Pratheeksha Nair is still in college, a competitive coder and believes that women who are taking a break should get back to their career after their kids are grown up.
Pratheeksha was born and brought up in Kollam, Kerala. She spent nine years of her life in Bengaluru till her family moved to Trivandrum. She returned to Bengaluru in 2014. She is presently pursuing an integrated five years M.Tech course in the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIIT-B).
The girl who codes
Having learned computer science and programming since eighth grade, she was always interested in coding and programming. “I found it quite interesting and fun to come up with different logical solutions to the various programming questions. Could there be a more efficient solution? Could the code be made more concise? Answering these questions, or rather trying to, led me to discover my interest in this field. I found it to be a wonderful way to be spending whatever free time I had.”
With her love for coding and programming, it was only a matter of time till she got into the competitive groove. It has been a year since she started competitive programming. Reminiscing about her first stint she shares, “My first competition has been pretty exciting. I could hardly solve one question and was quite upset, but my friends helped me realise that this was just a beginning and there were many more opportunities coming my way if I was willing to work hard enough.”
Women in tech
There are 33 boys and 29 girls in her batch, almost a 1:1 ratio, reveals a beaming Pratheeksha. Despite being an encouraging sign, when we mention that men dominate the world of technology she retorts, “I really do not believe that men are better than women in technology, rather I believe both are equally good.” According to her, the stereotypes, the gender bias, and the environment of science and technology departments in colleges and universities (mostly male dominated) discourage women from entering the IT world.
In the context of women as workforce she believes, “IT jobs are seen as uninteresting or requiring more
skill than what women can offer. They seem to be more inclined towards professions like medicine, nursing, architecture, or fashion designing. However, lately we can see that there are more women contributing to IT than before.”Making her mark
On getting hands down with technology, Pratheeksha would like to work with big data analytics and handling. “I feel that big data is the next big thing and the application it has in today’s world is mind-blowing. I aspire to be able to work with data scientists (hopefully become one myself too!) in analysing, categorising, and processing big data.”
Inspired by women leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, and Parisa Tabriz, the woman known as Google’s security princess, she says her recent triumph as all India Rank 3 at HackerRank’s Women’s Cup, “was quite uplifting.” Working with a fellow woman from her college she describes the experience as fun. “We had a pretty good head start, which inspired us to strive towards finishing all the questions. This competition has set a benchmark for us to spar with in our future coding challenges.”
Career versus motherhood
Though she’s still very young, we ask her what she thinks about women having to choose a career over being a homemaker. “I am not really a supporter of giving up your career after marriage or pregnancy, but then again I believe it must be a personal choice (not a forced one). Some women feel the need to give up their jobs in order to become a good wife or a good mother. However, I believe that it is all about balance! At least, they need to start working after their children are a little grown up,” she says with emphasis.
The road ahead
Pratheeksha is excited about the road ahead. She aspires to do a PhD in data science after her graduation. “I have not really figured out which field of data science exactly because I’m still only in my second year and have quite a lot of subjects to explore before I need to decide,” she says.
And while she looks forward to a career in technology, what keeps her motivated is the belief that “There is always scope for improvement – it is something that has never failed to motivate me. Even if there are days when I’m unable to perform to the maximum of my abilities, I remind myself that tomorrow is a whole new day. At the face of disappointment, discouragement, laziness or even triumph, I keep telling myself to work harder, to do better next time, and to take the next step.”