Priyanka Bitra

Why did you choose a career in tech?

Honestly, IT kind of chose me. My dad really pushed my sisters and I into the tech field. He works as a database administrator so it runs in the family. I graduating with a degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering in May of 2020. The courses were fast paced and not always well taught, which I think most college students can find relatable. Looking back now, each semester was so hard to get through because it isn’t an easy field. Yet, it makes sense why. There are an endless number of topics that fall under the umbrella of tech. No individual is ever going to learn every single one of them, but that is where the challenge lies. In the workforce, you need to be adaptable and be able to learn any of them as needed in the jobs and projects you take on. While it sounds like a lot of work, it’s worth it due to the job stability in this field, especially in the DC area.

Even though I didn’t pick computer science, I’m really proud of myself for getting through such a tough program. College has shown me so many different sides of tech. I love mobile development and have made quite a few Android applications in my classes. My favorite coding language is Java and learning data structures had given me an appreciation for the logic behind coding. I found low-level programming languages to be some of my most difficult class, but it showed me how much I did not know about coding before those classes. There is always something new to learn or explore so it never gets boring.

Can you walk us through tech career so far?

My first real job at an office was as a part-time researcher for a small startup that was essentially a marketplace for IP numbers. It started as a summer job, then I went back during winter break and whenever had free time. I learned a lot about IP numbers like how they work and the reasons for their high demand. I also made some amazing connections there, who I continue to stay in touch with. 

In the summer of 2019, I worked as an intern at a consulting company. They had a 10 week summer program where the interns were divided into teams. Each team was assigned an unique challenge to complete. It definitely taught me a lot about what it was like to work at a big company and how the company functioned overall. We had networking events which were always fun and a good way to see what other cool projects others were working on. At the end of the internship, we presented our project to leaders at the company.

Did you ever feel that your gender affected the way you are perceived or treated?

I don’t think people mean to, but sometimes people unknowingly do let gender affect how they interact with someone. I’ve worked in multiple groups where I was the only female and struggled to have my voice heard. Even though everyone on my team were super smart, kind, and would never intentionally want to make me feel that way, I felt like I would work twice as hard compared to the other members in order for them to listen to my ideas.

I reduced the negativity I felt by proving myself as a worthy member. It isn’t a great feeling when you’re undervalued in your field just because you are minority or only taken seriously when someone else is there to back you up. It makes it seem like my ideas and contributions are only be accepted if I can borrow someone else’s credibility. In the past, being persistent and handling any issues in a professional manner has helped me get my points across but at the end of the day, this isn’t the way it should be. My voice should be just as equally valued as any other member and our goal is to always work hard and produce the highest quality results.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

I definitely have noticed the lack of women in tech. In school, there was a low-level programming class that had about 75 to 80 students, which I was one out out of four girls. It was kind of like everyone knew of you because you stood out. I think the reason women are underrepresented in the tech field is due to stereotypes. One stereotype being that computer science is for a nerdy, white male who loves video games, which is totally false. Anyone regardless of gender or race should be able to join any sort of STEM related fields; there no one ideal mold someone needs to be able to fit.

What advice would you give to young women looking to major in the tech field?

If there is something you want to see changed, go change it. If you want to see more women in STEM, go be one of them. If you want to see changes in your environment, go be a leader. It’s so important to ask yourself what impact you want to make and actually make it. 

I would say that everything has its ups and downs and it only really pays off when you stick with it even when it’s tough. I would recommend learning stuff on your own and doing personal projects, and also having internships or any other real world work experience will help you learn outside of school and prepare you for future jobs. 

Who is your inspiration?

I don’t think there is a specific person who is my inspiration. I initially was really motivated seeing my sister go through school and how she nerds out. Now that I’ve gone through school myself, I get more inspired by seeing all the cool things other people create. I have friends who get super invested in projects and always goes above and beyond what was asked of them. There are so many stories online about young people using technology to solve modern day problems and I find it to be incredible and exciting.

How do you stay up to date?

I think the easiest way for me to stay up to date is by reading articles. There are so many things happening everyday and information is at the tip of our fingers since we’re constantly on our phones. I follow a few tech accounts on Instagram but the most interesting stuff I come across is usually the articles that one my sisters share in our group chat. I get cool videos recommended to me on YouTube after viewing something else related to tech. There are so many places to get information, it’s just a matter of hitting the recommendations that are given to you and following the kinds of content you want to see. 

What do you do in your free time?

Outside of working, I love spending my time socializing with friends or catching up on shows. I love binge watching on Hulu or Netflix. I also have an artsy side of me so I enjoy doing freelance graphic design, painting, drawing, photography, and even sewing. I spend a lot of time editing photos and creating to decorate my room. I started kickboxing a year ago so if I am stressed I go punch the stress away.

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