#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · inspiration

Women Who Reign: Sonia Uppal

“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m currently a first year at the University of California, Berkeley intending to study Computer Science. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, but attended an International School in Bangalore, India, for three years, around the time I was in middle school.

Fun fact: You can usually find me singing along to oldies rock music, hiking, eating an excessive amount of avocados, or traveling!

What # would define your life journey?
I am a firm believer that if something is meant to happen it will, so I try to take things in my stride. After moving to India, I realized that there were so many parts of my life in California that I had just taken for granted (like fresh air and our organic garden). Since then, I’ve tried to take each day at a time and appreciate all the beautiful little aspects of life.

Favorite website / app:
Paper 53. The interface is absolutely beautiful and it’s available on the iPad and iPhone. I use it for just about anything, from ASB presentations at school to quick grocery lists. Two summers ago, I participated in a program called Girls Who Code in which I designed and coded an app called Seeds with a couple of my friends. The goal of the app was to provide young girls with a resource to help them get started with Computer Science, through lessons and minigames. I completed all the design of the application on Paper 53, from the logo to the buttons!

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
In everything in my life, my Mom has been my role model. She’s quite a go-getter; she left all her family behind and singlehandedly moved to the U.S. by to go to college. She always has a positive outlook on any situation and if I’m ever confused or stressed, she’ll make me a cup of chai and just sit and chat with me.

In the tech sector, Sheryl Sandberg is honestly a huge inspiration. All the work that she’s done with Lean In and regarding getting more women into the tech industry is astounding. I had the opportunity to meet her at Facebook when I participated in the Stanford SHE++ fellowship, which was super cool (I fangirled).

Song that makes you want to dance:
I listen to an excessive amount of oldies music from Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Bee Gees. Sometimes my best friend and I will just blast music, drive around the hills, and sing at the top of our lungs, which is always an awesome stress reliever.

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I used to hate CS. I had my first computer science instruction when I was living in Bangalore, and I thought it was literally the most boring subject I had to learn. The material was dry and unintuitive and I totally lost interest. It wasn’t until I moved back to the U.S. that I got to participate in an app design competition at my middle school and realized that CS is such an exciting field that can be molded to whatever you want to make it!

I want to help other students have the same realization I did! For the past couple of years I’ve been working on a project called Pi á la Code, to teach underprivileged teens in rural India and the U.S. how to code via the Raspberry Pi. My love for computers really developed when I had the chance to explore really cool technology from the U.S. and the U.K. when I moved back home. I want to provide other students with the access to this technology so they have the ability to try out the field of Computer Science as well. I’ve been teaching both in person and virtually, by creating a web programming (through Google Coder) and python curriculum. My hope is that in the future I can connect college students across the U.S. to schools either locally or in third world countries to help as many students get this chance to learn C.S. I am also working on an e-book to compile my curriculum into a teaching resource, to hopefully reach out to more students.

Ideal Job:
Along with computer science, I’m very passionate about product design and graphic design. I’m taking a design and innovation class at Cal this year and am hoping to continue to do so as I study computer science. I hope that I’ll be able to find a job in which I can combine my love for product and graphic design with my passion for coding!

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Do what you are passionate about. I know that sounds cliché, but honestly if people in your life are trying to convince you to lead your life differently than you want to, don’t listen to them. People will come and go out of your life: only you are in charge!

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