[Techie Tuesdays] How an English Literature graduate turned into an instructional designer? Story of Deepa Pottangadi


Do you believe in horoscopes? Hold that thought till the end of the story because you may have to reconsider your answer.

We all have had that one kid in our class, who would attend all the classes, asked maximum questions and at times, ended up making a fool of herself. Deepa Pottangadi is all that, except for now classes are replaced by conferences and instead of making a fool of herself; she might well make a fool of you. She works as an Instructional Designer at Eucalyptus Systems Inc., Bangalore, and is our Techie Tuesdays of this week.

Computers and technology came very easily to Deepa, but only after an English Literature degree. There’s much more to explore about Deepa beyond her love and adaptation of technology. Here’s an account of the same.

What’s there in a horoscope?

Deepa didn’t do well in her senior secondary examinations (+2), so her concerned parents went to an astrologer. Her horoscope said that she will do well in Computer Science and she should pursue the same for higher studies. She decided to prove everyone wrong and started studying English Literature in Shantiniketan University, Bolpur. She recalled, “I represented my university at multiple places and was an overall champion there. It helped a lot in building my confidence when I came out of the college.” But she was left jobless after graduation. She desperately wanted to go for a course which would give her a job and it was then that she saw many students around her going to NIIT. She decided to try her luck and joined the course.

‘Open relationship’ with technology

It was more of an accident than a well thought decision to study at NIIT. Deepa joined NIIT for a three-year GNIIT course and was introduced to programming languages in the year 2000. It was love at first sight and she had to be dragged to come out of the computer labs then. She was offered a job as a faculty at NIIT in her hometown, Calicut, and later shifted to Bangalore.

Deepa got her ‘big break’ when she got an offer to join Oracle as Instructional Design faculty. Her fascination with enterprise and application level solutions took her to VMware, CloudThat Technologies and finally landed her at Eucalyptus Systems Inc. where she is a consultant- courseware developer. She develops training courseware of Eucalyptus products for which she has to work closely with the product development, project management, and support and documentation team.

She added,

“I use various learning methods and concepts while designing training courses such as Bloom's Theory and andragogy learning and teaching methodologies. I also have technical expertise on Eucalyptus product and develop certification exams for the technical products that I work on. In addition, I am involved in maintaining and managing the LMS of Eucalyptus Systems Inc. as well.”

Deepa has been dabbling with a lot of things in the last decade and could not really stick to one thing. She said, “I’m not married to any one technology but I know that I am always going to play with computers and adapt to new technology as it comes.”

Whatever defines you, certainly makes you stronger

  1. Deepa is a fearless person in many ways which can be attributed to her upbringing. She was born and brought-up in Jamshedpur and in her early school days, she felt different being a South Indian in Jamshedpur. Later, when she moved to Kerala she was considered a North Indian and the similar feeling lingered around her. She is highly influenced by her father whom she considers as the most successful person given his background and how much he has achieved. He was one of the most hard working employee at TISCO (now TATA Steel). Inspite of his middle class lifestyle, he has raised both his children (Deepa & her brother) with all the amenities and extremely high values. She has always kept the following values very close to her heart which to an extent defines her as well:Honesty – This has helped me and harmed me, but at least people around me know that they will get an honest opinion when they come to me.
  2. Straightforwardness – With time I’ve learnt that it is possible to be honest without being rude.
  3. Hard work – I’ve seen my father work very hard in his professional life and this has inspired me a lot.
  4. Maintaining relations – I choose relations very specifically. My friends are not my acquaintances, I know them very well. This way, even if I may not see something wrong in me, my friends will notice it and correct me.

Deepa doesn’t aspire to be like anyone but is highly influenced by JRD Tata, her father, Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg. She states, “People talk about philanthropy but I have seen what it is when I was in Jamshedpur. JRD Tata created a culture where people are respected for what they stand for and who they are. He created a whole Olympics team for archery by setting up academies in Jharkhand. I have a lot of respect for Jeff Bezos for bringing out AWS Cloud and cutting down the enterprise solution cost by a huge margin and making it more affordable.”

Being a woman in tech

Deepa never felt less empowered being a woman because her parents had great expectations from her and wanted her to work hard and give her best. There still aren’t enough women in tech and what separates Deepa from others is as follows:

  1. Participating in various training sessions of technologies of her interest.
  2.  Learning from every opportunity.
  3. Not letting the excuse of family and culture come in her way to pursue her passion.
  4. Taking effort and travelling to attend conferences and meetups.

Deepa was obsessed with doing everything perfect and this became tough after her marriage. She added,

“If I can’t cook the best meal, it doesn’t bother me now. Previously, I wanted to be the best at everything I did. But now I do what I think I should do and focus on finding what appeals to me.”

So, what happened to Literature?

Deepa’s love for Literature resurfaces when she is reading fiction. Otherwise, her free time is taken up by cooking (non-vegetarian though she is a vegetarian), staying fit and painting. She loved reading ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg and urges all young women to read it too. She said, “This book rightly talks about ‘how women are prone to hold themselves back’? Women should not be just staying in an organization but acquire new skills, learn technology and train themselves. Only, this way they can grow.”

Deepa wants to do something for women with talent in household chores like cooking, crafts and painting. Women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are skilled in a lot of these things but do not find it of commercial importance. She wants to give them a platform for showcasing their talents and connect them to potential customers. As a prototype, she has made a website for her friend’s mother’s paintings. She said, “I do not intend to charge any money from anybody as of now. My only ambition, at present, is to get more women to consider the idea.”

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