inspiration

Women Who Reign: Ameya Acharya

“Dying seems less sad than having lived too little.” – Gloria Steinem
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!

painting
Ameya (along with other engineering interns) at Microsoft with Grace Hopper, summer 2015.

I was born in New York and I have lived here ever since. Before I got to college, I thought I wanted to study psychology or math. But, since I had credit from AP Computer Science in high school, I enrolled in Cornell’s Object-Oriented Programming and Data Structures class. The class was not easy for me, but I liked that at the end of our projects I had made something — I felt accomplished. I continued on the CS track and now I’m graduating in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. At Cornell, I’ve been a TA for CS 3110: Functional Programming, and serve as the co-president of our Women in Computing group (check us out at wicc.acm.org and on Instagram at @wiccornell)! I’ve been studying Spanish  at Cornell as well, and I spent a semester studying at the University of Barcelona. I got to take a trip to a new city every weekend and drink wine as if it were water.

 

What # would define your life journey?Snip20160402_18.png

#wanderlust. I’m always dreaming of going new places and trying new things. Staying in one place for too long makes me anxious

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Favorite website / app:
Not really an app, but the Honey Chrome extension. When you’re buying something online, it searches the web for discount codes for whatever you’re purchasing. It’s honestly magic and I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier.

 

climbing
Ameya (on left) along with two other executive board members of Women in Computing at Cornell take a shot at Cornell’s high ropes course.

 

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
This past summer I worked as an intern on Windows at Microsoft, and I went to a talk by Dona Sarkar. She introduced herself as a “hyphenated” author – fashion designer – software engineer. She’s currently an engineering manager on Microsoft’s HoloLens team. She’s super badass and I admire how she does exactly what we wants without worrying about the norms of her professional, gender, or racial identities.

 

Song that makes you want to dance:
Most Spanish music! But specifically La Gozadera by Gente de Zona. Dancing just thinking about it.

 

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:

In the summer of 2014, I was working as an intern at Cornell Tech, Cornell’s graduate school in New York City with a focus on technology (it offers Masters degrees in Computer Science and an MBA, among many others). My project for the summer was related to Cornell Tech’s Company Projects program, where groups of students were matched with companies to build a project throughout the semester. My intern project was to build an algorithmic system to match these students to companies. The algorithm was to make matches based on two general ideas: maximizing student preferences and creating teams with “diversity of experiences.”

montserrat
Ameya at Montserrat, a famous mountain and monastery in Catalunya, Spain.

In the beginning, I had to work on project definition. How many companies would students rank? What does diversity of experiences mean? After I did some data collection and regression and cluster analysis to answer these questions, the next steps were to formally quantify these ideas. What exactly were we trying to maximize? How do we measure the diversity of a team? When I had figured out the quantification, I had to think of an algorithm that waded through a strange search space in a reasonable amount of time. I hadn’t yet taken an algorithms course in college yet, so this part involved reading a lot of papers (and many parts of the Tardos & Kleinberg algorithms textbook).  At the end, I settled on a modified simulated annealing algorithm, which used a greedy matching as the initial solution. After figuring out all these details, I coded and tested the entire system.

I overcame this enormous challenge by learning not to be afraid to ask questions. I had never done anything like this project before, and every single part was new. My advisor/mentor Greg Pass is awesome, and helped me flesh out a lot of the details of the problem. I also had tons of technical resources around me — Cornell Tech has an awesome group of professors who specialize in all aspects of the above problem, so I shamelessly set up meetings with everyone I thought could help me whenever I reached a roadblock. This attitude was exactly what I needed. I left the summer with a project that I was proud of and a confidence to ask for help when I need it.

 

Ideal Job:

I want a job that lets me combine my technical knowledge, creativity and passion for change all at once. I’m not sure exactly what job will make this happen, but I will keep looking until I find it.

 

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?

Be assertive! If you want something, don’t beat around the bush — ask for it. If you’re unhappy about something, tell someone. We are agents of our own change.

Something important for CS majors to know:
Try something way out of your comfort zone! It’s so easy to focus only on Computer Science, but do something else for your own sanity. This semester I signed up for a salsa dancing class. I’m awful at it and frequently step on my partners’ feet. It’s also the best time of my week.
What will you be doing next year?
I will be starting as a Software Engineer at Square NYC. I’m stoked!!

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