#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Maya Shende

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” Beverly Sills
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Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I am currently a 1st year PhD student in computer science at The George Washington University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Math, Computer Science and Physics from Roanoke College in May 2016. Fun fact, I LOVE to dance. I was on a Bollywood fusion dance team in college, and then I also started my own dance group with a few girls who traveled to India with me for a month. We performed at our college and in the surrounding area at various functions through our 4 years in college!

Check out my dancing here: http://bit.ly/2e8CVKD

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What # would define your life journey?
My life journey has been #driven and #unexpected

Favorite website / app:
I have two: Netflix and Instagram. Even busy, intelligent women have to relax and just watch a little TV sometimes!

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I know it sounds cliche, by my mom, Susheela Shanta, has been incredibly inspirational. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering, a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning, working for the city of Harrisburg in urban planning, working for a non-profit organization involved in community development in Roanoke, building and running her own business dedicated to providing consulting services for financing community development, and completely changing careers to focus on helping high school students develop skills in STEM fields, she decided to go back to graduate school to pursue a PhD in STEM Education. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to make such a decision and follow through with it until the end. She has passed that drive and commitment down to me, and has taught me how much of an impact I, as a woman in a STEM field, can have on younger students, namely young women. She is an inspiration, not only to me, but also to the numerous students she has taught over the last 6 years.
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Song that makes you want to dance:
Don’t Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers feat. Daya

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I first went to college at Virginia Commonwealth University to study Biomedical Engineering, something I wanted to do since my freshman year in high school. I had scholarships to attend and I was accepted into the Honor’s College as well. However, within a few months, I found myself struggling to keep up with my school work and feeling more and more homesick. I got sucked in a social scene that was not conducive to academics and I realized that I had a decision to make: stay and fight the uphill battle of raising my GPA or transfer and get a fresh start. After months of deliberation and talking to my parents about it, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to meet any goals of mine by staying at VCU. So, after one year, I transferred to Roanoke College. This decision was by far the hardest decision I think I have ever had to make – I had to leave friends behind, and I felt like I was somehow a failure. However, it was not until a couple years later that I realized that choosing to transfer was actually a huge success. It gave me the chance to pursue not one, not two, but three majors, and thrive in all of them. I was in an academic environment more suited to my needs, and I was much closer to home (I lived at home and commuted)! Today, I look back and have no regrets with the decision I made – academically and personally, I am better for it.
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Ideal Job:
At the moment, I have no idea if I want to be in industry or academic after I finish my PhD. That being said, I know I want to continue doing research and I want to be at the forefront of the field. I want to be working on problems with high impact in society and making a mark in the field of computer science.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Be bold. Don’t be afraid to do what others tell you is impossible. People told me that completing three majors was unheard of, but that didn’t stop me. If anything, it made me want it more. Find what you love and pursue it no matter what others tell you. Don’t be afraid of being the only woman in a class, meeting or group – as the only woman, you have a view that no one else does, and believe it or not, your voice can make more of a difference than you think. And last but not least, seek out opportunities to share your stories, successful or not, with other women. The knowledge you gain from a success or from a failure can be so important in helping another woman like yourself succeed  in their life.
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