In Divya Maharshi’s family, no girl had ever stepped out of Churu, a district in Rajasthan, India. The girls were allowed to study at the only all-girls school in the locality. After finishing 10th grade, when Divya found out the school didn’t offer Science, she was devastated. She was forced to take up arts.
Today, she works as a Data Scientist, with the GoPay team at Gojek. How did she defy the odds and make a future she dreamt? This is her story.
Studying Arts was torturous, Divya claims. She struggled to come to terms with it. It must’ve been written in her stars: Two months into her 11th grade, the school management introduced Science and Mathematics as an additional stream. This was her sign; she managed to make the switch with the consent from her mother. In time, when her father figured it out, he accepted, since it was the same all-girls school.
She didn’t know much about computers back then. Her father had purchased a desktop to help him with mundane tasks at work. She was fascinated to see her father learn and work. Divya observed how simple things like making invoices that traditionally took her father hours, were now completed in a couple of minutes. She gauged the potential of the machine and decided to pursue a career in computers.
The few engineering colleges in the district were in a dismal state, Divya fought day and night with her parents for permission to step outside the district in search for better education. Finally, they were convinced, and she joined computer science at MITS University, Rajasthan. Convincing her parents was a fraction of the challenges that were about to come.
She was already two months behind when she joined, and catching up was not particularly easy. Till 12th grade, Divya studied in Hindi medium and never had a chance to develop proficiency in English. This turned out to be detrimental as all her engineering curriculum was in English. How could she pass when everything in the book looked like Greek and Latin?
Every day after classes, she would translate each sentence with the aid of an English to Hindi dictionary.
She burnt many a lamp to somehow manage to clear the first semester. It helped, and she went on to top the second! Divya’s is a story of persistence against all odds.
Keeping the momentum, she finished the final semester and even got placed in one of the top companies. Was this it? She couldn’t ignore the fire in her to do more. Divya decided to study further and get a post-graduation degree from one of the premium science colleges in the country. Seeing Divya’s achievements, her family, started supporting her decisions. This gave her the confidence boost she craved.
Divya gave her GATE exams and managed to bag a seat at IIIT Bangalore; one of the best post-graduation institutions for data science in the country. After completing her studies, she got an opportunity to intern with a top MNC in Bangalore. They were impressed and ready to absorb her into the company. Was she prepared to settle?
She knew it will take her years to make an impact in such a large organization, so she put away the offer on the table, and joined a small-scale startup in Mumbai. The experience taught her a lot, but the company shut down because they couldn’t raise funding.
To grow as a data scientist, Divya needed to work with a company that generated multitudes of data that provided her infinite learning opportunities. This approach landed her next job in a mid-scale startup. Here she picked up the skills of working with Big Data and building scalable Machine Learning Systems. She felt she was finally settling career-wise. She liked Mumbai and was about to make the place home. But for an Indian girl, the hustle never stops.
Divya had to relocate back to Bangalore after marriage and start afresh. Finally, after going over a tedious rigmarole of finding a job, she landed at Gojek. Divya has been extensively working on building data science solutions to make GoPay a trusted digital payments platform across Southeast Asia. At Gojek, she found everything she was looking for — big data, exciting problems, and mentors she can learn from.
“At Gojek, there is no way you will fall short of challenging problems; rather, you need to figure out a way to prioritise first. For a data scientist, this is a playground to learn and grow”, says Divya.
From Churu to Gojek — she continues to have an insatiable hunger to learn more, do more and be more.
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