The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Atisha Patel, Co-Founder of NotiCare, a Healthtech company that focuses on enhancing how healthcare providers communicate with a patient’s family in a changing technological world. Atisha is also the Co-Founder of Teenpreneur, Inc., a nonprofit entrepreneurial camp for teens. Atisha started her career as a biomedical engineer, her passion and thirst to understand how organizations operate led her to dabble in the start-up world learning the intricacies that are involved in starting a business. Atisha’s engineering experience and innate problem-solving ability allows her to efficiently and enthusiastically lead in various positions. She is a blockchain enthusiast, serves as an advisor to local start-ups and nonprofits, and is a mentor at Yale University’s Center of Innovative Thinking, Venture For America, and the Society of Women Engineers at Drexel University.
Atisha is an inspiration to the youth that want to get involved in Entrepreneurship. We caught up with Atisha to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to the next generation of leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
I wouldn’t say I chose this career path; I sort of stumbled upon it. I wanted to major in philosophy but I chose to study biomedical engineering for practical purposes. I knew there were more opportunities with an engineering degree but did not know what I wanted to do with it post graduation. Needless to say, I was not passionate for BME but engineering taught me skills that I would not have gotten from another major such as project management and thinking outside of the box.
The puzzle pieces of my past came together years later. My first co-op in 2006 was at a small Pharma company outside of Philadelphia. While there, Novartis ended up buying them out. Back then there were only small or big companies and the term start-up was not commonly used. I remember when I had accepted that position, I was a little hesitant of my decision as my other friends took positions at big Pharma like Merck, Johnson and Johnson, GSK, etc. However, this experience was invaluable. I was given the opportunity to sit in on meetings with the c-suite, manage other interns, and experience first-hand at what happens to a start-up when it’s acquired by a massive company. I quickly learned that I loved the growth opportunity as well as the flexibility a start-up offered as structure was never really for me.
Even when I was younger, I always wanted to be a “boss” and a mommy. I think at the time I didn’t realize why I wanted to be a “boss” but what I really wanted was flexibility and not have to answer to anyone else. My parents always said I drummed to my own beat since I was a young child and not much has changed. So finally about 4 ish years ago, after growing pretty restless and not wanting to go back to school, which I was never really good at, I had to figure an alternative out.. that’s when I went to my first networking event. This took so much courage because I was very introverted and battling social anxiety which I didn’t even know I had at the time. I went to the event and the rest is history. I loved meeting women who were working on things they were passionate for instead of just working to work.
I had a word document since my high school days with a list of things I would change in the world but never had the courage to run with any of the ideas as I lacked a business background. In 2008, I remember telling my friend I really think virtual doctors visits would be cool. I was pretty much laughed at and now telemedicine is a huge industry. That one networking event made me realized I didn’t need a business background or validation; I just needed some experienced people in my corner and google. While structured education was something I had to work really hard at, it was a necessity and it allowed me to learn that I learn very quickly when it involves hands on experience.
Who inspired you to get involved?
While reflecting heavily on all of the people I have encountered along the years, I realized my path was not a product of any one significant person but rather, of reflections of my own experiences.
It is always important to have idols and people to look up to but it is even more important to self-reflect. Self –reflection allows a person to dig deep into why we are doing something, why we are behaving a certain way, why we like or dislike things. For example, our parents always pushed us to try different extracurricular activities, from painting, piano and the arts to soccer and sports. If we didn’t try these activities, we would have never learned if we liked them or not. Perhaps at the ripe age of 8 we didn’t really self-reflect but we did have experiences and those experiences allowed us to slowly chisel away at who we are today. Thus, as adults, we too still have to keep experiencing and trying things outside of our comfort zones. This is where the true inspiration stems from!
How do you define a leader?
I don’t think there is a perfect definition for a leader. A good leader continues to grow and learn from their mistakes and experiences. For an introverted teen, my first experience as a leader was in 8th grade when we were assigned a 100 page Civil War project. We had eight people in our group and two months to submit this book filled with people, places, dates, and battles. All I knew was that the project was doable but managing eight people would be the hardest task. Thus, I did the only logical thing that any 13 year old would do – made the group sign a contract. I believe it stated something along the lines of: “I, _____, hereby agree to submit a double spaced, 12-font, Times New Roman, one page long article on their topic along with a picture on the corner….” Had they failed to do so, I would not be responsible for their grade which, would be determined by an evaluation at the end of the project. I had also successfully negotiated with our social studies teacher that I do not think we should be graded as a whole team but individually shall there be any issues. Mr. Jenkins hesitantly obliged given that I pleaded my case with such conviction.
I did not anticipate the group having a positive reaction to my craziness. While they laughed a bit, they unhesitantly gave me their John Hancock and agreed a structure was imperative. Building on that experience from my middle school days, I learned that being a leader involves building a team that is so strong, you don’t know who the boss is.
Leaders don’t “boss” people around or just dictate things, they allow room for growth and creativity. Ray Dalio’s method of allowing his employees to make mistakes and not firing them as long as they own up to their faults is something that has stuck with me. We are humans. We are not perfect and we make mistakes. Allowing a team to understand that is so imperative. We spend so much of our time at work and so it’s important to make sure that environment is productive as well as enjoyable.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
I am the Co-Founder of a healthtech company, NotiCare, and a nonprofit entrepreneurial camp, Teenpreneur, Inc and an active community member mentoring high school and college students. We started Teenpreneur for a something I spoke about earlier – I had a word document full of ideas but not the courage to execute them so it just made sense to start a summer camp for local teens where they can learn to apply their creativity and learn to monetize on it while providing them with a network. What we don’t realize is that the most creative minds are the youngest ones – they are untainted by the realities of the world.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Picasso
1. Focus on the 3 P’s — passion, purpose, and patterns. Find your passion for your short-term goals. Use that to figure out your purpose and how to monetize on it. Those will be your long-term goals. Lastly, self-reflect often and learn how to follow patterns. We’ve all succeeded and failed in our lives so follow the patterns of your successes and capitalize on your failures.
2. Find a mentor! Mentors and role models are very different. Mentors will be your cheerleaders on your off days and your sounding board on your on days.