value of it 30 years later.

 “If I could do it again … I would make more time for as many clubs that I was interested in, and meet people that were like-minded, because I found that I became who I was after school because I was doing things that I was interested in … I was put in a place where I had to start thinking about who I am and what I want to do, what’s going to make me happy.”

Collaboration is an important step to take towards success and happiness on multiple levels. The speakers at TEDxUW collectively expressed their thoughts on the topic, and each had something unique and compelling to say about collaboration. As Singh reflected in his speech, the greatest takeaways from post-secondary education was the valuable knowledge gained through collaborations and networking. 


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