We all have stories to tell about how Toastmasters impacted our lives for the better, here is mine:
I grew up in Africa, in Lagos, Nigeria, my family moved there when I was three years old and I had a wonderful childhood. I was a very shy, quiet soft spoken child. At school my first grade teacher was quite intimidating, he was this tall big man, like a heavy set Denzel Washington and he would tell me to SPEAK UP! And I would tremble and whisper even more. Many years later we moved back to India, there the local kids made fun of my clothes and my accent. My parents tried to help me with the transition and enrolled me in a catholic high school. Although I looked like the other kids in my school uniform, when I read or spoke in class I sounded very different. Often the kids would laugh at my pronunciation so I tried very hard to acquire an Indian accent overnight.
I came to the United States to study for my masters in Electrical Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology. It was a bit of a shock to be the only girl in all my Engineering classes, I tried hard to blend in but was picked on by every teacher once they noticed me. I had a research assistantship, but when the funding fell through my professor offered me a teaching job and I became an Adjunct Instructor of Electrical Engineering teaching Electro-mechanical energy conversion EE 331 to juniors. That was quite an experience and I now have great respect for teachers. I graduated and started working in New York at NYNEX Computer Services.
A few years went by, and my family had come over to visit. It happened to be my dad’s milestone birthday and we decided to celebrate with the entire family present. As I was making the arrangements one of my sisters suggested we toast dad after lunch, I agreed but did not pay any attention to that. The day of the birthday celebration arrived, it was a beautiful September day, and everything ran like clockwork, until it was time for the toast. Each one of my sisters gave a toast, and when it was my turn my hand was shaking while holding the glass, I managed to squeak out “To the best dad!” It was awful! How could I have taught a 3 hour class in front of 25 students and not be able to speak in front of friends and family? My two sisters who belonged to Toastmasters clubs in India urged me to join and fortunately for me a club soon chartered at my office and I joined. And like many of you I wish I had joined Toastmasters sooner.
Now I am more effective in my communication. My current team at work has 17 men and Toastmasters has helped me have a voice and to be heard. I have learned to SPEAK UP!
Toastmasters works, it worked for me, a member of a demographic that perhaps needs Toastmasters the most — a minority, a woman and an engineer. I am passionate about Toastmasters and it is my mission to help even more people find Toastmasters and discover their potential!