May 07, 2020 By Lindsey Amen
As a child, Gauri Ramesh loved writing stories for her friends and family to read.
She wanted to find a way to make her stories more accessible, so she created her own website — complete with comment sections, music and more.
The experience served as a jumping off point for Ramesh’s passion for computer science, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“Being able to put all those pieces together really sparked my interest in computer science,” Ramesh said. “I took my first coding class my senior year of high school, and I ended up really liking the freedom that I had being able learn a new programming language and make anything show up on the screen.”
Ramesh, a computer science major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, graduated in May 2020. Shortly after graduation, she began a full-time position as a software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle. Ramesh said the job is a culmination of her experiences at the university over the past four years.
“Graduating from Nebraska means I have the tools, the skills and the connections that I need to start my career in technology,” Ramesh said. “The faculty, staff and students provided me a support and foundation I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and I know I’ll be proud to be a Husker anywhere I go.”
Making an impact
Ramesh, a native of Omaha, was motivated to attend the university after learning about the curriculum offered in the Raikes School.
“It just seemed like a really perfect combination of the things that I wanted to do,” Ramesh said. “I was having trouble deciding whether I wanted to go to a big university or a smaller university, and I really felt like going to Raikes gave me the best of both worlds, where I was able to have the community of a smaller program while having access to all the opportunities UNL has to offer.”
From the beginning of her career journey, Ramesh felt the stigma of being a woman of color in the field of computer science. When she came to Nebraska, helping change that for others became her number one goal.
“I was the only one of my friends in high school who wanted to study computer science, and so I felt like I was always the odd one out,” Ramesh said. “I did a little bit more research on it the fall of my freshman year, and I realized that the percentages of women and minorities in computer science are super, super low. I think it hovers around 15 to 20%. To me, those numbers are so shocking, because computer science is everywhere in our world. The idea that not all perspectives are being considered before creating things that change everybody's lives just didn't really sit right with me.
“I decided to spend most of my free time outside of school volunteering for causes and doing pretty much everything I could to help lift up women and minorities in computer science.”
During her time at the university, Ramesh helped found Girls Code Lincoln, a nonprofit in the Haymarket that teaches fourth- through ninth-grade girls computer programming and leadership skills.
“I didn't have that experience of having girls to share my passion for technology with growing up, and so it's really cool seeing that and being able to say, ‘I helped make this happen,’” Ramesh said.
The entrepreneurship focus of the Raikes School, Ramesh said, was key in helping her form the nonprofit. As part of the program, all computer science majors are required to minor in business.
“It was incredible to take what I was learning in my classes at Nebraska and directly apply that knowledge by teaching students,” Ramesh said. “I definitely think I wouldn't have had the confidence to get involved and really take that last step of helping form a nonprofit without having some of that business experience under my belt.”
At Nebraska, Ramesh was also the president of Computing for All, a registered student organization that advocates for greater diversity in the tech industry. She rounded out her campus involvement by serving as a member of the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Black Masque Chapter of UNL Mortar Board.
“It took a lot of time management, but I think that it was my passion and curiosity that really drove me through it,” Ramesh said.
During college, Ramesh spent the summers after her sophomore and junior years interning at Microsoft in Seattle. She received an offer for a full-time position last August.
“I loved my experience there so much the past couple summers that I pretty much said yes right away,” Ramesh said.
After getting acquainted with the city and the company culture during her internships, she said she views the job as a perfect fit.
“During that time, I got to explore the area and kind of get a feel for if I wanted to live there and if I wanted to work there, and I loved it there," Ramesh said. "I just felt like the city really matched my personality, and I felt like it was a good place for me to learn and grow. Plus, I have a lot of friends that are going to be living out there, so it just felt like the right move.
“I just like really like what Microsoft as a company stands for. They echo my passions for diversity and inclusion, and they try to do a lot of social-good related stuff. I definitely saw myself wanting to be a part of their mission.”
Moving forward, helping others succeed in computer science will remain a primary focus.
"As I graduate from Nebraska and start my career in technology, I plan to continue advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM through volunteering, teaching and mentoring, with the goal of helping widen the pipeline for those who have historically not had a seat at the table," Ramesh said.