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WLP 2021 Week 6: Taking Risks

This summer, I am interning with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency within the Department of Commerce. Before I began, I was apprehensive about this daunting new experience, as I was concerned my majors didn’t provide me with the scientific background I felt I would need to understand my projects. Never would I have imagined being able to use coding skills to polish a scientific website or engage in thoughtful discussion with my coworkers in only a couple of weeks. This week, I even presented to social scientists across NOAA on the value chains for the benefit analysis of a multi-billion dollar government satellite and to my team on suggestions for the Integrated Assessment Models to calculate the social cost of greenhouse gases.

This week’s panel, moderated by Sam Arora, resonated with me as it cemented my experiences of accomplishing the unexpected in the past month at NOAA. Maryland State Delegate Aruna Miller, Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram, and Kentucky State Representative Nima Kulkarni shared their involvement in state politics and emphasized the importance of taking risks. The three inspiring women who forged their own ways into political office were incredibly energetic and dynamic, keeping the other scholars and I laughing with their intriguing stories. Their main message was clear: be fearless, be bold, and take chances. As some of the first Indian women in their respective state governments, they stressed that it was not enough to simply put in hard work--you must embrace unforeseen challenges and seize unanticipated opportunities.

The state politics panel emphasized the importance of being willing to push open doors and to leave them open behind you for other underrepresented groups in the government. While I am proud of the work I put into opening doors at NOAA for myself, my experiences this week would not have been possible without the WLP community and my team in NOAA offering me opportunities to grow and try new things.

On Thursday, our mixer with AAPI Hill Staffers widened my community, with helpful staffers speaking with us about their career trajectories and with other current AAPI interns eager to make virtual connections. Reflecting on my time in WLP, I’m glad I took these risks and am grateful for the life-long relationships that came along with it. The professional and personal support offered by my WLP cohort through the regularly scheduling working sessions kept me motivated during the heavy workload this week. Similarly, the mentors and contacts that I have met through the WLP events have always been willing to chat with me about interests in making an impact in the world and offer advice for anything I am currently dealing with.

As Delegate Aruna Miller said, “sometimes you have plans for life and sometimes life has plans for you.” An avid planner and widely-acknowledged Type-A person, my life mantra has always focused on scheduling, organizing, and developing five-year plans. The past two months at NOAA, and this week in particular, emphasized the importance of being fearless and bold. While I am not sure what my path will be in the coming years, I aspire to break down barriers within larger institutions to empower marginalized groups. The changes I hope to make may be difficult and will require being comfortable in the unpredictable. Delegate Miller called herself an “accidental politician”--I fully expect myself to stumble upon unforeseeable opportunities, and when I do, I know I will be excited to take the risk.


Eshika Kaul

Wellesley College ‘23

Department of Commerce, NOAA Office of the Chief Economist

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