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Senior Spotlight

Senior Spotlight: Pratima Manga

"I am a steadfast believer that you only grow from places of discomfort. My goal post-college is to continue my pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but most importantly seek out the uncomfortable!" Academy senior Pratima Manga shares how her journey to the Academy has challenged her preconceived notions of success. Whether it be pursuing her newfound love of product design or building a community empowering entrepreneurship at USC, Pratima believes that with the right people and a little bit of grit, anything is possible!

Tell me a little bit about your journey to Academy? What were you looking for in an undergrad program?
Growing up in the Bay Area, I often felt the pressure of following traditional notions of success; seeing my peers blindly chase after “perfect” test scores or prestigious majors felt counterproductive to me. Leaving high school, I wasn't quite ready to box myself into just one thing. The Academy challenged that notion of a box and has shown me that there was a place in the world for people with diverse interests. From my first day of class, the Academy has pushed me to think in unconventional ways and I felt right at home. Funnily enough, the first time I'd really even heard about USC was at a UCLA Open House. The universe works in mysterious ways!

How have you evolved over the years? What are some of your goals post-graduation?
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a bit of an obsessive planner. When I first came to USC, my blinders fell away and I realized that for the first time in my life, I didn't really have a plan. As a coping mechanism, I threw myself headlong into different opportunities: joining a freshman dance team to a stint as an RA to studying product design and everything in between. In turn, I learned, grew and came away from each experience just a tad wiser. I am a steadfast believer that you only grow from places of discomfort. My goal post-college is to continue my pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but most importantly to seek the uncomfortable! After graduation, I'll be uprooting my life to move to a new state for work, away from my friends and family and the comfortable life I've grown to love. Do I have a grand plan? Not really... but I'm okay with that!

Describe a passion project you're currently working on or interested in?
Tech.LA Fellows! I'm on the organizing team of this fellowship program serving students in the Los Angeles entrepreneurship scene. We pair university talent in business, design, and engineering with up-and-coming LA startups for paid summer internships and curated events. These range from fireside chats to tech tours to immersion in the world of budding LA startups. Learn more at Tech.LA !

What inspired the project?
Though most people immediately jump to San Francisco or New York as "the place to be" in tech, Los Angeles is a center for innovation which inspired a crop of successful startups such as Snap Inc, Bird, and more! I wanted to help bridge that knowledge gap and push the needle forward on establishing LA as a growing technology hub.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?
All of my friends! Throughout college, I've been in constant awe of the passion and ambition the people around me show. Whether it be about building tech to combat climate change or organizing a mentorship program for underserved LA high schoolers or putting on a music festival in the middle of the desert, the sky's the limit with the amazing things they put their minds to.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
I can't say there's a single quote, but if I'm ever on the hunt for inspiration I find myself listening to Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, watching The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, or reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

What advice would you give to a freshman?
Fail early, fail often, and fail spectacularly! College is the last time you have the chance to fail with no major repercussions. Take the time to try new things, even if you might not be good at them. And find the people who will help you up when you fall. Don't take yourself too seriously, or anything too seriously for that matter. And, most importantly, have fun! Time passes by a lot quicker than you'd imagine.

Describe one thing most people don't know about you?
I have a minor in Dance! People tend to fall into the trap of minoring in what they think seems most "marketable" to employers. Don't do it. Pick something that's fun, that's interesting to you, or that you'll never have the opportunity to learn again. Trust me on this one!

What the one thing your parents taught you that you'd like to share?
Surround yourself with a supportive community and always treat others with kindness. Surprisingly simple but very pertinent advice. Also, phone home more.

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
My notebook, Polaroid, laptop, and AirPods.

Favorite app or website?
Probably The New York Times or Spotify. Runner up: Spark SC

Fave class at USC and why?
Digital Toolbox for Design
Though I was undeniably one of the worst performers in the class (I'm sorry, Steve Childs), Digital Toolbox was my first exposure to design as a discipline and potential career path. Truth be told, I really struggled through the coursework at the time (pro tip: use the grid). That being said, I grew immensely and this course ignited my curiosity in the field of design which is going strong to this day!

Favorite way to de-stress?
Catching up with a friend I haven't seen in a while! There's something really sweet about making time for someone you love to chat with, about everything at once and nothing in particular.

Guilty pleasure?
Dulce breakfast burritos and The Office.