My 2021 Annual Review

Alisha Arora
10 min readJan 3, 2022

Looking back at 2021, I can definitely say that 2021 was the most transformative year of my life. The past year, I got to work on problems that were important to me while empowering others along with me. I am grateful for how 2021 helped me better understand myself and the world.

In this review I’ll share:

  • Highlights from the year: working on suicide prevention, being a UNICEF ambassador and interning at P&G
  • Learnings from the year
  • 2022 action plan

My 2021 in Numbers

100+ meetings with c-suite level executives or influential employees

60+ km ran across my neighbourhood

25+ podcasts, news or panels spoken on 🚀

15+ blogs written on exponential technologies, projects or philosophies

12 talks given at world-class conferences (Microsoft, DX3 Canada, London Tech Week, UNICEF Global Forum)

10+ books read (some twice!)

5+ companies/organizations where I serve as a youth advisor

4 billionaires met

3 ‘consulting’ projects (UN, Instacart)

2 places visited (San Francisco, Cuba)

1 internship (at P&G!!)

Let’s dive into some of my 2021 highlights

Working towards preventing suicide!

My UNICEF Article:

What started as a passion project to use AI to detect suicidal ideation in social media content turned into a model to save lives. At the beginning of last year, I built out a classifier to detect what “text” classified as suicidal or not suicidal. After a conversation with (my now mentor) Laura Edell, she told me that my model couldn’t be something I kept to myself but the world needed it. From April onwards I started working with her and the sustainability team at Microsoft to build out the model’s complexity and have it accurately predict if someone needs support. My work led to me having 100+ conversations with people from the AI field, ethics field, government, and mental health organizations.

Currently, the model I have developed is going through the patent process and being beta tested so that in the coming months I will be able to implement my model in platforms all over the world.

My AI work led me to join UNICEF as a youth ambassador, speak with governments across the world on the power of AI (advised the Gov of Scotland) and even serve as a youth advisor to companies like Headspace and SickKids.

A few special shoutouts to:

  • Isi for all your support and assistance in the patent process of my work. I am extremely grateful for your willingness to help out and for your belief in my work and it’s impact.
  • Carolee and Michael from Google, your support and technical guidance has been really pivotal in my work.
  • Husseini and the whole J&J Mental Health team, thank you for your guidance and for making the connections to further my impact
  • Matt and Meg + facebook team, your continuous support and encouragement is so appreciated, excited to make an impact with your support and opportunities.

Empowering over 500,000 people!

This year I got to speak at over 20 events, and when calculated empower over 500,000 people. From my very first conference (DX3 Canada), to sharing a stage with Michelle Obama, to then speaking to over 100,000 Microsoft employees, I am grateful to be able to use my voice to empower the next gen, business leaders and professionals from across the world.

Check out some of my favourite podcast episodes I was featured on:

Check out a montage with some of my favourite talks!

Advocacy work!

After building out my suicide prevention model, I both grew a passion for breaking the stigma around mental health and the power of AI.

After being selected as a UNICEF youth ambassador, I shared my passions for AI and Mental Health and how I wanted to make an impact in those fields.

Along with fellow youth advocates I got to launch UNICEF’s #OnmyMind campaign to help parents and youth navigate the mental health journey.

Check out a the press release featuring my thoughts on supporting youth wellbeing for the launch of the #OnmyMind campaign.

Voices of Youth Episode on Mental Health

As part of my AI advocacy on making AI inclusive to youth and women. I got to advise the Government of Scotland on what actions could be taken

Along with that, I got to keynote at UNICEF’s Global AI forum with the Minister of the European Parliament.

Both these opportunities were surreal and I am excited to continue my collaborations with the Government of Scotland and Sweden as well as UNICEF to advocate for “AI for all”.

Check out the article I wrote for the Scottish Government:

Youngest intern at Procter & Gamble

As of November, I joined Procter and Gamble as their youngest intern working in the FemCare and Technology division. It’s been an exciting journey working with them on the Always YOU App.

In just 2 months I have learned so much about being a team player, how to make good decisions through evaluation and the value of communication. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work at the intersection of Female care and technology.

Winning the Princess Diana Award

This year I was honoured to receive the Princess Diana Award in the name of Princess Diana.

I am beyond humbled and honoured to be recognized for my work with The HopeSisters and leveraging AI to support mental health in the name of the People’s Princess!

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Diana Award honours young people who work to improve the lives of others & is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9–25 can receive for their social action/humanitarian work.

Spreading hope with my non-profit The HopeSisters

2021 was a year of generosity for The HopeSisters from donating over 200 toys to children this Christmas, empowering 1000 youth leaders through workshops and keeping the homeless warm in London ON. This year The HopeSisters brought smiles to those in need. We are grateful to all our donors and HopeSpreaders who are spreading hope along with us.

Travelling to San Francisco with my sister for a week!

During August 2021, my sister Kenisha and I travelled to San Francisco (by ourselves) for a week! As part of the company we content create for (Tract, founded by Esther Wojcicki) we got to spend a week with incredible people (Founder of Siri, COO of Notion and CIO of the university of San Francisco). It was an incredibly amazing experience learning from influential people in SF, going on a cruise, enjoying delicious food and hiking Muir Woods.

Building a moonshot to solve the infertility crisis

My friends and I at The Knowledge Society built a company called Janam Labs to make babies from Skin Cells!

Learnings from 2021

#1 The way we view ourselves is the way we view the world

David Schwartz talks about the power of positive attitude in his book “The magic of thinking big”. After much reflection, I found myself always putting myself down in the interactions I have with others; “I’m having a terrible day” or “I am not capable of doing this”.

The book touched on how “When you see yourself as powerful, the future is opportunity. When you see yourself as helpless, the world is a threat.”

Now there isn’t a magic solution to having a better outlook on yourself, however I tried to change the way I interact with others. I started saying “My day is going AMAZING” or “I don’t know how to do this yet, but will learn”. Surprisingly, the way I interacted with other even if it wasn’t true changed my outlook on myself, resulting in a change of how I view the world.

This year I really learned the power in believing in yourself and your capabilities, it allows you to view the world as a possibility and that anything is possible.

#2 Opportunities don’t come knocking at your door, knock on “opportunities” door

One of my biggest learnings this year is that most things in life are under my control, and if I start to take charge of my life exciting things can happen.

Frankly, if I didn’t send that “one” email to Laura (my mentor) from Microsoft, my model to prevent suicide could of just been a passion project I kept lying around.

If I didn’t reach out to speak at my first conference I wouldn’t be able to empower over 500,000 people today or even be a UNICEF youth ambassador.

If I sit around and wait for people/opportunities to come to me, it’s never going to happen. This year was the most transformative year in my life all because I created opportunities for myself and said yes to the opportunities that scared me.

One opportunity even the smallest one has the potential to transform your life, it’s all about creating those opportunities for you.

#3 People are our greatest asset

This past year I have been extremely grateful to build relationships with people who are a reflection of me and who I want to become. I am grateful for the mentorship, support, friendship and love I have received over the year.

Firstly to my family, I am really fortunate to have a family that encourages me to pursue whatever I want to and that believe in my potential/impact. My sister Kenisha, is my best friend who is really the only reason I am able to empower and make an impact, her support and belief in me has led me to be a grounded, ambitious and hustling person.

A special shoutout to the mentors in my life who inspire me and remind me of the potential in me!

  • Sean, thank you for being my first and best manager, your belief in my impact and encouragement is the reason I am where I am today!
  • Nkechi, I can’t thank you enough for all the mentoring hours over the past year, and for the lessons you have taught me on comparison and impact.
  • Laura, for being the first person to believe in my work to prevent suicide and for her determination in getting my model out there.
  • Esther and Seema, for being my second mothers in Tract and in San Francisco, and for always believing in what my sister and I are doing.

Being a part of TKS, I have been able to make life long friends. I have a squad I touch base with every week, Manasi, Naila and Sriya. My best friends Elena, Adara and Simone have been pivotal in keeping me on my feet and for some good memories as well.

Some other people I’d like to highlight and thank sincerely (who knows, maybe one day they’ll read this letter!)

Marissa Mayer: The best decisions

  • Marrisa Mayer’s (Former CEO of Yahoo) framework to making decisions is something that has stuck with me from the first time I heard it. Her framework is to make a decision that 1) has smart people 2) you’re the most unprepared for

Naval Ravikant : What am I willing to suffer for

  • I was left inspired after reading Naval’s (Angel Investor and Philosopher) book “The Almanack of Naval”, he talked about how life is all about choosing your battles and passion is really just “what you are willing to suffer for”.

My 2022 Goals!

My 2022 goals are specific enough to give me direction but vague enough to be flexible and open to iteration.

Implement my suicide prevention model in platforms around the world

My model to prevent suicide is currently on going the patent process and being beta-tested, in the next few months, I will be working towards implementing my model in platforms around the world to help users, students and professionals think again before suiciding.

Continue to spread hope and expand our reach with The HopeSisters

My sister and I are the founders of The HopeSisters, a non-profit with the mission of spreading hope to vulnerable people. This upcoming year we want to expand our reach for impact by creating more HopeChapters and working with international companies to spread hope.

Gain Unique Experiences and Skills

Whether that be travel, internships or adventures with friends I want to be able to experience and makes the most out of this year! I’ve also started looking into Brain Computer interfaces and the intersections of BCI’s to support our mental health. Having exhilarating experiences means having a bias towards actions to try new things!

Ending note!

Before I end off my newsletter I want to say THANK YOU, yes you. I have transformed so much this year and that’s all thanks to the amazing network I have. Whether that be through the conversations where I learned a ton, the opportunities I received or even the awkward conversations and times where I was criticized.

This is the only beginning for me and I am excited to be able to share my journey with all of you over the coming years.

And that is a wrap on my 2021!