It Costs Nothing to Ask

Death to Stock

The following is a transcript of the first speech that I ever did for a Toastmasters club meeting.

For those that don’t know, Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization that facilitates club meetings all over the world that help people with their public speaking and leadership skills.

Public speaking has always been something that has intimidated me, especially since I was very shy growing up. At some point during my university years though, the fear of public speaking mostly went away, but I always felt that my public speaking ability was always lacking (not being afraid of public speaking is not the same as being good at public speaking).

For that reason, I decided to leave my comfort zone of where I was with my public speaking ability, and join a local Toastmasters club. The following is my Ice Breaker speech, which is the first speech that all new Toastmasters members do when they join a club.

It costs nothing to ask.

These were words told to me by my father a few a few years ago, and since then, they have been constant theme in my life.

Good evening follow Toastmasters, and welcomed guests.

Growing up, my parents always said that I had freedom in my career choice - I could choose to be whatever doctor I wanted to be. Obviously, they had high expectations for me.

By the time I got to university though, I realized that this was not something I wanted to become, at all. Instead, I chose to study physics - astrophysics, in particular. It was something that I had always loved growing up, and when I got to university it was the only subject that I felt was right for me to study. I told my parents that I could still apply for medical school with a physics degree, and chose to study astrophysics at McMaster University.

When I got to university though, I struggled. I love physics, and it is something that I am still very passionate about, but it was not something that I did very well in university for. I did it because I loved it, not necessarily because I was good at it.

For this reason, throughout my university years, I was very anxious about the kind of a career I would end up in. I had originally wanted to get into academia, and do physics research. But as I progressed through my degree, that became less and less a reality.

Towards the end of my degree, it became time to start thinking about what I was going to do after I graduated. Unfortunately, years of low grades meant that my options were slim. At the same time, I had a lot of pressure from my parents to do medical school - they were still expecting me to become a doctor.

I eventually told them that becoming a doctor was never an option, and that I really wanted to pursue a graduate degree in physics. They eventually understood, but again, my low grades meant that even graduate school was unreasonable. That was when my father told me, “it costs nothing to ask”.

Those words stuck with me ever since. I am personally a very introverted person, and I used to be very shy growing up - I still am in some ways. But those words made me realize that I had nothing to lose or be afraid of for asking.

So I decided to ask. I went to an academic advisor, told them of my situation, and asked them if I had a chance at graduate school. They said no, and suggested that I do another degree from the beginning. That was not really the answer I was looking for, but at the same time it was the answer I was expecting.

I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. Every career path that I looked at required good grades, from further schooling, to getting a good job. Fortunately, there was some hope.

In my second year of studying astrophysics, I took a scientific computing course. I had never learned how to program before in my life. I struggled through that course - twice - but I found I really enjoyed programming, a lot.

Around that time, I had also attended a physics career event, where people who had done their degree in physics came to speak about their careers. One of the speakers had started a successful healthcare software company, who he is still the CEO for. This intrigued me, so after the talk I came up to him and I asked him many questions. He ended up giving me his business card, which I kept.

A few months after I graduated, I was applying for jobs in software development. None of them responded to my job applications. None of the graduate schools that I applied for accepted me.

I finally decided to reach out to the CEO that I had met a few years before at the physics career night event, and asked him if we could meet for coffee, and if I could maybe pick his brain, even for 10 minutes, to learn more about how he got into software. It costs nothing to ask, after all.

He actually responded, and said that they had a position open.

A month later, was hired as an integration analyst.

I somehow got a programming job at a software company that makes software for hospitals, with a physics degree. They didn’t even look at my transcript. As another bonus, I get to work with hospitals and other healthcare institutions, which makes my parents, very happy.

Since then, I took the chance that I was given, and worked hard to learn and improve. In under a year I was promoted to an Integration Consultant. I am already leading technical projects for our biggest clients, and I get to fly out all the time to meet our clients. I honestly feel like this is my dream job, that I didn’t even know it existed a year and a half ago.

I joined Toastmasters, because I recognize that communication is a skill that I have a lot to work on. Constantly communicating effectively with clients is an important part of my job. I am excited to be a part of Toastmasters, as I work on improving my communication skills.

Thank you very much.

Also published on Medium