Cultivating Fear into Confidence
Dimple Chheda : Sr. Data Engineer at Rally Health
Writer : Michelle Bird
Engineering made a lot of sense for me. I had an interest in computers and software development, so it was an easy decision to pursue it at university.
Having grown up in Mumbai, I decided to receive my education there as well and went on to work as a software engineer for two years. India was my home, but I had always wanted to come to the United States to do my masters.
My parents had always supported me in my education and within those two years after my undergrad, I convinced them to send me off to Boston with their blessing. The cohort of masters students in engineering was tight-knit. We studied together for long hours during the program, and I spent most of my time in the library. The city had broader options for internships, allowing me to intern for a full year while still in school. There I gained professional experience alongside my educational development.
I’m pretty lucky because my family has always been supportive of me entering into this career, and my transition was a lot smoother than one might expect.
I tried to be intentional about my decisions along the way, working to save up money for my time in Boston, and taking every opportunity for learning and development very seriously.
During the transitions, things were pretty stressful. Moving from my home of twenty-plus years in India to a new country presented some unique challenges. The first few months were the most academically challenging for me, and six months into the school year, my environment changed. Winter was new to me and I didn’t know what to expect, certainly not fifty miles per hour wind! But like I mentioned earlier, I had a wonderful community of people in my program which made the long months of cold a little bit easier. In time I adjusted and learned how to handle the environmental and academic challenges. As a woman of color, I noticed that our cohort was a diverse group of women and men with international students like myself and American minorities represented. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much of a gender gap in my cohort, so I felt equally represented in my program.
Coming out of my graduate degree, I struggled to find a job in my field.
When I finally did, I found it very challenging as I did not have anyone to work with me through the transition, showing me how things were to be done. I found it hard to develop confidence in my work when there was a lack of supports like resources and documentation of how things had been done.
Since then, things have gotten a bit better in the tech industry. Conferences exist now to work on issues like the ones I experienced. Having these conversations around support helped to develop support structures like transition partners for new employees in tech industries. At Rally specifically, we have a woman leadership group, panels of women speaking at conferences, and a lot more events around representation and supporting diversity. It can still be hard as a young woman in STEM, but I’ve found it easier to have confidence in my abilities and care less about what others expect me to be, creating room for me to have my expectations for what I want to be.