Lessons Learned on the Nexus of Dismantling Systematic Barriers Through Tech and Entertainment

This blog post is a recap of Project Snapshot’s kick-off webinar from our fall webinar series. Check out our social media if you’re interested in future webinars!

Our first speakers are Romain Vaklitabar and Camille Doherty of Pathos Labs, being founder and community lead respectively. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he went on to establish Watson University, work with NBCUniversal as a fellow for Erase the Hate, and found Pathos Labs. Camille Doherty recently graduated from high school and went from serving as an intern for Pathos Labs to becoming Community Lead. After her gap year she’ll go on to study politics, philosophy and economics.

Romain started Pathos Labs with one question in mind - “what can technology and media (tools to create divisiveness & misinformation) do to increase compassion, kindness and empathy?” During the year 2016, he saw the world confronted with increased “vitriol and divisiveness,” and decided to create Pathos Labs to test, hypothesize, and hopefully get closer to an answer. Camille, having graduated high school in another year of turmoil (namely 2020), found herself at crossroads. For her, it was a year of redirections as a gift, and found her way through referrals to becoming an intern for Pathos Labs.

Both of them stressed the importance of persistence and the “hustle mindset.” Romain founded Watson university after dropping out of post-secondary education during which he felt like he was “learning for learning’s sake, not learning for doing’s sake.” He admitted that he had been naive in how understanding how difficult such a path would be, but through hard work and dedication he was able to persevere through the challenges. Camille, on the other hand, had a summer internship planned for 2020, which like many others, was cancelled due to COVID-19. instead of sitting around for something to happen, she set out to find a new opportunity through cold connecting with others, which is how she found Romain. For her, confidence is what changes the game. “Jumping in and saying yes, even if it’s scary” she says, can be life-changing. “Don’t be afraid to make that first connection,” she continues, because “If you’re passionate, go for it.”

The passion she showed especially captured the attention of Romain. “Most interns waited to be given projects, but Camille took the lead in helping alleviate his load & suggesting her own projects or ideas,” says Romain. This made her different from Romain's other interns, as he hadn’t had the most positive experience with previous ones. Camille talks about the importance of doing internships at a young age, where "being involved in social change” and experiencing the learning process with other like-minded people is invaluable.

Romain also shared advice regarding his unique form of networking. When asked how he was able to found both Pathos Lab and Watson University, he told us that he had talked to one person, and then talked to another, and then another…until he had arrived at his revelation. Romain explained that during networking events, instead of simply trying to “collect as many business cards as possible", he was set out just to “a few close friends.” “Contact information is nice to have, but if they don’t know you well they’re not going to extend their network to you,” he elaborated. “Trust matters.”

Before the end of our webinar, Romain told us a unique story, about an elephant. A big elephant, who didn’t realize her power. All around her, she sees other big elephants, but still she doesn’t think she’s strong. When she was young, she was tied to a thick tree trunk, and try as she would, she couldn’t escape; she gave up, and now, as a grown elephant, even though she’s only tied to a flimsy fencepost, she won’t even try to break free. “[The elephant] is so much stronger than she thinks she is,” Romain continued. “We are much stronger than we think we are; need to realize the strength that we all have, and remind one another how strong we are.”


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