Carnegie Mellon University

James E. Tomayko Scholarship Winner | Rashmi K A

There are times when Rashmi K A — who often loses her phone but never the book she is currently reading — can come across as shy and reserved. But don’t be fooled! Along with the challenge of taking on a difficult task and architecting large-scale systems, Rashmi really enjoys a good conversation.

It took a gentle push from her parents for Rashmi to discover how much she enjoyed meeting new people.  “[Participating in] extracurricular activities during my undergrad gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of new people. Although my parents pushed me at first, I soon discovered that I really enjoyed it, and it gave me the confidence to continue to try new things.” 

That new found confidence motivated her to take on leadership roles she previously would have shied away from. While an undergraduate at the PSG Institute of Technology and Applied Research, she served as the Secretary and then the President of the college’s computer science association, and on a committee that organized an invited speaker series similar to TEDx. “I attended a new college, which was in its second year. Since there weren’t many students at the time, there were a lot of opportunities to lead, which I jumped at. Those experiences gave me the confidence to be a leader.” 

“The MSE has definitely helped me to become a better leader. All the courses we take give us tons of practical knowledge which makes you very confident in your ability to go out into industry. Communication is not a course that a lot of [technical] programs require, but I’m extremely grateful I took it because it honed so many of my interpersonal skills and, as a result, I’m better at work, better at talking in front of people, better at presentations.”

It was while working as a Software Engineer at Intuit that Rashmi realized that she wanted to further her education and earn a master’s degree. “As an undergraduate I focused on coding and thought that software engineering meant solving problems, finding solutions. But, it’s more than that. It's like a skilled art. I recognized that I wasn’t great at some of the core concepts and I knew that given time I would develop those skills with work experience. But, I wanted to learn those concepts fast so that I could do more things.”

“I was working on teams that worked with scalable systems so the MSE-SS was a natural fit. I remember looking at the website and thinking, Oh my god, this curriculum looks like it is a lot of fun! I was very particular and knew that I wanted practical knowledge and exposure to core software engineering concepts. And I knew that the program was going to be very challenging and I really wanted to see if I could do it. The MSE Program opens your mind to so many new things. And even when it’s something you’ve encountered before, you gain a new perspective.”  

As Rashmi looks towards the future, she is more concerned about the type of work she will do rather than who will employ her. “I love being a software engineer; it does not feel like work to me. I’m looking forward to being part of a team that works on products that function at a massive scale. I’m interested in applying all the knowledge I’ve gathered during the program. I love the elegance of architecting large-scale systems; there are so many things to think about and I think there is a lot of creativity involved in the process. No two systems are exactly alike.”