Carnegie Mellon University

When Shanthi Subramanyam was an undergraduate at the University of Manchester, a summer internship evolved into a year’s break from her studies in order to continue working with a group called the Software Factory that was part of the quality initiative for a large company that developed operating systems. During that time, she learned that CMU had a master’s program in software engineering. “CMU was a dream school. I was specifically drawn to the focus on the software process portion of the curriculum.”

After graduating from the University of Manchester with honors in Computing and Information Systems, Shanthi moved to the United States and applied to the MSE program. “I was so excited when I was accepted into the program.” But the cost of tuition and fees proved to be too much of a barrier and she deferred enrollment. “I tried to find scholarships to help defray the cost of tuition — I thought there must be something for a woman in tech — but I couldn’t find anything. It was difficult to locate resources. I knew there had to be a better way.” 

One day, while driving home after purchasing a lottery ticket, Shanthi’s husband asked what she would do if they won the lottery. “I told him I’d go to CMU. He said that we didn’t have to win the lottery to make that dream come true. We took out a loan on our home in Youngstown, our parents helped care for our young son, and I commuted to Pittsburgh. It was a crazy year, but it taught me so much about what I was capable of when I really wanted to do something.”

On top of all the normal stressors of earning a master’s degree, in the second semester of the program, Shanthi’s infant son needed some special medical care, and she found herself spending time in waiting rooms filling out forms with the same information over and over again. She thought that the repetitive nature of the data collection was “dumb and that there had to be a better way.”

Reaching for the Empyrean

The inspiration for starting her own company grew out of her own experiences — trying to find scholarships and spending time in doctor’s offices engaging in “dumb data collection” — and from a deep desire to “want to do something bigger to help others.” Over the years, she had witnessed “the disparity between those who have access, have education, have knowledge, how the privileged can connect to resources more easily. There are so many programs and resources designed for everyone, but not everyone can access the resources they need. The problem is about connecting those individuals to available resources. And, so many resources are duplicated and siloed in different government agencies.” She knew that there had to be a better way. 

Soon after graduating from the MSE, Shanthi applied her interest in understanding, optimizing, and tracking business processes to her passion for economic empowerment, education, and human rights and founded Empyra. “I enjoy listening to the customer outline their needs and then figuring out how to solve a customer’s problem. Building good software is not only about algorithms. It’s about realizing who the audience is and thinking about if the next step in the process is intuitive and realizing that different users have different perspectives.”

As Shanthi continued to work with government agencies and higher education that served the public, the goal of connecting people to the right resource at the right time took on a new dimension. She saw the need for a more holistic approach to human services, one that could help people access resources from multiple organizations without having to fill out the same forms over and over. This inspired the idea for an interorganizational network that would break down silos between service providers and make it easier for individuals to access multiple resources through a single, common intake form.

Shanthi combined this concept with her expertise in software processes to create myOneFlow, a configurable platform that uses automated workflows to help service providers more efficiently serve their clients and connect with partner organizations. Today, myOneFlow helps over a million people efficiently access the resources they need to meet their needs and goals – without redundant data collection.

This spring Shanthi once again found herself in a position to help someone else. “I was thrilled to be able to offer an internship at Empyra [to a current MSE-SS student]. I’m excited to be able to re-engage with the MSE in a meaningful way.”