Dr. Prativa Pandey is the Founder and CEO of Catalyst Technology, a science and technology research and product development company. She is also Co-founder of the Daayitwa Nepal Public Service Fellowship Program, a platform for students and young professionals to support public sector institutions with technical research.
Prativa has worked as a Research Scientist in the US and Singapore for four years and has authored several scientific publications and filed three US patents. She is also an avid runner and has bagged a few winning medals. She enjoys listening to her mother’s stories and creating more with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
“Catalyst Technology is a platform to leverage science and technology to solve market problems in Nepal by creating innovative solutions using local resources. I am striving to turn it into a successful enterprise that works at an intersection of public, private and academic sectors, and has innovation and R&D integrated in its core”
Here, she shares with Business 360 the five important aspects that have helped her shape her life and career.
The decision to return home
Deciding to return to Nepal after finishing my studies, even before getting on the plane to the US for the first time, was the best decision of my life. This decision shaped many critical decisions later in my life. I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in sciences and get industrial experience in the US so that it would facilitate my goal of returning home and promoting science and technology entrepreneurship in Nepal. A related decision was choosing my life partner. The process of returning home and trying to build things ground up has become an adventurous journey despite many challenges because of having a supportive soulmate with shared aspirations and value system. That decision 13 years ago has helped me stay grounded and at the same time helped me take risks and fly high.
The fragility of life
I met some of my closest friends in high school. After high school, we kept in touch for some time. When life threw ‘exciting’, ‘urgent’, and ‘important’ things at me, I stopped putting enough effort to connect with friends and family. My excuse? – “I will call later when I have more time.” Seven years after high school, I got the sad news that one of my high school best friends died in an unfortunate accident. I felt a strong sense of failure that I had ignored the fragility of life and kept important relationships in my life on hold. After that loss, I tried to connect with my family and friends more frequently. One day, I was having a heart-to-heart phone conversation with my dad… I let the conversation flow, dropping everything I was doing. When I woke up to a phone call the next day, I had already lost my dad to a sudden health situation. I still feel a huge void losing him, but I am glad we created beautiful memories together and I made him laugh even on the last day of his life. Through my failure, I learned to cherish important relationships no matter how busy life gets.
To do something for the country
Catalyst Technology is like a jigsaw puzzle for me where each piece of the puzzle contains many dreams and aspirations (not just mine) to do something for the country and bring important changes in the field of science and technology. This puzzle is a hard one to crack, but I finally see it coming together slowly. Catalyst Technology is a platform to leverage science and technology to solve market problems in Nepal by creating innovative solutions using local resources. I am striving to turn it into a successful enterprise that works at an intersection of public, private and academic sectors, and has innovation and R&D integrated in its core.
Debunking gender stereotype in STEM
Debunking gender stereotypes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has always been an uphill battle and remains hard to shift. By the time I was in grade 9, I started noticing the dwindling confidence of girls in math, computers and sciences compared to boys. Girls still performed well in tests, but their participation in class discussions and STEM clubs were discouraging. Looking back, this change in the confidence of girls might have been influenced by the early biases in the perceptions of abilities that falsely projected boys as being better than girls in math and sciences.
I remember feeling like I didn’t belong as the only girl in the computer club in grade 9 or much later in life as the only female scientist in a meeting room with dozens of male scientists. To retain women in STEM, we have to be persistent in trying to break these stereotypes early on, by addressing the biased voices that impede women from achieving their highest potential in STEM. Fortunately, with more women role models pushing boundaries in STEM, the efforts to address these stereotypes have become more pertinent than ever.
Focus on strengths
Luckily, I have had many influential people in my life. For me, the most influential person in my life varies depending on the phase of my life. These are mostly the people who I cross paths with. I try to focus on people’s strengths and very quickly get inspired and influenced by their positive traits. The traits that I value the most in a person are high integrity, strong work ethics, persistence, and ‘can do’ attitude. I deeply respect people who persistently work towards a purpose much bigger than themselves.
Three key people who have had most influence in my life are: my mother, a hopeless optimist and a fighter, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years with so much grace and positivity; my father, who taught me independence, courage, and showed me how to never give up, and my husband, whose passion, dedication, and persistence in this journey to make Nepal a prosperous country gives me chills! Often times, we look for motivation elsewhere, but almost always we have it around us and within us.