Recently, I was selected as a Delegate for the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) 2021, through a highly intensive selection process. HPAIR is an internationally recognized student organization at Harvard University, offering a forum of exchange to facilitate discussion of the most important economic, political, & social issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region.
I represented India & my track was “Science & Tech”, where delegates delved deeper into the raving technologies of today & explore how Asian nations & the USA can come together to embrace this scientific journey, & advance this world like never before. We also discussed the role Artificial Intelligence plays in international diplomacy, specifically circulating discussions of worldwide security & autonomous weapons, & to what extent can AI potentially make gaps between developed & developing countries more or less severe. I was introduced to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which was very fascinating & I might try to implement it in the future. Altogether, HPAIR was a great opportunity to learn from & connect with global leaders around the globe. Here is a gist of what we did over the course of four amazing days:
January 15th, 2021 (ET) Day 1:
It was an exciting Day 1 at the HPAIR! 💫
We commenced the conference with opening remarks by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-General World Health Organization, who told us the importance of unity & clear communication because of & in spite of differences in cultures & backgrounds.
Followed by the first session, I got the opportunity to hear from Kevin Sneader, CEO and Global Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company where much was discussed — from how the pandemic has changed the world, that technology & innovation are going to play a huge part in the workplace moving forward, to addressing inequality within & among countries. I especially loved the comparison made between the transition from the tumultuous year of 1968 (the Vietnam War, Global Protests) to a significantly better 1969 (Apollo 11 Moon Landing, the debut of the Boeing 747), to the pandemic situation in 2020 & how we can transition into a better 2021.
After that at the panel with André Hoffmann, the Vice Chairman of Roche Holding Ltd, perfectly moderated by Martin Roll began which was very insightful who told us science is for humanity & not countries. A Discussion on the Economy of Trust & reiteration of ‘Business of business is business’. Finally, we had a Fireside Conversation on “The Uncontrollable Proliferation of AI” where we had Professor Milind Tambe, director for “AI for Social Good” at Google and Harvard University, and Amit Pradhan, the President of Silicon Valley Blockchain Society (SVBS) shared on how AI can improve current social issues. The key speakers shared insightful views on topics like US-Asian Climate Change Multilateralism, Science and Diplomacy, Uncontrollable Proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (the most relatable session for me so far), & many more. As a part of being a millennial, I was grateful for how Mr. Pradhan described our generation to be aware & activist. However, I know there’s still a lot to do in making our world a place where we’d live in. I appreciate how they concluded the session with a quote from R. Buckminster Fuller — “We’re the architects of the future, not its victims.”
January 16th, 2021 (ET) Day 2: Inspiration overload!
Opening Ceremony by Brian A. Wong, Advisor at Alibaba Group Global Initiatives, Founder & chairman at Radii China, moderated by Mark Wu, Vice Dean Harvard Law. My personal takeaway from the session was to identify what motivates me and do the same to create things that could benefit the greatest number of people.
“When we think about leaders’ great qualities, the first things that come to mind are traits like charisma, courage, and vision. We don’t usually think about humility, but we should.”
Listening to Mr. Hari Nair, VP of Procter & Gamble, was an incredible experience. It was definitely an excellent start to the day. He discussed the world where disruption in innovation is occurring rapidly, global leaders are needed to be borderless. He pointed out five principles of borderless leadership, which were:
- LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS: any form of communication is useless without good listening skills.
- FIND COMMON GROUND: when you think it’s impossible to seek one, always remember that there will always be common ground. You just need to sit back, relax, reflect, and carry on.
- FOCUS ON THE JOB TO BE DONE TO SPOT OPPORTUNITIES: get things done! Be responsible for what has been handed to you and be aware of bright opportunities coming along your way.
- DELIVER WINS: no matter how small progress is, progress is still a win.
- ALWAYS FOCUS ON MINDSET: it’s all about mindset and how you see the world. Global innovators are always questioning the ‘what if’s and sharpening the growth mindset.
On the latter point, one delegate raised the question of “how do you manage to find common ground when people around you simply give up?” I appreciate the fact that he emphasizes the importance of “taking a pause, and be patient.” As very often, we’d forget that sometimes what we need is just a spark to continue.
Then we had a panel about “Comparative Approaches to Opioid Use & Harm Reduction”, which was absolutely amazing. Rebecca Baker, Steffen Riemer, & Diana Kim gave us an insight on how covid has affected the situation of drug use in the world and how different countries should adopt different policies to regulate the use of drugs since “One size doesn’t fit all”.
Later, the panel that comprises Janice Lao, an ESG Director, chatted about “Economic Implications of Sustainability”. I personally can relate the “burden of traditions” very well, as coming from Asia while studying in western countries, I can only reassure how often the 2 mindsets are in the tug-of-war inside me when making decisions. However, I’m more than grateful for the fact that I get to explore so many different viewpoints & cultures in the world at this age.
Lesly Goh, Senior Technology Officer at The World Bank, at Cambridge Judge Business School Fellow, National University of Singapore Senior fellow, discussed data protection & privacy, leadership, AI, women empowerment, finance, business, & a lot more, which was really informative and empowering. She shared with us her experience in agriculture technology AgTech, identifying multiple market challenges curtailing our current global food system to opportunities that arise from digital transformation & important enabling factors. Key benefits included improved crop yields & enabling real-time monitoring systems.
She inspired all the delegates by the poem, Invictus — “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Adapting to the changes and thriving from each pivot.
Later, we proceeded to a wholesome talk with Bandana Tewari, lifestyle editor, sustainable activist, former Editor at Large for Vogue India. She gave great tips on fast fashion & sustainable fashion, & inspired me to explore Gandhian Ideologies about slow fashion. It was so insightful to learn about the 3 Cs — Consent, Credit, & Compensation, & the various dynamic views & aspects embedded in the fashion industry.
These are my eight personal takeaways from Bandana’s chat:
1. Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation
2. “Cultural Intellectual Property Rights” — when someone would take a cultural tradition the 3 C’s must be present:
a.) Consent — from the country/culture you are taking inspiration.
b.) Credit — acknowledging the techniques used in the tradition that you are copying or doing.
c.) Compensation — giving back to the community that you have taken the inspiration in your work.
3. Be a conscious consumer.
4. Vintage helps us look back, while we move forward.
5. Clothes can actually affect everything — politically, culturally, emotionally, & economically.
6. Trend means something is cool, but when others do it then it’s not cool anymore.
7. Fashion is a form of self-expression. You are your own canvas.
8. Deep dive into fashion brands, & know if they are really supporting green works.
Next, I attended an executive seminar with Julian Tse, a Vogue-published photographer, Ex-Finance, Oxford University Mathematics. In his session, Julian shared the moment when he took a decision that now changing his life from an actuary to a professional photographer. It was very insightful! Especially, when Julian said that wherever path we choose in our lives, there’s always a beautiful surprise in every decision we make. Also, when we feel down, making a point to seek out & appreciate the good qualities & the humanity in everyone we come across helps us & keeps us going. From this message, I realized that Julian valued a human connection, which is also reflected in the pictures he has captured.
January 17th, 2021 (ET) Day 3:
This day began with a Fireside Chat with Lord Wei, The first British-born person of Hong Kong origin to have become a member of the House of Lords.
Then Followed by a panel discussion with Lan Yang, Forbes, “100 most powerful women” & Talk show host “Oprah of China”, Anla Cheng, CEO & Founder of SupChina, & Lesly Goh at Harvard University about the self-reliability of women. These three amazingly successful & powerful women leaders shared their views on embracing change from rebirth & rebuilding. We covered a range of topics on Philanthropy in China & bridging US-China with balanced media content.
Next, we had a session by Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt, Former Minister of Finance of Mongolia, CEO, Ard Financial Group, which was moderated by none other than Martin Roll, CEO, Martin Roll Company, Global Business & Brand Strategist, Author. Some key insights anyone can take from Mr. Hutagt are the sheer leadership and patriotism one must possess in his/her life. His thoughts w.r.t his employees and Mangolian society are really commendable.
Then we had a fireside chat with Raba Khan, Youngest Member of Forbes 30 under 30, on the lines of the possibility of life beyond digital presence.
Next, we have a panel discussion on Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Tells You with Niya Dragova, Co-Founder of Candor — The Key: Just Ask, Understanding why doesn’t everyone negotiate, Think about your career like an investor, Practice radical self-advocacy.
We also had the HPAIR Trivia Night from 12:00 am to 1:00 am (IST), which went interesting with an amazing host, who was a part of the HPAIR organizing team.
Next, Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Chief Economist of the Asia-Pacific Region, Natixis Bank, & Reza Baqir, Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Former Head, International Monetary Fund (Egypt) talked about the Future of Global Debt in Emerging Economies. This talk provided great insight on Central Bank actions in the pandemic, Monetary — Fiscal Policy, Exchange Rates Regime, and Role of the International Monetary Fund in these time of crisis. This session was perfectly moderated by Martin Roll.
January 18th, 2021 (ET) Day 4:
It was an inspiring and insightful session with the 27th Prime Minister of Thailand, Right Honourable Abhisit Vejjajiva & Dr. John Park, Director of Korea Working Group, on the last day of the HPAIR 2021 conference. Truly an honor to listen to the Prime Minister on a range of contemporary issues & public policy matters.
We discussed the majority of the population in Thailand is based on the tourism sector, so the only way to uplift the economy from the substantial restructuring of economies with the neighboring ones. We also have focused on how multilateralism & cooperation in trade can de-escalate trade tension with China & other nations.
Then we had a fireside chat with Joseph Lubin, Founder, ConsenSys, Co-Founder, Ethereum & moderator Soyoun Choi. Mr. Lubin provided various knowledgeable inputs in the field of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, the cooperative need of central banks, political influence, & law & order. He also discussed the need to implement Ethereum as well as Blockchain in a more effective & efficient manner, in order to create a more robust & trustworthy financial infrastructure for the incoming future. This talk was very inspiring to me, as I’ve been interested in blockchain technology for a long time now, & wanted to learn how might it be made effective for the future.
Then we had an absolutely amazing discussion with Claire Huang, RPA lead for global strategy & operation at Dell Technology. She talked about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which was a totally new topic to me, but after her introduction, I’ve been digging deeper about this technology & might try to implement this in the future.
Next, I had an opportunity to listen to Mr. Adam Cheyer, Inventor & Co-Founder of Siri. I was so inspired by what he told us, & here are my personal takeaways from his talk:
1. Go out & create something, don’t waste time sitting & doing things that are not important. Life is short. Try to great at what you’re passionate about.
2. Understand your core emotions & turn them into mission statements.
3. Figure out what is essential to you, put it in words, & tell it to everyone you meet.
Lastly, I concluded my four-day journey of being a delegate with a banging closing ceremony organized by the team, where Tunak Tunak Tun by Daler Mehndi was played, LOL.
To conclude, I’d like to say that the conference was sprinkled with inspiring global leaders & powerful voices with a lot of lessons to offer in life. The conference had myriad lessons to take away from, even in the topics I did not have an interest in initially. A warm thanks to all the speakers for infusing so much energy & positivity into the event.
Here are my twelve takeaways from HPAIR:
- Listen more, talk less. 👂
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help tackle a multitude of social issues.🤖
- Nature is not limitless & it’s time we play our roles diligently to tackle climate change. 🌿
- Love Quotient is as important as Emotional Quotient. 💜
- Celebrate little achievements. 🌸
- Human values are important because they help us change, grow, & develop. 🌱
- Be an environmentally-conscious consumer. 🧠
- We should always aim to become a servant leader. 🙏🏽
- Some people are meant to stay, while others are meant to go & that’s ok. 🌷
- We’re the architects of the future, not its victims. 🚀
- Be part of the right networks. ✔️
- There is no pride in selectivity. (Take pride in what you take away from the conference and not mere selection) .🙌🏽
- People will recognize you. People will notice you. All because of your values. 🇮🇳
- Dreams are powerful because we attract what we think or desire, but to fulfill it, we must go through the ups & downs of our lives while carrying our own human values. 🦋
Thanks to Run The World & Zoom, for enabling hundreds of delegates to be a part of HPAIR 2021. And a big shout out to the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) team for organizing such a wonderful event & allowing me to be a part of it.