Hima Tk has had a long and fruitful career in the world of science and technology, working with NASA and establishing her own tech start-up InquiBox. We chat to Hima about her career in STEM and her thoughts on encouraging more girls to get involved in the world of tech.
What sparked your interest in technology? Can you tell us about your journey from consultant to entrepreneur?
From a young age I was fascinated by computers, technology and science fiction. This passion led me to complete an Electronics Engineering Bachelor degree. I worked as a software engineer, technology consultant and management consultant across Asia, United States and Australia.
Further along in my career, I attended a women’s Hackathon with the aim of meeting other women in technology in Melbourne. Our team won one of the prizes and I became hooked on the world of startups and entrepreneurship. I loved the creative aspect, it adds so much excitement. You get to solve a problem by building something that didn’t exist before, it gives you immense possibilities to explore.
One of your current roles is at NASA – ‘Datanaut’ at the Office of the CIO, Technology & Innovation. How did you become involved and what does the role entail?
I was selected to be part of the NASA Datanaut program in January 2018. Each year, NASA opens applications for the program. Datanauts work with NASA OpenData to solve problems, share learnings, develop skills and interact with other team members within NASA and across the world. It was a great opportunity to improve my data analysis and science skills, and connect with like-minded people.
You’re also Founder of tech startup InquiBox, which helps children have fun learning STEAM (the a is for arts) topics through play. Can you tell us about what drove you to start it, your mission and vision, and growth in the past year?
InquiBox designs and delivers educational activity boxes for children aged 7-12 years old so they can learn through play. We explore a different STEAM topic every month, and feature scientists and experts from different fields so that children get a chance to interact with them.
Our mission is to bring the magic of learning to the dreamers and innovators of tomorrow. We plan to grow our company to make education accessible to everyone. We want to ensure that a portion of our sales goes to delivering the content in our boxes for free for lower income communities and schools. We launched our VIP Adventure recently and you can find out all about it here.
Why is STEM knowledge so important for the future? How can we ensure it remains a priority?
STEM is acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. STEM is not just coding (which many people currently misinterpret it as). Building awareness is crucial in ensuring that it remains a priority. I read an alarming statistic recently that in 2018 it’s projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled.
Science literacy is a crucial skill for the future so that citizens anywhere can make informed decisions that affect their communities at large. The importance of science literacy is being widely discussed, especially right now when the world seems to be more polarised than ever on everything from artificial intelligence, vaccines to global warming. These topics have the potential to change the way we live, so it’s more important than ever that we educate our children for the future. You can read more about my views on this here.
How can people of all ages upskill in STEM? How can we encourage more females to join and become involved in these fields?
There are many online courses and platforms that allow you to upskill in technology and math related subjects. If you’re looking for specialised science or engineering courses, it may be best to enrol in a university or short course. However, if you are interested in improving your general STEM knowledge and keep informed of what’s happening across the world, I would suggest subscribing to quality newsletters and website content like Wired, NYTimes Science News, Singularity Hub and Guardian Science.
I believe it’s crucial for women to have mentors and sponsors in STEM related fields. We need men and women across all levels of organisations supporting and championing for women. Visibility is essential, in order to provide female role models for the girls currently in school and women looking to join these fields. All workplaces should also have policies in place that help women thrive in traditionally male dominated STEM fields.
We see you’re a mentor for students in technology startups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Launch Program. What does this entail and what is your outlook on mentoring?
MIT’s Young Entrepreneurs Program, LaunchX, runs programs for high school students across the world. I mentor about 3-4 teams from anywhere in the world every year. I spend time with them refining their value proposition, giving them clarity on the problem they’re solving, solutions to propose and feedback on their business models.
One of the teams I mentored as part of the 2017 batch were top 10 finalists at the pitches in Boston, which was exciting for me as their mentor. Mentoring is my way of giving my skills back to the people who need it. At the same time, it makes me feel humble to be around all these people building exciting companies and solving real problems. Mentoring is a truly proud and humbling endeavour for me; one that gives me so much joy too.
Connect with Hima Tk.
Find out more about InquiBox.