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This is the biggest challenge Netflix star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan has ever faced

The “Never Have I Ever” actress took the stage at Forbes and Know Your Value’s 3rd annual 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi to give her best advice to next generation of women.
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
"Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan speaks at the Forbes and Know Your Value 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi on March 5.Taylor Dieng / MSNBC

While being grateful has a significant role in the workplace, it’s equally — if not more — important for women to know that they deserve the success that comes their way.

That was one big takeaway from actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, 22, who spoke at Forbes and Know Your Value’s 30/50 summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning. 

Ramakrishnan was just 17 years old when she landed her dream role in Mindy Kaling’s Netflix comedy series, “Never Have I Ever.” She was chosen out of 15,000 applicants after she blindly applied to an open casting call that Kaling posted on social media for her then-untitled, coming-of-age hit series.

“I think every step of the [audition] process … I was going in with this attitude of like, ‘Oh, I’m just so grateful to be here.’ And gratitude is great. Gratitude is super awesome … But gratitude should not overwhelm you in a way where you’re not realizing your own worth in the room,” said Ramakrishnan. “So that’s when I realized: ‘Oh, I’m super grateful to be here, but also, I can do this … Let’s lock in.”

The Canadian-born actress made the remarks to Forbes' senior editor, Kristin Stoller, in front of approximately 100 female students at the Cranleigh school in Abu Dhabi for the summit’s service day.

She spoke alongside a panel focused on “finding your path and building your career,” with other speakers including Huma Abedin, MSNBC contributor and vice chair of the 30/50 Summit, Clare Luckey, an aerospace engineer with NASA, Tracy Gray, managing partner at the 22 Fund, and entrepreneur and influencer, Drea Okeke.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
"Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan speaks with Forbes' senior editor (Under 30) Kristin Stoller, at the Forbes and Know Your Value 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi on March 5.Taylor Dieng / MSNBC

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

How she balanced a full-time career and school

Ramakrishnan: “Sometimes you sacrifice sleep? No, no, no, you don’t do that … I’m gonna say this because it’s just the truth: Work smart, not hard … I don’t want to work so hard in the way that like, you’re working yourself to death and you’re not happy. And you’re just asking yourself: “What am I doing this for in the first place?” Life’s short. So, I try to keep that in mind … I try to stay organized as much as possible, but sometimes C’s get degrees … As long as you are happy with yourself, sometimes it’s OK.”

Her advice to young women wanting to pursue social advocacy

Ramakrishnan: “There’s so much out there, unfortunately, going wrong in this world. But there’s also a lot of good, and we can highlight the good … Figure out what you’re passionate about and be ready to learn. Be ready to learn because you might be passionate about something and think, you know all about this one theory, or concept. But like, get ready to be schooled and feel a little bit like an idiot. That’s kind of like life in general!”

Advice to young women who want to take on public leadership roles

Ramakrishnan: “First of all, I think a lot of women, and just in general, anyone who’s in public-facing roles can probably tell you that they also feel moments of being nervous and scared. I mean, put me in a math class right now, I’m gonna be anxious as hell … I was that kid in school that wouldn’t raise my hand to answer unless I 100 percent knew that I was right … But yeah, it’s OK to feel nervous. I actually am a huge advocate for nerves because I think being nervous means you care … I take those nerves and I try to just channel it in a different way that goes into energy and then just living in the moment…”

What she wishes she could tell her teenage self

Ramakrishnan: “I think what I really needed to hear when I was in high school — all four years — [was that] everything’s gonna be OK. It’s gonna work out. It’ll be fine. I had a lot of doubts, as many of us do. Whether you’re in high school, middle school, or you’re in your adulthood. Or just any moment of your life … You’re like, ‘Oh, am I enough? Am I doing enough? Am I like, pretty enough? I’m smart enough.’ So yeah, you’re good. And you’re gonna be OK — just be enough for yourself.”

On the biggest challenge she has ever faced

Ramakrishnan: “I’d say my biggest difficulty, like I guess off the top of my head, but probably as soon as I leave the stage, I’m gonna say like, ‘No, putting on a sports bra.’ That’s like really hard sometimes…[But] I would say my honest answer, off the top of my head is self-love. Because it’s just like it goes in and out. I’d love to say I’m always super confident and love myself and you know, I got my hype playlists — shout out to Meghan Thee Stallion — but I get mad at myself when I’m like, ‘Oh, great, like, today’s a day that you look in the mirror and you just like hate yourself.’ I love my life. So, that I of think that self-love journey, but I was just have to basically remind myself it is a journey.”