I was introduced to the beauty of math by my high school Russian math teacher, Mr Gershovits. He taught us not just math, but the pleasure of grappling with math challenges.
Most of our school years, we are fed with recipes and templates which we blindly memorize and apply. Mr G taught differently. He presented us with fascinating problem solving techniques and gave us super hard homework challenges. At first, we were frustrated and gave up. “We spent five hours trying to solve your exercises and none of us succeeded,” we complained jointly.
“You spent five hours trying to solve this?” he seemed genuinely interested.
We obviously exaggerated, but it was too late to backtrack. “Yes, we did, and if we all failed, it means you are not teaching us well!”
Mr G grinned. “Then you trained and practiced five hours of math. I couldn’t ask for more, I am satisfied with your work.”
Stunned, we argued “but how will you grade us if we fail to solve the exercises?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. The exercises I gave you are of no significance, they have been solved before. The time you spent trying and failing is what matters, because the paths you tried, you will avoid taking again in the future. Eventually, you will succeed in solving my exercises.”
Thus I learned from Mr G that time spent diving deep into a technical challenge is never lost.
I have since encountered numerous experiences which reinforced that lesson. Gaining deep insight at one place helped me connect with an unrelated area years later. A skill or a method I acquired at one point got me “unstuck” at another. I never regretted learning or deepening my understanding in anything.
Fast forward to 2016, I was approached by Pratima Gluckman in relation to her ambitious plan to write a book about women leaders in high tech. OK, this time, I thought the time will be lost. What are the chances that a full time high tech engineering manager, and a mother of three, with no publishing experience, will manage to pull this off?
Stunningly, less than two years later, the book “Nevertheless, She Persisted” by Pratima is published! The book weaves the stories of nineteen women leaders in high-tech with Pratima’s personal touch and narration. I applaud her incredible achievement, and I believe that many can find a chapter they may identify with or get inspired by.
Among the nineteen stories, one is mine. I did not get a chance to tell the story above about my math teacher, but I shared others. It was fun working with Pratima on this project, and I am honored to be included.