Campus Life student spotlight

A venture capitalist of many talents

Meet Myra, a very socially active junior

8578 tafsia shikdar   received 1659454884143981
Myra Ahmad '19 is president of the MSA and a self-proclaimed overuser of face masks.
Dana Dabbousi

Name & Class: Myra Ahmad, Class of 2019
Areas of Study: Major in Course 6-2 (Electrical Eng. and Comp Sci), Minor in Course 17 (Political Science)
Living group: McCormick
Home state: Virginia

How do you like McCormick?
I’ve lived on the same floor since freshman year, so McCormick is my home. I love it. There is a certain stereotype which I don’t really get — what I want from a dorm are the 3 “C”s: close friends, cleanliness and convenience. I was very lucky to be put on the best floor in McCormick, in my humble, unbiased opinion. I remember that on the day my roommate and I moved in, an upperclassman cooked us dinner. I don’t like being on the meal plan, but I guess you can’t have it both ways.

Why did you choose Course 6-2?
My entire life, I thought I wanted to do Course 16 (Aerospace Engineering). I owned a mini telescope, I went to space camp during middle school, and I wanted to work for NASA. However over freshman IAP I took part in a UROP with Professor Grossman, my 3.091 (Introduction to Solid State Chemistry) professor. This convinced me to declare Course 3 (Material Science and Engineering) when I declared Early Sophomore Standing for the spring semester. Yet, during the spring semester, I took 6.01 (Introduction to EECS via Robotics) with my best friend, and ended up loving it enough to switch my major to Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering) in May. However, at the end of freshman summer, I switched to 6-2. I guess this is a story of how I’m just very easily influenced.

Why did you choose to minor in Course 17?
I like taking classes exploring different areas of the world. I took the 17.41 (Introduction to International Relations) first, then 17.568 (Comparative Politics and International Relations of the Middle East), since I went to high school in the Middle East. As a graduate class, the work was very intense, but I loved it and wanted to continue.

When did you move to the Middle East?
Born in Alabama, I lived in Virginia from age four, up to seventh grade. Then, my family moved to Saudia Arabia due to my dad’s job. We lived in an American compound, which is a small community of people with Western passports — Americans and some Australians, although about half the people were Saudi Arabians. I went to an American high school there. Living abroad gives you such a different world view, and I ended up travelling a lot more since it was closer to Pakistan, Europe, etc. You can’t know anything about a certain place or position until you live through that experience. It was enlightening seeing people live their lives outside the Western bubble I grew up in — before, I couldn’t imagine living without Disney Channel on TV.

How would you describe the MSA?
We host a big dinner every semester, as well as small fun events throughout like barbeques and game nights. Really, it’s a tight knit friend group of 80 or so people. I became part of the executive community in freshman spring and ran for president the next year. Through my classes, I’ve made good friends to hang out and do homework with, but from joining a student group, I met people from other years who could act as mentors. As a freshman, MSA upperclassmen guided me through things like UROP applications and even just sending professional emails. Becoming a leader within this community and now watching my mentees themselves become leaders has been amazing — I couldn’t believe that the prefrosh I met were getting their sophomore rings last week!

Our biggest event of the year is the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast all day. The MSA hosts Iftar, the evening meal to break the fast, every evening for the MIT and local community. Sometimes there are people from the local community who bring tupperware because this is the only food they have access to. At college, it’s easy to get into a bubble and forget about the world outside. Through the MSA I’ve been able to meet people outside this bubble and give something back to Cambridge.

What else do you like to do in your free time?
I like to consider myself a writer. My goal when I came to MIT was to publish a book before I finished college, although I don’t think that’s going to happen. I write short stories, and I also joined an online program in sophomore year of high school, NaNoWriMo, that promotes November as National Novel Writing Month. So every November for the past six years, I wrote a piece that I worked on throughout the year. Additionally, a weird thing I like to do in my spare time is face masks. I do one almost everyday — I don’t think that is good for your skin but I love them. If you ever want to do a face mask, let me know.   

Looking back as a junior, do you have any advice for younger years?
It’s very easy to feel alone at MIT, even when you are surrounded by people. You may feel like no one is looking out for you, or that you have no one to talk to, but the reality is, there are people there. MIT sucks sometimes, and everyone knows it. It’s not even about being depressed or having a mental disorder where you need to see a professional — sometimes you just feel down, and you should just talk to someone. We all need to build each other up when MIT tries to break us down.

What are your plans for the future?
My long term goal is to be a venture capitalist. They’re the people who give money to start-ups, usually funded by firms that listen to pitches and decide to invest in ideas they like. In 15.359J (Innovation Engineering: Moving Ideas to Impact), I learned that there is a definite need for more diversity within these teams, due to the simple fact that people tend to invest in people who look and act like themselves. I will be interning at IBM this summer, which hopefully leads to future opportunities. It’s a big step away from robotics, but it’s important to have a tech background while listening to start-up pitches, while I’ll probably satiate my engineering side by filling my garage with cool little gadgets I’ve made.

Would you rather eat ketchup on ice cream or chocolate sauce on a hot dog?
The hot dog — I hate ketchup. I’ll dip the tip of my fry in ketchup, but that’s enough for me.

Would you rather be the best player on a horrible team or the worst player on a great team?
Worst player, since it’s all about team spirit and I feel like I’ve done this anyway! I was the worst kid on the soccer team, the basketball team, the swim team...I’ve been part of a lot of teams, and I’m pretty sure I was always the worst!

What one thing would you want to have with you on a desert island?
A plane. Even if it’s a crashed plane, I can hopefully figure something out as an engineer!

What one value do you prize above all others?
Having respect for the people around you. Maybe this is a Southern thing, but where I’m from, whenever you pay for something you say: “Thank you, have a great day,” and the employee will say that back, and you might even have a conversation. I think it’s important to be respectful to everyone.