Our 8th woman sharing her experience in tech today is our Dear Akshita.
Akshita is a 26 years old Ph.D. student in Computer science. She is from India and currently studying in Georgia State University. She is very passionate about what she studies and can inspire a lot of young girls to pursue their studies in computer science. Enjoy the read.
Could you start by a small presentation so we can get to know you better?
Hey, This is Akshita. I am 26 years and come from India. Currently, I am a 4th year PhD student in Computer Science at Georgia State University. I mostly work on research in user privacy, and sometimes teach undergraduate courses in my department. During my free time, I love to draw or sing.
What motivated you to study in a STEM field?
I always loved working with computers, even as a kid, I was addicted to working with any application I could find on my dad’s desktop, be it MS paint or word, or games. I loved to learn how these programs work and that these programs can be actually run as applications for users to interact with, and that’s what motivated me into taking up computer engineering in my bachelor. During my Bachelors I came across several instances of my friend’s photographs being leaked on Instagram and other platforms and during this time, I came across the concept of privacy security, and this is what drove me to pursue that research in both MS and now PhD
How did you learn your technical skills?
Though I have done my bachelor’s in Computer engineering, I only learned basic concepts like algorithms. The actual technical skills like coding, using frameworks and API, were mostly self-taught and out of need.
How are you planning to find a job?
I am still a PhD student, but close to graduation, so trying to understand the job market. From my understanding, it is extremely competitive, but as long as you can prove your point and be confident about it, you should be fine.
Have you experienced imposter syndrome? If yes, could you tell us a little about it?
Yes, whether it be my MS or PhD, I always felt like I was lucky to get admitted, and completely forget about my qualifications that have led to me getting a RA or TA in the department. The constant feeling of the fact that I do not deserve this has made me go through several phases of self-doubt, and hesitation to speak, followed by overcompensating behavior which eventually led to anxiety.
How do you feel about being a minority in STEM as a female? Have you had any uncomfortable situations to share? Or a funny situation?
Definitely, female researchers are very few, and I am lucky in a way that my advisor is also an impressive lady, and she has been able to make herself stand out there, so I try to follow her, to not feel out of place. I wouldn’t say it’s a funny situation, but whenever there are department meetings, it’s overwhelming, because most Ph.D. students and profs are men, and it is kind of intimidating.
What do you like about your studies?
I love that I have the creative freedom, to study and research the topic I like. I love interacting with students, teaching them and mentoring them. It gives me immense joy when I see one of my students landing a job in the industry and they talk about how certain things that I helped them with came in handy during their interviews.
Are you happy with your career choice?
How do you expect to grow in the future?
I plan on taking a research job in academia, hopefully as a research assistant professor, so that I can motivate a newer generation of students towards research in STEM, like my professor motivated me.
What would you say to a girl/woman who wants to start a career in STEM?
I would say to not question yourself, or think you may not be tech-savvy just because you are a girl or woman. Women are doing so much in STEM to make their voices heard, so whatever you might go through, there is a chance you can always find another woman who has gone through and can gladly direct you on the right path. Also, I will say women have the added advantage of being extremely passionate, which trust me comes in very handy in research, dealing with students, and several other situations.
If you also want to share your experience as a female student or professional in tech, don’t hesitate to fill in the form linked below. It is a great chance to be featured in our next interviews posts and inspire other girls and women to join us.