The students of Chicago Math and Science Academy and Amundsen High School started their week with some serious inspiration. Three wonderful achievers, Chandrika Shrinivasan and Anusha Challa of TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) and Miguel Guerra of CDW shared their stories of struggle, determination, education and success with over 115 students at the two schools.

Miguel’s story is one of choosing the right path when facing a fork in the road. Miguel himself had started down a bad path early in life, struggling to keep a job and even spending time in jail. But he knew it was not too late to make a change. Now he’s an IT consulting engineer deploying wireless networks around the country. Guerra never received a college degree but worked to obtain nine certifications that help him in his work today. 

“It took determination that I didn’t even know I had in me. Everyone around me told me I couldn’t; everyone will tell you can’t, but you have to be determined and know that you can change. Everyone can change,” Miguel told the students.

Chandrika grew up in India and, from an early age, had the determination to make a change in her and her family’s well-being. She launched a tutoring business that enabled her family to move to a new house with basic amenities, even before she finished high school. She didn’t stop there. She sought scholarship after scholarship to fund college and a master’s. Now Chandrika is a client partner at TCS and spends much of her time giving back to the Chicago community and to students that could follow her into the STEM fields.

Anusha also had to come up with her own way of paying for education. Her family was hit hard by the recession and lost their investments, leaving Anusha with little to build from. Through sheer determination, she prepared for and aced her school entrance exams, resulting in a full scholarship. After she finished school, she was selected first from her class to join the TCS team. Her ascent in the company was quick, and she was brought to Chicago to continue working here with Chandrika.

Three stories of inspiration impacting many young lives: read more about each of our STEM Talk speakers here.