The benchmark is meeting your potential

Enthusiasm and curiosity will get you there. Smarts will keep you there.

Nadia DeVilla

Propelled by enthusiasm and curiosity

I don't think of myself as a woman. What I mean by that is, in anything that I've done as far as I can remember, whether it be school, sports, or work, I've never thought of myself as a woman first. I always thought of myself as a person with abilities and potential, and therefore, on whatever I embark– I will strive to meet my potential.

I see myself as an enthusiastic, curious, and sometimes smart person. Enthusiasm and curiosity have driven and propelled me to the next level. If I'm intrigued or curious about a particular topic or idea, it gets me to that level of enthusiasm because now I'm involved in a pursuit or problem solving.

What sustains me in that effort is my level of smarts. I think I have enough IQ to navigate and figure out what that potential idea would be. Those three elements have always propelled me to the next step or opportunity. Enthusiasm and curiosity get you there, and smarts keep you there.

Meeting potential

Growing up, I never perceived differences in gender, culture or age. I credit my mother for that, and next my father. During my childhood those differences never dawned on me and I was never told that I couldn’t do anything. In fact, I've always been told that I have the abilities, and therefore I actually have to do more. There's never a status quo, but rather an opportunity to always do more, whatever that may be.

Growing up with brothers and a sister, there never was a differentiation amongst any of us, regardless of age. I'm the youngest of four children and, technically, 15 years younger than everybody, but that never was a difference. That environment and mindset that was created within our household stuck with me from day one.

I was raised with the only goal being to meet my potential. Potential meant, at least from my parents' perspective, get to a certain level of education. Definitely get your degree--no matter what. That was the baseline.

Achieving that will make you marketable, and therefore you will become a productive member of society. There were these certain baseline factors, and then from there I was taught to never be complacent or satisfied. There's always an opportunity behind the door.

Finding similarities in diversity

I’m not naive or blind to diversity, but it wasn't diversity that motivated me. Growing up in the Philippines I was exposed to different cultures because my first job was in consulting. Through that I've met many different folks involved in many different things. What I learned via that experience is that we may come in different shapes and forms and believe different things, but, how we work, and how we collaborate, how we think to create or achieve something, are all inherently the same.

Maybe I was fortunate enough to have realized that none of those diversity factors may influence you, on how you behave, how you think, how you act. Fundamentally, if we have a common goal as a team or as an organization, those do not necessarily matter or differentiate you.

Time investment as a parent

Now that I’m a mother, there's a point of pause of how far I go from a time or a personal capacity perspective, but not from ambition or aspiration. I've realized with my five year old (who's turning 30 any minute now--he's as sassy as my parents) is that time is a finite factor. I do need to spend time with him as a parent. Not just as a mother, but as a parent. This is true for my husband as well. He thinks exactly the same way in the sense that we need, together, to spend time with our child.

Historically, I've invested that time to think of progression with work, or progression with other endeavors that I'm pursuing. Now, as a mother, I do need to pause and think where is the right investment of time? It doesn't mean that it stops me from thinking I need to advance in an opportunity, but every day I have to make a choice of where I will invest that time.

Formal education vs. experience in AI

In the land of artificial intelligence, a college degree won't necessarily be a distinguishing factor. If my son learns how to program now, he should be fine without the college degree. With the Internet being as advanced as it is, he can basically learn anything that he would learn from a book, or in a classroom. There’s a different qualifying condition for potential for him.

Given how I've grown up, I have that academic benchmark that I need to make sure my son goes through. My husband is more of a realist, and questions whether that even matters in this world of technology. He wonders whether we should we just send him to California or to Waterloo as soon as he finishes high school.

We could send him to certain technology incubators and he could learn from there.

As things get automated and as technology progresses, the ability to create and build are going to be more critical than stories of faith for folks like me.

From a skilling perspective we need to rethink. If I go back to what propels me, enthusiasm and curiosity is what will, in a way, save us all. It's what will save my son. If he continues to be enthusiastic at something and curious--and right now, at five, I know he has smarts--those three things will propel him to survive in the new world of automation and technology.