Spotlight Interview: Amy Leask
GSM: Amy, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Amy: I’m the founder of Red T Media and the co-founder of Enable Education, both of which are in Milton, Ontario. My official job title is Children's Interactive Media Producer. My background is in writing and teaching, and I not only majored in philosophy, but I’ve built a career around it. I started writing philosophy books for kids a little more than 10 years ago, when I found that my grown-up college students hadn’t really learned to disagree with one another peacefully, put together an argument, or express themselves clearly. Although I don’t have a background in tech, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some talented people who do, and I spend my days thinking of new and interesting ways to make thinking skills development accessible to all kinds of readers and learners. Outside of my entrepreneurial life, I’m an extreme baker, driver’s seat soprano, and I answer to the name “Heymom”.
Contrary to popular belief, writing isn’t just a hobby. It’s really hard work that requires skill development and a very thick skin.
GSM: What is the earliest recollection you have of wanting to pursue writing and when was this decision solidified?
Amy: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want (or need) to write. When I was in grade two, a poem I wrote was chosen for a regional anthology, and that pretty much did it for me. I’ve always believed that words and ideas have power, and that the right book really can change the way people think. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? Contrary to popular belief, writing isn’t just a hobby. It’s really hard work that requires skill development and a very thick skin. I love the creative aspect of writing, but I also love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete a project.
GSM: How do you believe we can inspire more young girls to pursue STEM?
Amy: I think it isn’t enough to provide places or funding for women to enter STEM professions. We have to change the culture of STEM itself, so that girls and women really feel welcome, like they don’t have to change their values or mindset in order to contribute and be recognized. We need to start encouraging little girls really early on, long before they hit the age when it doesn’t seem cool anymore. I’m also a big proponent of changing STEM to STEAM (with an arts component) or even STREAM (to include reading and writing). The more diverse we make STEM, the more we’ll welcome a variety of thinkers to the table, including girls and women. It’s not enough to be technical or scientific anymore. Real innovation requires us to be creative, and to communicate effectively. These are the skills that girls and women are traditionally supposed to cultivate, and if we make them an essential part of STEM, women and girls will be more likely to see themselves as being part of the community.
There’s real merit to the phrase “If you can see it, you can be it.”
GSM: What is the role that mentorship has played in your own journey and why do you think that mentorship is important specifically in STEM?
Amy: There’s real merit to the phrase “If you can see it, you can be it.” Being able to point to someone like you who has made it in an industry makes it so much easier for a girl or young woman to see herself going in a similar direction. There have been a lot of people in my life who’ve given me nudges in directions I hadn’t considered going, and it’s helped me to try new things and take risks. I’ve been made to feel welcome and valued in places I never would have thought to go. I think the value of mentorship doesn’t just lie in passing along knowledge and skills, but in providing new and unexpected perspectives, and encouraging mentees to be bold, intentional, and to really think in new and interesting ways. Success in STEM is often a result of thinking differently, and having the courage to make things happen. Mentorship can and should force us to question the assumptions we make about an industry or a career path, which is a healthy thing.
Entrepreneurs basically make their living solving problems and overcoming challenges.
GSM: What is your biggest challenge you’ve faced to date and how did you overcome it?
Amy: Entrepreneurs basically make their living solving problems and overcoming challenges. We make difficult decisions all the time, because, secretly, I think we like doing it. One big challenge for me has been learning to focus, and to accept that we can’t take on every cool project that comes our way. I’m in love with big ideas (always have been), and I tend to want to make all of them happen, usually at the same time. I’ve been a business owner for over a decade now, and I’m still learning to be realistic, while still being on the lookout for new approaches and initiatives. Being around smart, practical people (some of whom have been mentors) who aren’t afraid to speak up when I get a wild idea in my head, has really helped.
Check out Amy on her other platforms:
Red T Media: http://redtkids.com/
Enable Education: https://enableeducation.com/