Fail Fest Speakers Focus on Overcoming Odds, Self

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John Wechsler (pictured on-stage) is founder of Launch Fishers and Launch Indy and an organizer of Fail Fest. John Wechsler (pictured on-stage) is founder of Launch Fishers and Launch Indy and an organizer of Fail Fest.

An event focusing on the role failure plays in innovation is attracting storytellers from local and international backgrounds. Fail Fest, taking place Thursday at The Union 525 in downtown Indianapolis, includes presentations from entrepreneurs and executives in industries ranging from technology to food service to public safety. Rupal Thanawala, Indiana Market Leader for Dublin-based consulting, tech services and outsourcing company Accenture, discussed her "one in a million" experiences that include being in the first group of women accepted into her college's biomedical engineering program. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Thanawala said there's still "work to be done" when it comes to STEM education in Indiana and beyond.

Her career includes leadership roles in startups and established businesses. She says "after 30 years, also, when I look around in my industry -- although I'm not in the biomedical industry anymore, I'm in the broad technology industry -- its still feels pretty lonely." In closing, Thanawala talked about the need to lift up, train and not forget about underrepresented groups in STEM fields. "I would say most of the big IT firms have done a decent job of having women in technology. They have moved the needle and they have 20-25 percent women -- of course not in the top level, at least in the freshman classes -- but still, African Americans are just 3-4 percent and Latinos are 2-3 percent," she said. "So when you want to uplift, you want to uplift the entire community and that could reduce crime, unemployment and many of the challenges the community is facing."

Steve Cashdollar, and Indianapolis-based author, entrepreneur, consultant and financial advisor who also spoke at Fail Fest, says rebounding from struggles involves small changes. His advice for recovering includes drawing on natural strengths.

"Pick your top five (strengths)," Cashdollar says, "and if I can plug those in when I'm doing my work, when I'm meeting you, or when I'm talking to people, or when I'm just out there in my day-to-day, it becomes so much easier to me. They call it flow. Less adrenaline, more flow, and it's because you're using things that are your natural strengths, not something you have to manufacture or cook up a lot of stress or adrenaline."

Fail Fest in central Indiana is in its fourth year. A Wabash Valley version is scheduled for October 25 at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute. Fail Fest was also part of this year's INX3 venture-focused event in June in Indianapolis.

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