Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It is always pure joy seeing a Broadway show. The actors are insanely talented, the music is catchy, the costumes are gorgeous, and the set designs are stunning. When it comes to set design, one show in particular stands out in our minds: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a musical about Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. We saw the show last year on Broadway, and not only did the show blow us away with its dark humor, wit, and enjoyable show tunes, but the set was so grand that it was essentially its own character.

We were over the moon when we had the opportunity to interview the award winning theater, opera, and dance stage designer Alexander Dodge. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is just one of the many incredible sets he has designed (also for which he received his second Tony Award Nomination!). Alexander has also designed for productions such as Julius Caesar, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night.

In addition to two Tony Award Nominations, a Lortel Award, a Drama Desk Nomination, and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination, he has also been the recipient of two Elliot Norton Awards, three Independent Reviewers of New England Awards, two Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, two San Diego Critics Circle Awards, and a Bay Area Critics Award. Alexander continues to impress with his attention to detail and incredible designs.

Born in Switzerland, Alexander grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. He attended Bennington College in Vermont, spent a semester abroad in London, and later trained with the talented Ming Cho Lee at the Yale School of Drama. Alexander’s credentials and experiences with stage design makes him stand out above his peers, and even with his continued success, he is a pleasure to talk to and is generous with his time. Also, this September, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder goes on tour! If the tour is coming to your city, you’ll be able to see the amazing set design Alexander has created.

Name: Alexander Dodge
Education: BA in Drama from Bennington College; MFA in Design from Yale School of Drama
Follow: alexanderdodgedesign.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Alexander Dodge: Do things you want to do when you can and when you’re young. I have a one-year-old son and I’m focused on getting him to understand the idea of doing all the things he can when he can. You never know what’s going to come ahead in life that will stop you from doing something you could have done when you were young.

CJ: You majored in Drama from Bennington College. How did you decide what to major in?

AD: What’s great about Bennington is that they’re all about learning by doing and want you to dabble in a lot of things before deciding what to major in. Every year you have a work semester so my first year I worked in a gallery in Soho, my second year I worked in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater, my third year I worked at the Young Vic in London, and my fourth year I worked at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. I had these great experiences of learning what was good or what wasn’t for me. After a couple of years of that I figured out what I really liked doing. And we had a great performing arts center there – it was the same size as one you’d find at a major university but for 500 students. That was incredible. You could get lost in some of the backstage stuff, it was really cool.

CJ: You also received your master’s of fine arts degree in Design from Yale School of Drama where you trained with Ming Cho Lee. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

AD: Going to Yale was great because it was completely structured – in the three years there was only one elective class you could take. Which is great in a way and I loved being at a large university for a while. The campus was awesome, and Ming Cho Lee is amazing. I absorbed so much and it was so important being there and being around the other students who you learn so much from. So many places teach you different skills, and Ming Cho Lee was really about teaching you to become an artist. To really see, and really look, and figure out how to interpret the world around you.

CJ: How do you work with the rest of the crew to create the physical stage that the audience sees?

AD: Unlike architects we don’t have engineering backgrounds, so we’re not required to know exactly how to construct and put things together, but we make suggestions and we’re really only responsible for the look. So there’s a technical director for each project – either based at a theater or based at a commercial shop. If you’re doing a Broadway show there aren’t any scene shops here so everything gets built elsewhere. So I’ll give them a pretty good sense of the technical drawings, and then they’ll really figure out how to construct it. I’ll also give them a color model, renderings, paint elevations and all that, and they’ll then take those drawings and do technical drawings of what’s inside and what’s actually keeping the walls up. You also work very closely with the director to figure out how you can put everything together in the space you have to work with.

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CJ: You are a set and costume designer for theater, opera, and dance. What does it mean to be a designer, and what do your daily tasks look like?

AD: Today is all about finishing up a model and coming up with new designs I’m doing for a new show this summer, as well as reading a play I just got offered. So it really depends. It tends to be office time when I’m in the city, but I fly all the time and it’s a lot of travel.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AD: Collaboration is the name of the game. I find that the shows I’ve worked on that have been the most successful are the ones that we all work together. I’ve also done shows where I basically hand them the set design and they go with it. Other times it’s a lot of back and forth and figuring it out together, which can feel much more satisfying. Also the director might have a take on the piece that’s important. The text is read first and foremost, then I go to the director and talk about what he or she thinks, then there’s interaction with the costume designer an the lighting designer. Usually costumes and set are what we start with because of the nature of how long those things take to create and build. We have to start right away. Nothing is by chance – everything has to be decided, down to the buttons and the trim on the jackets, the height of the door frame, and so on.

CJ: What is an important skill you need as a set designer?

AD: Trying to carve out time for myself is really good. If I don’t go to the gym in the morning and have my time, I’ll have a million excuses to not go in the afternoon. But it’s time for myself and it’s important for my own sanity. Even though I’m on the road a lot, trying to keep a business routine is really good too. This past year I’ve made a big push to carve out vacation time, because before that it was all about trying to grab a weekend here or a weekend there, and that was kind of it. But the theater is very different where we plow through national holidays and don’t really have a typical summer season because there are always shows going on. I remember once I did a show in Boston and we started technical rehearsal on December 26th and we went right through the New Year – it was a whirlwind of work at a time when you’d really love to be with your family.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care about? If so, why?

AD: Something I care a lot about is LGBT youth and youth programs like the Hetrick-Martin Institute. There’s also a program called Live Out Loud which provides scholarships for LGBT youth. I also love smaller theater groups like The Civilians – they do a whole variety of investigative theater, which is so interesting.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a set and costume designer do now to set him or herself up for success?

AD: I think try to get out and see as many things as possible is important, especially if you’re close to any major theater area. Even if you’re in a smaller town, take advantage of what’s there. Familiarize yourself with what you’re interested in. Try to travel to places that offer different shows. Seizing those things, especially if you want to do this business, is important. And see a variety of things – see operas, concerts, modern dance, and museums.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

AD: Being more present and taking more time for my family and me is something that I’m really working on. It’s difficult with work, but I don’t want to be that person where my job is everything. Time with your family is not to be undervalued.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AD: I would say don’t major in drama – branch out more than you did. I think that I zoomed in on what I knew I wanted to do, but in hindsight I’m thinking it would have been good to take an anthropology class or more science courses. In grad school I decided I wanted to be in a show for the first time, and it was great. I was on the stage at Yale University and it was such a great experience.

Alexander Dodge Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Culture

For those who have been living under a rock, or out of the sphere of anything related to media, chances are you have heard of Bollywood. No, I didn’t spell Hollywood wrong. Bollywood is an actual word, and it’s now officially defined in the Oxford English dictionary.

After years of attempting to compete against its western counterpart Hollywood, India’s Mumbai housed film industry can stand firm on the morals of its own achieved global success.

Deriving from its former British colonial city name of Bombay, Bollywood has amassed an international following, catapulting its reach of producing almost three times as many movies a year than Hollywood, and allowing to call itself the largest film industry in the world.

The Status

India has its own breed of mega stars who now have the global clout, fame, and a buzz to rival those from America. With its presence at almost all International Film Festivals, Bollywood celebrities are now in a league of their own.

They have massive social media followings, make lucrative endorsement deals with top global brands, and have cash earnings that set them in similar brackets as top Hollywood celebrities. Their reach is not only in India, but their reach abroad is growing as many are choosing to branch outside traditional roles within the Hindi film industry and gain further exposure in the west.

Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World, is India’s latest global export who launched her foreign fame from Bollywood to crossover and become a recording artist to produce hit singles with Pitbull and Will. i. am. for NFL’s Thursday Night Football theme song. In addition, she has also become the first ethnic face of Guess, and landed a new ABC talent television show deal in Los Angeles where she is currently based. With a heavy media push, her team is attempting to introduce a stronger South Asian presence into the American media market. Among other global Bollywood stars with massive fame include Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Katarina Kaif, Akshay Kumar, and Kareena Kapoor.

The Reach

From Cape Town to Canberra, Rio De Janerio to Riyadh, the sheer appeal to audiences and demographics showcase how India’s Hindi film industry position now rivals Hollywood’s reach. The past 20 years have progressed the popularity of Hindi film, in turn allowing for Bollywood to become more of household name in several parts of the emerging world. In addition, the massively clean cut and conservative family approach of no nudity have allowed for its films to amass loyal fans not just in its diaspora communities, but throughout Africa, Latin America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The Appeal

With its grand sets, exotic destinations, love stories, and iconic song and dance routines, many have dubbed the unique and drastically different format to western media part of its international success. Bollywood films have stayed close to traditional Indian values, but in recent times have become a creative playground to showcase a rising and rapidly westernizing population, home to 1.2+ billion people.

The Influence

With Bollywood paving the way for the western world to gain further exposure into Indian cultural values, art, and dialogues, the influence of it reach is massive. With its heavy hitting presence at every major international film festival – including Cannes – established Indian Industry award shows, and the trickling in of more Indian music, fashion, and media personalities into the daily lives of more westerners, it no longer remains a thriving industry.

Dubai Parks and Resorts is even developing the Emirate’s and world’s first Bollywood mega theme park project aimed at capturing the essence of Hindi cinema, covering a total of three million square feet. With a massive three phase development plan for construction in Dubai, the park will recreate for tourists and residents the extravagance and fantasy that is the world of Bollywood.

Have you seen any Bollywood films?

Image: Wikipedia

Culture

This year, in the last week of September and the first week of October, the festival of Hindu Navratri occurred. “Navratri” directly translates into English as “nine nights.” That being said, the festival consists of nine nights of dance, food, and music. With electric and high beat drum tunes and perpetual pounding of feet, this energetic celebration is key in experiencing Hindu culture.

However, this festival isn’t something that only Hindus are allowed to partake in. Everyone of different backgrounds, cultures, and religions are welcome to dance barefoot with dandiyaan, sticks that are used during the dance. The dance is not that difficult either, as it is rhythmic and patterned. It’s also a good cardiovascular exercise! The circular motions of your arms and the linear pathways carved by your feet will get your heart beating to the high-paced rhythm. Not to mention, the traditional clothing worn during this dance, such as this:

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One would think dresses like these would impede movement, but they actually make dancing very easy. The skirts for women and the loose pants for men allow the feet to move freely in any desired direction. Not to mention, you will look stunning in dresses like these! You can usually borrow them from a friend who could possibly have some, or order them online. If you need a makeshift dress, ladies, simply take a long skirt, a scarf, and a solid color shirt and tie it in this manner. Men can just dress up formally in Western attire or borrow an outfit from a friend. Like I said before, anyone can participate and they probably have all the materials they require! The dance portion of the festival is usually done at a Hindu temple. Find the closest one to you, and head on over. The people there are always very welcoming.

I hope this article encourages you once again to cross cultural barriers and experience the zest of the globe. Use your youth to really grasp and latch on to what other people think and how we differ as humans. You might find that there are more similarities among us than differences. The cultures of the world can always shock you!

LearnSkills

I recently just wrapped up my very last class in an 8-week series of Tango classes. For many years, I have always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance. I saw the movie Shall We Dance? and was in awe by how fun dancing looked. I am in no way graceful or coordinated, so I knew taking any kind of dance class would be challenging. I did some research, found an 8-week Tango class, and decided to go for it.

I ended up loving every minute of it, and even though I was correct in that it would be a challenge, I loved putting myself out there to learn a new skill. I can now Tango, and even though I am still at a beginner’s level, I am better than I was eight weeks ago. In addition to learning the steps and how to position my arms, I learned a lot about myself in this class series. There are aspects to dancing that are similar to life, and I made the connections as I was (awkwardly) gliding across the dance floor.

These are the 9 things I learned from Tango class:

1. The power of repetition.

At the beginning of every class, we would do exercises back and forth across the dance floor. Even though it got repetitive, the point was to take the next step better than the previous step. Dancing is all about getting the steps down, and through practice and repetition, the steps become part of your muscle memory. Through this repetition, my feet and body started to understand the way the dance was performed. After just two classes, I held my arms up in a different way than the very first class without thinking twice. As you do things over and over with intention, you get better at them.

2. Get in the zone and focus.

When you are dancing with your partner, it is important to be in the moment. The second your mind starts to wander, toes are stepped on and the entire rhythm is thrown off. When you are dancing, or working on a project or task, give it your 100% attention so you can do it well.

3. Embarrass yourself, and then laugh about it.

Staring at yourself dancing in front of a mirror that covers an entire wall is not easy, especially when you don’t actually know how to dance. When you’re just starting out, you are going to look silly sometimes, and you are going to make mistakes. When you feel embarrassed or bad about it, just look around you. Everyone else there is learning how to dance, as well. You are all in the same boat. Laugh it off, and move on. This applies to most things in life, not just dancing. Whether it’s public speaking, a sports game, or something you are learning by yourself, just know that when you can laugh at yourself if you make a mistake, you have already succeeded.

4. Learn from your mistakes.

Okay, so you embarrassed yourself and messed up on a step. Say sorry to your dance partner for stepping on his or her toe, and learn from the mistake. Focus, figure out what you could have done better, and then don’t make the mistake again. It feels so great when you get a complicated step right.

5. Quick-quick-slow.

There are a couple of steps in tango that require a quick-quick-slow rhythm. This means that you step quickly twice, and then take the third step slowly. Then repeat. As I was learning how to do the “media luna,” where you move around your dance partner in a quick-quick-slow circle, stepping forwards and backwards, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembled my life at the time. A lot of things happened all at once, and then all of a sudden everything slowed down. Sure enough, the next week my life was back to being quick-quick, and then slow. Things will get hectic, busy, and overwhelming, but if you stick with it and keep moving forward, your life will calm down and you can breathe again.

6. Use feedback to your advantage.

When I was making mistakes with my footwork or body positioning, my teachers would identify what I was doing wrong and help me fix it. They are there to help me become a better dancer and to learn the proper way of dancing the Tango, so why would I get annoyed with their feedback? Use feedback to your advantage and excel.

7. Stay on your toes.

Not physically, but metaphorically speaking. There are routine steps that you will learn in dance, but every now and then, your dance partner will switch up a move just to keep you on your toes. It’s when you get too comfortable and your mind starts drifting that you will mess up the last-minute switch. Just as in life, get into a rhythm and routine that works for you, but every now and then, switch things up to keep life fresh. Stay on your toes and improvise.

8. Learn how to follow.

As someone who works hard to be a leader, it isn’t always easy to be a follower. When I Tango, I am the follower. I take directions from my dance partner, who is the Lead. At first this was difficult, and I would be pushing and pulling to try and move in the direction I wanted to go. However, when it comes to Tango, I had to learn how to trust my leader and follow his steps and direction. While the two dance partners are a team, one person takes more control of the situation. When I finally learned how to follow my Lead, we would be gliding across the dance floor. It was a pretty cool feeling.

9. Step outside the comfort zone.

None of these lessons would have been learned if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone in the first place. I signed up for these Tango classes without a friend or dance partner. I embarrassed myself in front of strangers, had no one to laugh about it with except myself, and I can honestly say it was awesome. These Tango classes were something that I did for myself, to follow through on my interest, and to learn a new skill that I’ve wanted to experience for the longest time. If you want to learn how to do something or if there’s a class you want to take but you can’t find anyone to go or do it with you, just do it by yourself! When you don’t have the distraction of a friend, you really can focus on personal growth and learning more about yourself.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Deepa Subramaniam, the Director of Product at charity:water, is always looking for ways to push herself both personally and professionally. When Deepa is not building awesome products with impact at charity:water, she makes time to meditate, do yoga, attend tech meetups, and set daily goals for herself. After taking a computer science class at U.C. Berkeley, Deepa discovered her natural passion and made a career out of it by working at Adobe and moving up the ranks. However, despite growing up, going to school, and working in California, Deepa recognized that it was time for a change and moved to New York City for an entirely new adventure in the non-profit world. Determined to continually challenge herself and live a full life, Deepa is incredibly inspiring and is living proof that you can wear many hats, be hardworking, stay involved in the community, remain curious, and in an effort to grow as a person, leave your comfort zone and embrace the unexpected.

Name: Deepa Subramaniam
Age: 31
Education: Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley
Follow: Twitter / charity:water

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Deepa Subramaniam: I think youth is subjective. I have met people who are the most youthful, joyous 60-year-olds and I have met 18-year-olds who feel as hardened and put upon by life as older people. Youth is what is in your heart, not your age – it’s how you feel.

I think it’s so weird when people are embarrassed about their age, it’s just a number. There are people who look 20 and are actually 40. I think age-based shame is a bad thing in our culture, and something we all should help nix. I remember being super excited about turning 30. I was really proud of what I had accomplished by 30 and I am excited about the next 30 years.

Seizing your youth is taking advantage of every single day that you have available to you. Make the most out of the time that you have. Just do and create and put things out in the world. Don’t worry about whether it is finished or polished and what other people are going to think. Live a fulfilling life and take advantage of your youth. I look back on times when I wasn’t learning or doing or creating, and that is a real bummer.

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CJ: You majored in Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley. How did you determine what to study?

DS: I started school undeclared though a lot of people thought I would be a lawyer. I was good at science and math, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do with my entire life. When I went to school, I realized that science was where my natural skill and interests lay. I had no idea about computer science at all. My sister studied computer science and she kept telling me to take a CS class. I shunned that for whatever reason – sometimes being told what to do by a family member is the best way to not do something.

So I started off studying physics. And I found astronomy really interesting. I finally gave in to my sister’s advice and took an introductory computer science class. It was so fun that it didn’t even feel like school! There was a lot of problem-solving and my brain was able to solve these programming puzzles without it feeling like a lot of effort. I guess that’s natural passion, and it was the first time I ever experienced that. This was late in my second year, but I decided to switch majors because I felt like that was the right thing to do. It took me four and a half years to graduate.

CJ: What made you interested in studying engineering?

DS: I like the problem-solving aspect of it. I was interested in how to make things better, how things work, and analyzing the natural friction point in systems. Computer programming was really fun and it didn’t seem like hard work so that was the best engineering pursuit for me. I thought that it would be amazing if I could make a life out of it. I read something recently about Jerry Seinfeld where he said he chose comedy because it seemed like the farthest thing from work for him. Problem solving through programming or technology is like that for me.

CJ: What does it mean to be an engineer?

DS: Engineering is so broad, there are so many different applications of it. I think engineering and being an engineer is about making systems better, whether the system is an airplane, a building, or a software program. Taking the time to understand and propose the right changes to make to a system – that’s engineering.

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CJ: You recently moved to New York City from San Francisco to be the Director of Product at charity:water. What has your experiencing moving to the East Coast been like?

DS: I was born and raised in California, went to school there and I worked there for a very long time. I’ve basically always been at minimum, an hour away from family, friends, and parents. Moving to the East Coast was an intentional decision in order to challenge myself to see if I could thrive away from them. It’s a weird thing to admit in your thirties, but that’s just the case. I wanted a personal challenge and I wanted to try being in a new city with a new job in a new domain. I thought I was getting too soft and too comfortable in San Francisco so I wanted to change it up and rely on my inner hustle.

Also, New York is so inspiring right now for anyone interested in design, technology, or creativity. I think what’s happening in New York at this time is what the people a generation before me experienced in Silicon Valley. The energy around New York’s tech & creative communities is addictive and truly energizing.

CJ: What does your job as Director of Product at charity:water entail?

DS: Product is such a broad term. I work closely with our amazing creative and engineering teams to build out products so that it is the best experience for our supporters. As Director of Product, I help road map and improve products in our portfolio so we can raise more money and help provide more people with clean and safe drinking water. With the right products, we can connect money easier to the field so that we are building and sustaining more water projects for longer and ultimately giving more clean water to more people.

Right now I focus on what we can do online, such as our donation flow, our fundraising platform, and the educational components of our website. By having people learn and understand the water crisis, we want to inspire them to act, whether that’s through giving money, fundraising, or just spreading the word about the water crisis.

As a product manager, I analyze data to figure out where our customers are successful and where they are not and how our products should grow. My job synthesizes different aspects of the business from engineering to creative to data analysis.

CJ: You used to work at Adobe. What skills did you bring from Adobe to charity:water?

DS: I was at Adobe for a long time. I was a lead engineer and then switched over to technical product management. I definitely think people should work multiple jobs and work a variety of jobs in their lifetime. Going from a large, corporate company to a small, non-profit has been really interesting. At Adobe, I learned about working in large teams, how to clearly define what the goals and key initiatives are, how to report back to people, and how to ask for what you need to be successful in ways that are going to be met with action.

The people I worked with at Adobe are a very mature group, so I grew up in a business environment but also had a lot of fun. I learned about quality software development, mixing quantitative and qualitative skills, and how to use data to improve products. Because of my time at Adobe, I came to charity:water with a solid foundation and confidence  so that was definitely a good transition.

CJ: What do you love most about working at charity:water?

DS: It’s so meaningful day in and day out. The people I work with and the work that we’re doing is incredibly inspiring. There are so many creative, smart young people who could be working elsewhere but chose every day to work at charity: water. We are all here working on something that will hopefully outlast all of us. That passion and commitment is rare, and to see that among a group of 50 people is fascinating.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

DS: I’m up pretty early. I like to stretch and try to do a little meditation, 8-10 minutes per day. It helps me find balance and composure in a busy day. I come into work and then the busy day begins. I meet with my team, discuss on-going projects and get a sense of what is most important to accomplish that day. This is a habit I have formed, where I jot down 5 things I want to accomplish that day – both personally and professionally – and anything beyond that is cake. I power through things based on that list and work tends to fly by.

I tend to do many more things with my day in New York than in San Francisco. I’ll go to a design or tech talk, meet friends for dinner, or go to yoga, and then try to get home at a decent time so I can get more sleep. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more dogmatic about self-care. When I was younger, exercise, eating well, and quality alone time was not as high on my list.

To achieve long-term goals, you need the discipline of being able to achieve wins in much smaller increments. So I rely on daily rituals and weekly rituals to keep me focused. If you’re consistent about accomplishing those rituals and are defending them from change or competing priorities, that cadence and discipline will translate to hitting year-long goals. Be critical about what goes on your daily list of things to accomplish. If something isn’t a “hell yeah” I want to do this, then it doesn’t go on the list. I am more careful about the time and energy that I put into something and that means I am ultimately happier with the outcome of my days.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

DS: So many, I feel blessed. I have just worked with so many great people. One of the things I am most proud of is when my co-workers and I had an idea about a new tool and we pitched the idea to Adobe executives. I convinced them that there was a real need and opportunity and that I was the right person to run it from an engineering and technical perspective. I built a team of engineers and then most of our managers forgot about us till we debuted the tool at our annual user conference. We sneaked the tool and it was met with such excitement and ended up having a great release. That is where I learned that with a little space, a team, and a high dose of passion, we could take something from idea to execution quickly.

That tool, by the way, is called Adobe Scout.

CJ: What advice would you give teenagers or young adults who are interested in being engineers?

DS: There are so many ways to learn about design and technology. You can buy a book, take a class, or just jump in and start playing. The barrier to entry is a lot lower.

Even if you have a tiny bit of interest in programming or design – just try and learn it. A quick Google search will help you find those resources or a local meet up to learn with other people in a social environment. If that hunger comes from within instead of having to create it, then you’re on the path to working on something with passion.

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CJ: Did you face any adversities in the workplace or school for being a woman in a predominantly male profession?

DS: There have been situations where something has happened which made me feel weird. Things that I shrugged off in my twenties are things that I would challenge now. For the most part, though, I have been surrounded by amazing people, both male and female. I always intentionally sought out great people to be around, both in school and work. Here’s one bit of advice: don’t wait for someone to ask you if you need a mentor. Go up to people you admire and ask to them to mentor you – you’ll be surprised how often people say yes.

CJ: You are a South Indian Classical dancer. How long have you been involved with dancing and how has it impacted your life?

DS: I still dance and have started choreographing a bit more. I have been dancing since I was six-years-old. Having a creative and artistic outlet has been incredibly important for me. Dance is so great, it teaches you composure, it’s physically great exercise, and it is a great mixture of expression and movement. There are so many amazing dance communities in New York – I love it. I would not be the person I am today without having a creative outlet that I love, which for me was dance. It is a great way to play when you’re not working on your other passions.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

DS: I don’t like to do the same thing, I like to do a bunch of different things, such as write a book, do a dance show, ship a great product, etc. Learning new things is how I define growing, and growing is what motivates me. I want to squeeze as much as I can out of every day!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DS: I would tell myself that it’s okay to break some rules and not do the things that you think you are expected to do. Do things that you think are expected of you only if they are in alignment with who you are and what your core values are. So I guess I would tell myself to rock the boat a bit more.

Another bit of advice is that you don’t learn nor do you get better without making mistakes. I still make mistakes every day, and that’s a good sign. In the moment it might feel uncomfortable, but I look back on it and realize that those moments translated to real growth. Force yourself to make mistakes when you’re younger because the bandwidth to recover is so much higher.

Deepa Subramaniam Qs

EducationSkills

With the holiday break so close, studying for finals may not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list. However, exam week is critical and because of its importance, it can cause major stress. For us during finals week – as much as procrastination tried to distract us – starting to study early was super helpful. That way, when our finals test date crept up, we didn’t need to cram all night and we had a little more confidence. As painful as finals week is, you have the power to take control. There are many little useful tricks to help you study – hopefully one of these works for you!

Create a plan.
Before you dive in to your mounds of paperwork, old tests, and study guides, create a clear guideline for the most important topics you’ll need to know for each test. This way, when you spend hours studying, you will be studying the material that will be most useful. Also, set aside hours of your day for studying for each class/test instead of just studying when you feel like it. When you have a clear plan, you’re more likely to follow it.

Take 5-10 minute breaks.
For every 55-60 minutes that you study, take a 5-10 minute study break. Whether you are transitioning between topics or just need to clear your head for a bit, do something completely different to take your mind off of what you spent the last hour reading and practicing. Don’t be fooled, break time is not wasted time.

Designate a study area for a certain period of time, then change it up.
Spend the morning studying history at the library, and then move to a cafe to study English in the afternoon. When you’re back in your dorm or at home that evening, round out your day by practicing math equations at your desk. If you sit in one place all day long, you’ll start to get distracted and bored. Everything will feel like it is blending together. Switch up your environment for a change of scenery and for the walking breaks.

Start studying early.
As hard as it is to avoid procrastination, starting to study early is the best thing you can do for yourself. Since it is no surprise as to when finals are in the year, you can plan out your study days accordingly. Try to give yourself at least one month to study before finals week. During your first week of studying, you won’t necessarily need to buckle down and study as hard as you will in the third and fourth week. Use the first couple of weeks to review all of the material, start from the beginning, and refresh your memory.

Find a focus point.
Designate something to be your source of comfort. For instance, a favorite family photo, your childhood teddy bear, a soft tennis ball to squeeze, or a funny comic strip. Then, when you get anxious or nervous before your test, pull out your little object to bring some laughter, happiness, and focus back into your mind.

Walk/Jog/Dance.
Get those endorphins going! Cardio is good for your memory and health, and a quick dance break might be just what you need to remember a tricky equation or definition.

Laugh. A lot.
Just as you need your cardio break, you also need to laugh! Laughing relives tension and stress, so don’t be shy. Laugh away. Watch a hilarious video your friend sent you, listen to your favorite comedian, or crack a couple of silly jokes with friends.

Talk to your professor.
If you start studying early, you can create a list of questions you may have to ask your teacher. Swing by his or her office hours and discuss anything you might find confusing. Also, be sure to ask in class or during office hours what exactly will be on the test. Your teacher might not be willing to share that information, but it never hurts to ask. When you start early and arrive prepared, you will be more confident come test day.

Memory aids.
Maybe writing equations or definitions down on flash cards will help you remember them. Maybe acting out a Shakespeare scene will help you better understand the themes and major plot points. Turning the capitals of countries you need to memorize into a song or poem will definitely spark a reminder during the test. Do what works for you and be creative!

Study with friends/classmates.
But only if it makes sense for you. You want to study with people who are motivated to learn the material and who have been paying attention in class. Everyone should equally contribute to the conversation or that time spent with a group is just not worth it. If you find a good group to work with, divide up the material between your peers and have everyone come to the study sessions with their sections filled-in with useful information. When the group can help each other and maximize time and be efficient, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

Avoid the dreaded all-nighter.
It might sound tempting to stay up all night before the test to cram that last bit of information. However, if you stay up all night, you’ll be exhausted for your exam the next morning. What you study last-minute the night before will have little impact on your overall knowledge of the content, so it’s better to get eight hours of sleep so you feel refreshed, quick, and comfortable.

Enjoy healthy snacks.
Want to munch on something while you study? Snack on carrots, apples and peanut butter, popcorn, and almonds. Avoid sugary sodas, energy drinks, and too much caffeine, as that will just give you a sugar crash that you did not need.

Breathe.
When you feel your heart starting to race when you’re studying from the anxiety about test day, put everything down and just breathe. You’ve taken tests before, you’ve done the work all quarter/semester, and you’ve read the material. Breathe deeply for a count of 10 seconds, think about positive outcomes only, take a break if you need it, and then get back to work with a more relaxed attitude.

Good luck with your finals! You got this!