NAME: Payal Mehta
EDUCATION: Current: Masters in Computer Science at Stony Brook University; Prior: Bachelors in Computer Engineering at KJ Somaiya College Of Engineering, India
CURRENT RESEARCH: I study computer science. I am working as a software engineer intern at Amazon this summer. I am building a tool that will allow other developers of my team to have a near real time view of the application, without which there is a limited if any visibility into what actually happens inside the application.
FUTURE GOALS: I want to open up my own company someday. I know this might sound crazy as I am 25 and nowhere close to even doing it but I like managing people and I think am pretty good at it, I am basically a people person and even though I am in a field where people don’t do much talking (except with their code) and are not that into “soft” skills, I have always been the one to bring this aspect into the team and I like carving a path and driving it.
Why did you want to be a part of GWiSE?
When I first came to Stony Brook and enrolled here as a student, I came to know what GWiSE was and what it stood for. The fact that this community works primarily for enhancing the scientific, professional and personal development of graduate women working in STEM degrees is what fascinated me so much to want to be a part of it. I even think GWiSE is a good platform for providing a space for dialogue on issues unique to women in science.
What/who got you interested in your field? When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science/engineering?
When I was younger, I used to finish up my books and study material in the summer vacations (yes even before school began) because I just loved and enjoyed studying too much. As I grew older, I realized reading everything isn’t possible in this lifetime, so I turned to computers and got hooked to them. A few aunties in my neighborhood wanted to learn how to use a computer – basic stuff like using Internet, sending emails etc., so I began coaching them and this was when I was 12. I had a neighbor who was studying computer science and I would sit beside him while he printed pyramids with a few lines of text (code) on this black console. I was so fascinated with it and fell in love with the idea of creating my own solutions to problems and this is how I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in science/engineering.
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science/engineering?
Before anything, the mindset. More often than not, it’s what we think rather than what it is that stops us from doing a lot many things. This change in mindset should come from every human, irrespective of their gender. I do understand many a times there are too many blockers and hindrances that holds women from pursuing a career in science/engineering such as not enough opportunities, gender pay gap, unequal treatment at workplaces etc. but with more initiatives and women in technology conferences being hosted these days I can see this situation improving. We need to keep trying, dive into what we are really interested in and as a person who can provide opportunities give a person the chance to prove themselves irrespective of where they come from, what sexuality they identify with, wholly based on talent, skills and their dedication. Let’s be people before anything else.