Opinion: STEM careers should not be the only means of success in the Indian community


    Media by Emma Tyulyayev

    Non-STEM careers have long been stigmatized within the Indian-American community and that needs to stop. Success is not just based on a specific career but rather an individual’s true purpose and passion in life.

    At every family-friend gathering, I’m asked the same dreaded question: what do you want to be when you grow up? But the question only has two acceptable answers, so they ask another question: are you leaning toward being a doctor or an engineer? 

    At age 12, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a doctor. But now, at 16, I respond with, “I don’t know.” 

    At 12, being a doctor was drilled into my head. It’s every Indian-American immigrant parent’s dream. I was inside a bubble, unaware of the other thrilling occupations that could potentially be my purpose. I’m now aware of the years of grueling hard-work but rewarding experiences that come with being a doctor, but I still feel as though I have an undiscovered purpose in life. 

    Understandably, immigrant parents want to see their children succeed, especially after the struggles they have gone through. But there still is a two-dimensional perspective on success in the Indian-American community: you must have a STEM career to be successful.

    How can every person in a population of 1.4 billion pursue a career in STEM? How do teens plan out their entire life with only two decisions to choose from? The answer is simple: we can’t. 

    The stigma against other fields like performing arts and politics needs to go. Being a doctor or an engineer is not the only indication of success; in fact, entrepreneurs can earn more money at a younger age. 

    Happiness also plays a considerable role in deciding the right career path. Waking up every morning to a job you do not love is unfulfilling. 

    Indian parents may believe a job should just be a job, not something to look forward to. But I think otherwise. I believe every individual has a purpose and a passion, and “work” should be that passion. 

    As college applications draw near for me, it’s scary to see the confusion spread through faces after I respond with “I don’t know.” But at the same time, it’s exhilarating to break free from the bubble limiting my options. 

    It’s scary to take that leap away from just STEM careers to explore others, but I know I will be successful and happy at the end of the day.