[Techie Tuesdays] How this 27-year-old woman-in-tech from Visakhapatnam is using technology to make a difference
In my school days, I didn’t have any behavioral patterns which indicated that I’ll become a coder in the future,
K Sreelakshmi describes her childhood, half of which was spent in Oman and the remaining in Vishakhapatnam.
She was good at academics but never had a role model or imagined herself as a future changemaker. Our Techie Tuesdays for this week, Sreelakshmi’s story will make you believe in yourself and push you to achieve your dreams. Here are edited excerpts of our interview:
Years of insignificance
Sreelakshmi got her first computer at the age of 10 but used it mostly for games. When she was introduced to C, she grew interested and curious about patterns. Her choice of Computer Science engineering was also made owing to this interest.
Sreelakshmi went to an engineering college in Srikakulam, district headquarters in Andhra Pradesh situated 100 kms from Visakhapatnam. She was one of the six girls in the batch of 35 students in Computer Science department. Though Sree was keen on learning a lot in the college years, she didn’t get much exposure because of the restrictive environment. Even the library was closed after college hours. She worked in finger print recognition project and built a content management system for college website.
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Sreelakshmi during her college days[/caption]She says,
I wanted to create something but didn’t get many opportunities. Being an introvert, I definitely learnt how to stay around with people.
She learnt C, Java, HTML, and Java script.
Dissatisfaction and tragedy
After college, Sreelakshmi went to Delhi to work as a Java developer. She was the only girl in the team of 10 working on a DBMS (database management system) which provided information of different events/places in a city to people who are looking for specific things. After seven months, the company shifted her to Bengaluru and only two months after that, She decided to walk out.
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Sreelakshmi with her in laws[/caption]Sreelakshmi met with a serious road accident while at home (Visakhapatnam) and life became difficult for her then. However, all the time, she had the full support of her husband. Given her itch to work on ideas and building products, Sreelakshmi had started working on side projects after quitting her full time job. She recalls,
In one of the projects, I had built inventory management system for a chain of shops which were trying to go online.
She also learnt Android development in those days while working on some mobile projects. This is when an urge to build an app came to her.
Blimey @ MIT Media Lab
In 2014, Sreelakshmi participated in MIT Media Lab’s design workshop and built Blimey, a mobile application, which could provide extra security protocol to smartphones. She explains,
With this, you can put your phone in a mode where only one or two apps can run at max. It has a good use case when you’re giving your phone to someone and don’t want them to browse pictures and other personal stuff. It also had a feature where a call would get cut automatically in a few seconds. Again, a handy feature for college students who are often shy to tell their friends not to use their phones for making long calls.
However, she was unable to figure out a business model around this app and it was never put up on the play store. Meanwhile, Sreelakshmi continued her mobile and web e-commerce consultation work where she had built the whole database and the front end.
Tech for good: ChangeTerra
In December 2014, Sreelakshmi was reading about the shortage of blood donors. Unfortunately, there was a situation in her family as well where the unavailability of a particular type of blood was a big issue. In March, 2015, she founded ChangeTerra, an app connecting voluntary blood donors with those in need of safe blood transfusion.
When people really need blood, they reach out to their own network and social media. With ChangeTerra, users can have a single platform where people could register and get contacted.
The name ChangeTerra is inspired from its meaning ‘changing earth’ as Sreelakshmi believes that her efforts are aimed to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Sreelakshmi herself coded the entire platform in two weeks and is behind its UI and UX also. This app just shows – technical as you don’t show the donor’s information until he/she accepts.
The app has material design (flat design) and the backend is on Parse which was relatively easy to integrate. It gives information in categories and is easy to format as well.
Learning, values and the non-profit work
Sreelakshmi believes that there are more opportunities for women in coding now but they still need more support from their family. She has been a self-taught person in mobile technology. She says,
You shouldn’t stumble upon something but be in position to make choices. Value your priorities and then take a decision.
Procrastination and not giving up are two qualities of Sreelakshmi which have played an important role in her journey so far. She is also part of the non-profit entity, ‘Women who code’ in Bengaluru, and actively conducts hands-on sessions and workshops in testing for women. She says,
If not now then when, if not us then who.