My grandfather was a pillar of support for me and always motivated me to do what I want in life and aim high. He was the person who made me believe that I can achieve anything if I had the willpower. My grandfather took a keen interest in anything I took up, including the launch of Girls in Tech India.
He always told me: “Technology is in everything we do, but always remember – we should run it and not vice-versa.” It helped me during my technical career to create technology for social good. At the age of 16, I was already building electrical engineering projects for social good, including samples of home automation projects, smart home devices and industry neural networks, to name a few.
My mother motivated me to pursue electrical engineering though I was told by several career counselors that it was for men only: “Why EEE? She’s a girl.” My mother stood up and said: “Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter. She chose EEE because she wants to do it.”
I believe that platforms like Girls in Tech must not be limited to big Tier 1 Indian cities, but should be spread across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and this is what my team and I have been striving for. It’s been a tough undertaking.
When my team and I decided to start a chapter here in India in 2015, the name Girls in Tech was new to many. We faced a lot of distrust from key stakeholders, and we were asked a lot of questions about the organization globally and in India. My family’s support, especially moral, mattered a lot during these challenging times. My mother was a real influence, especially during the launch of Girls in Tech India. She truly believed in the cause.
What does your community say about who you are?
My team describes me as tough, goal-oriented, self-motivated and someone who is able to inspire others to reach new heights. My community says: “She will not stop until the mission is accomplished.”
What values do you share with your community?
1) Do not hesitate to ask what is on your mind.
2) Teach what you preach.
3) Be compassionate.
Please tell us about a time when you felt excluded
It was during an internship. On the very first day, I was told: “Always ask if you have any questions!” I was given the task to write a complex code that I’d never heard of in my engineering education. And I had to learn an entire computer language in 14 days! On Day 14, I was so tired. I walked up-to my boss and asked for help: “Hi, I am unable to find a symbol, can you help me with it?”
Instead of answering the question, he said: “Oh, you should be home cooking and seriously consider whether you want to continue working here!” It made me feel small. I was angry and didn’t know how to react. I feared that I may lose my internship if I said anything. The can-do-attitude and values embedded in me by my family, educators, and role models, helped me move forward. So I continued with my internship despite this humiliating instance.
Later that year, I participated in an entrepreneurship innovation challenge organized by the employer, and I ended up winning. My boss was asked to implement the idea by writing the code. He looked at me and asked: “How did you come up with this idea?” I responded: “Sir, by deciding not to stay at home and cook.” Today, my winning idea is being used in many code themes and by a number of startups.
Tech is for all. Marketing needs tech. Insurance needs tech. Healthcare needs tech. People assume technology is for coders only. That is not true. Every industry is a tech industry.
What does it take for you to feel safe in a space?
To feel respected and always have the right to exercise my freedom of thought.
I guess that’s what enabled me and my team to impact the lives of thousands of women in India through the initiatives we carried out.
Here’s my advice for women who are trying to break into tech but don’t have a technical background: Believe in yourself and know that people run tech and not vice versa. Tech is for all.