It’s not just coincidence that I am here. Determination and perseverance to carve out my own choices led me to utilize my holidays growing up in summer camps including classes like electrical repair over just playing at home. Later in 11th class when it came to selecting subjects, I had to convince my parents to allow me to take science over arts. After passing 12th class, knowing that technology was the future, I turned my attention to anything dealing with computers or electronics. The first computer I got was on rent for 30 days, to practice for an exam. I was later able to buy my own personal system and went on to a career rooted in the information technology industry.
When I first joined Dell two years ago, I was introduced to the WISE employee resource group which aims to create career opportunities for women through networking, training seminars and volunteer opportunities. As part of WISE, one of my favorite volunteer activities is the “IT is not just for Geeks” program.
This program helps high school students understand careers in technology when they are about to make decisions about their future careers. There is a myth with some of the junior students that only very studious ones can make it in STEM fields. “IT is not just for geeks” dispels that myth and coaches students about wider aspects of technology which can directly boost their confidence in choosing a STEM career path.
After bringing the program to my hometown of Jodhpur city Rajasthan, I wanted to take a session to one of the local girls’ schools. To break the ice, I introduced myself and gave the participants my school and career background. Over the next two hours, we discussed how they could also chase their dreams. We discussed various aspects where technology is connected to every basic job from bulk automated roti making (Indian bread), to online ticket booking, to irrigating fields, educating all farmers over internet, in schools, and in hospitals.
Later, we started discussing what they wanted to become and the ways that they see technology helping them. I could see the passion in their eyes – a few wanted to become scientists, some police officers, some mentioned becoming doctors, some wanted to become a homemakers and some were worried that their parents will marry them after 12th class. All had a similar question: what they can do with the limited opportunities and unfavorable environment? I answered that I too grew up in same environment as them; however, my Grannie always encouraged me stretch and work toward the “something more” I wanted for myself and for my career in addition to learning and doing what was culturally acceptable. Those inspirational words kept me striving for more and I wanted to pass them along to the next generation of women in technology.
I was able to take a few open questions and an interesting one was about how they could learn about what is going around in world and what are opportunities open for them. So I asked them a counter question, “It’s wedding season. Can you tell me what is trending in fashion?”
All of them answered in chorus. So, I asked them, “Now, how did you learn this? You know because this was discussed around you. You cannot change your surroundings, but if you want to go further, you need to put that extra effort to learn.”
I shared a few tips including:
- Current events: Ensure you talk with your friends about at least 3 trending news topics daily. You can get that news from TV, the newspaper, a mobile app, anywhere.
- Networking: Talk to people have carved out successful paths on their own.
- Reflection: think and find story behind everything which gets tied to your passion
- Consistency: Make all of this a habit.
- Move forward: there are never enough good days or environment to get something done. Stop waiting for perfect days and start marching forward.
It’s not everything has always been rosy. I faced many challenges during my own journey. My main point is are you still marching even if you are knocked down or the world seems to be running far beyond your speed? There are opportunities in the world open for all. Don’t let your mind or anyone else’s success create barriers for you. What is important is your willingness, even if you are not perfect or smartest. Your benchmark to compete should be your own position yesterday.
When the session ended, in hugs and a desire to stay connected. I was incredibly moved. I hadn’t done much, just shared some things I learned, but I could not have imagined how much of an impact this will make on these girls. I was happy that they realized that the horizon is wide open and technology is not a barrier, but an enabler for them.