16-year-old Mandira Ganti has lived in Redmond, Washington, for most of her life. She’s found that most of her friends, classmates, and teachers have the same views about every political topic. “This makes it very easy to say that anyone with different views is a terrible person,” she explained. “But I've always believed that there is good in most people. We just have different needs and have gone through different things in our past. Our country needs a lot of improvement, and I don't think it's productive to push people away. I think we have to listen to each other.”
"Our country needs a lot of improvement, and I don't think it's productive to push people away. I think we have to listen to each other.”
Mandira said she grew up as a shy person and finding her voice was one of the hardest things she’s ever done. Still, when she realized there was a lack of representation of Indian-American girls in areas such as media, politics, and school leadership, she wanted to use her voice to represent her community and help give a platform to various experiences and perspectives.“Ever since I was in elementary school, I've been running for student councils, joining clubs, learning new sports, competing in tons of different competitions, things that took me so far out of my comfort zone,” she said. “This made it easier for me to become more comfortable with myself and use my voice.”
Mandria is the Co-founder of “What We Think Podcast.” Along with her co-host Sarrah, she works to amplify Gen-Z voices about important issues. They host guests with all types of opinions and provide them with a platform to speak about their perspectives in hopes of creating a strong, diverse, Gen-Z community. “I've always loved podcasts,” she said. “They're an amazing way to get digestible news, have a quick laugh, or hear inspirational stories. A little more than a year ago, my friend Sarrah and I realized that none of the podcasts we listened to were made by people like us: Indian-American teenage girls. We thought that there are so many people like us out there, and there needs to be a place for us to talk about ‘What We Think.’”
“I use my voice for good by having the conversations that others may not be comfortable having, talking about serious issues, and trying to find a middle ground with people who have conflicting beliefs.”
As an exceptional Gen Z’er making an impact, Mandira was honored for her commitment to Unification through The ConversationaLIST. “I use my voice for good by having the conversations that others may not be comfortable having, talking about serious issues, and trying to find a middle ground with people who have conflicting beliefs,” she said. “Hopefully, this effort will inspire others not to categorize people, but to realize that every individual has a different story.”
For Gen Z’ers who are still searching for their voice, Mandira suggests trying everything. “It's never too late to learn something new,” she said. “Something will inspire you.”
In five years, Mandira will be in college, where she plans to be taking classes about sustainability. She’s hopeful that the podcast will be thriving, with frequent episodes, a larger team, and guests from around the world. “I didn't get to grow up seeing people like me in the media world, so hopefully, in five years, I can be on my way to making that a reality for the next generation,” she said.
Mandira resonates with The Conversationalist's mission because her podcast is also dedicated to unifying Gen Z. “I'm so excited to meet people with the same mindset of unification,” she said. “Sadly, because of how polarized politics have become, it can be hard to find people with these goals.”
For Mandira, a unified world is a diverse world where everyone can work toward a common goal. “This comes from respectfully communicating with people who have different opinions than yourself and being able to coexist with people who have different views,” she said.
“Though it may have been more comfortable to stay locked in my echo chambers, breaking out has given me a much better understanding of the world around me."
To break open her echo chamber, Mandira relies on her podcast because it allows her to speak to different people. “Though it may have been more comfortable to stay locked in my echo chambers, breaking out has given me a much better understanding of the world around me and why people do what they do,” she said.
During difficult conversations, Mandira tries to stay calm and listen to what the other person is saying. “The second you lose your cool, you are allowing them to see you as weak or unstable, and you'll lose the chance for mutual respect,” she said. “It's okay to never agree as long as both groups have said their part.”
The Conversationalist couldn’t be more grateful for Mandria Ganti as she facilitates vital conversations among Gen Z. Keep up with her on Instagram and follow the What We Think Podcast to learn more about her work.