Hi! My name is Sri Varre. I’m a 2021 VFA Fellow from Columbus, Ohio, and a recent graduate of The George Washington University where I studied International Affairs and Economics.
After two challenges, more than 80 on Zoom, seven social events – I’m exactly halfway through Training Camp. To be completely honest, it’s been extremely challenging for me to truly feel connected to everyone in my Class given the virtual environment. However, after this week, I have felt the most at home and part of a community. Two of my highlights of the week came from the Self-Care in Startups and Deep Dive DEI sessions.
The Self-Care session took place earlier in the week and wasn’t anything transformational, but it was the shared sentiments about mental health that we all talked through that made it worth it. Caroline Hatfield, a VFA Detroit Alumna and therapist, walked us through the process of healing (heal, grow, soothe). She emphasized that this process was especially critical for us Fellows because 49% of entrepreneurs have a mental health condition compared to 32% for other working professionals. It was so refreshing to hear mental health being talked about transparently and genuinely. My favorite part was when one of my peers, Brianne, talked about how she spent the last semester in college doing so much at such a fast pace and how she is trying to slow down, take a step back to reflect, and focus on herself in this next chapter of her life. I was like, finally someone else that understands that a fast pace of life isn’t the version we should all strive for and maintain. We ended up talking in the Zoom chat throughout the session and afterward about how we aren’t “adulting” unless we are prioritizing ourselves, exploring hobbies, and defining ourselves with non-work-related obligations.
The next day my week got even better because of the one-on-one conversations I had during the DEI session led by Nicole Avant. Having spent the past three years writing, researching, and working on DEI initiatives, I was so excited to learn more about my biases and how we can work collectively to push the needle forward on racial, gender, and identity-related conversations within and outside of professional settings. We did two different exercises with our partners. During the first one, we had three minutes to write assumptions about our partner (what are his/her hobbies, favorite genre of music, where was he/she born, what is his/her religious affiliation). I was shocked because a lot of my responses about my partner were accurate, but it was fascinating to learn why we thought what we did about the other. In the second exercise, we shared what we had drawn individuals from various racial and gender identities doing and our assumptions around each of these groups. I shared that I drew an Asian woman as an engineer, but I was about to draw her as a creative because those are all the Asian women I follow and look up to on social media. My partner asked me why I didn’t draw her in a creative field, and I talked about how I grew up seeing South Asian women within my family and social circles go pursue white-collar jobs that were “prestigious” by a cultural standard. In response, he said, “Well I hope you pursue a creative path, whatever that means to you because you deserve to live out your dreams while making your role models proud.” Hearing a stranger that I had talked with for less than 15 minutes tell me this just made me feel so valued. I always thought I was crazy for wanting to be an entrepreneur, but I know now that I need to try for my own sake but also to inspire the next generation of young South Asian girls.