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IEEE is an ocean of opportunities

Janani Ramachandran, a final year engineering student in Chennai, has had an incredible exposure which many can’t dream of even after passing out of colleges. Her individual brilliance notwithstanding, Janani credits most of her success to IEEE. In an article to Fayz, Janani elaborates on her dramatic journey through IEEE. She also explains having the importance of having a mentor for students. Just for the context, she herself is one for many aspirants. As they say, charity begins truly at home.

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Like every girl child born in an Indian family, there were many hopes and plans for my future. From my schooling, I was a studious kid who topped in exams and also secured about 90% in my board exams. But always a thought lingered in my mind is only marks are enough but no other way as a kid we have to follow what society tells us. I stepped into a new world called Engineering.

As always I was focused on my CGPA as every single engineer does in their first year and I too achieved it by bagging college first and later as the department topper. But in the second year of my college, I attended a talk by my senior regarding IEEE, but at that time I had no idea about it. Though many people in the room seemed uninterested in IEEE, something sparked in my mind when she said about traveling and awards. The next day I had my exams and had no time to investigate it further. But after a few days, my thirst to know more beyond marks led me to get the number of the senior and I called her.

I got to know that Pooja Sharma is the only person who has won the Richard E Merwin Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards given to only 18 people in the world per cycle. Basically, I called her every day and was asking lots of queries, regarding IEEE and I also surfed through their websites and came to a conclusion to join IEEE. Just joining a professional society doesn't mean that you will get opportunities to prove yourself. We have to search for opportunities, select them wisely and then utilize it. At first, it was quite difficult for me to find opportunities and I was rejected for many volunteering opportunities but then I learned how to fill the applications and I started volunteering to some of the state-level events and then it grew and my volunteering experience was increasing. Till now I have traveled to Warangal, Goa, Kerala, Bangalore and Gujarat for attending several events.

Attending the All India Computer Society Student Young Professional Congress was my turning point which was held at Goa. Though I attended the event as a delegate, I learnt a lot from there and then I burned the midnight oil to complete all my volunteering tasks and this resulted in me bagging the RICHARD E MERWIN scholarship in April cycle 2019. And then GRACE Hopper Celebration India scholarship. Working as a Content Team Lead for IEEE CS Compute, all India student magazine was one of my key achievements. And also participated in YESIST 2019, an international project competition.

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Here is a chat with Janani in an attempt to discover more about her.

Can you please tell us more about Richard E Merwin Scholarship? What are the criteria to get selected and what are the benefits of getting this scholarship?

Richard E Merwin Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards given to the best volunteer all over the world. In IEE, we have different domains of volunteering for the event such as content writing, designing and publicity, etc. Since I'm interested in content writing I volunteered in the documentation team of several events across India. The biggest achievement of being a content volunteer is that I have worked as a content lead for the India IEEE CS newsletter edition 7, which was released this October. These are some of my volunteering contributions to IEEE:
1. Documentation team volunteer in CSIS'19
2. Documentation team volunteer in All Hyderabad Computer Society Student Congress
3. Documentation volunteer at Student Professional Awareness Conference
4. Documentation team volunteer at Reviens 2.0
5. Documentation volunteer at Nagpur subsection congress
6. Documentation team volunteer at IEEE TECH MUN
7. Chief newsletter editor at my Student Branch
8. Publicity volunteer at World blockchain hackathon
9. Publicity volunteer at Ascendio 4.0
10. Publicity volunteer at Student Professional Awareness Conference
11.Publicity volunteer at Innovate 3.0
12. Publicity volunteer at Xtrinia 1.0
13.Publicity volunteer at IEEE MACE MUN
14. Publicity volunteer at IEEE tech loop hackathon
15.CSIS 2019 documentation volunteer
16. IEEE CS Compute Content lead edition 7
17.IEEE day volunteer
18. AICSSYC'19 PROGRAM COMMITTEE MEMBER All these volunteering experiences also play a key role in this award. Every eligible candidate has to apply through an online application.

Note: Click here to know more about the award.
I also got featured in the IEEE computer society website. Check here:

How easy is it for a college to tap into IEEE funds for various IEEE-related activities that they might want to do on campus?

Every college has an IEEE student branch where they will get fixed funding of some US dollars for conducting events in their respective colleges and every society also gets some money. If they need to conduct any national-level event, they can approach the respective section and region for the fund.

How is the IEEE Mentorship program? How easy is it to connect to a mentor via the IEEE network?

IEEE is a platform that has an ocean of opportunities. Even the people working in the topmost companies are a part of IEEE Young professionals. We can get a lot of contacts and it paves a student to interact with the professionals easily. But according to me, mentor is one who cares for our development. Students themselves have to work with professionals after that only they will gain the support of the professionals and they will be their mentor. In my case, my senior Pooja was my mentor when I entered into IEEE and later I got to know many people like Aathira chechi, Aravindhan anna who are my mentors right now. So, if we need to get a mentor first we have to work with them and gain their support.

What relevance do IEEE membership/activities have as far your future career is concerned? Does it help students find a job? Does the IEEE network help startups - in terms of mentorship and funds?

Yes, of course. I got to know about Teach For India through Aravindhan anna. It is one of the fellowships for teaching unresourced government schools in India. So, I applied for it and it has a very crucial selection process since they need only the person who could work sincerely for their organization. There were 3 rounds and it was quite difficult, but I got selected in it. They basically select only 22 fellow members per year. Basically, IEEE provides you more contacts so you can collaborate with any of the professionals and the speakers who come for the events are also well-resourced persons, so a student with the intent to start his/her startup can speak to them and get their help.

How did you get to know about GHCI?

I got to know about GHCI by attending a national event of Computer society named All India Computer Society Student Young Professionals Congress 2018 at Goa during the talk related to opportunities for women in tech. Then I surfed through Google and Youtube to know more about it.

Who helped you in applying for GHCI? What would be your advice to all those youngsters who intend to apply for GHCI in the future?

I myself applied for GHCI. I saw a YouTube video of the previous GHCI scholar and from that, I learned the importance of GHCI. My advice to youngsters is that while applying for GHCI tell really what you want to do in GHCI because surfing for answers in Google will not work. It is a one-time golden opportunity, try to make the best out of it.

Being the Content Lead at IEEE CS Compute would have been a great experience. We are sure you would have got a chance to read quite a bit about very interesting topics. How did this help you improve your subject matter knowledge? Did this position help you in terms of networking and connecting with IEEE members from other parts of the world?

Every year the theme for the Compute will be selected from the public polling done in our Compute FB page. This time the highest poll was for the IoT theme. Yeah, obviously as a content lead I got a chance to go through different interesting topics since I have to allot the topics for the team members. Basically, IoT is related to my stream and the article which I wrote was related to Digital Twin, which plays a vital role in Industry 4.0. It increased my knowledge of IoT. Till now we didn't release it for other countries, so once we get permission from the IEEE CS headquarters we will release it worldwide. I have been selected as the Editor in Chief for the next edition of Compute.

Can you explain a bit more about IEEE CS Compute? How can one get onto the editorial board of it? What kind of articles are featured in this magazine? How do you get your article published in this?

IEEE Compute was an initiative by the student volunteers of India. Our IEEE CS Compute newsletter has an impeccable position in inspiring a wide range of readers with its innovative themes and it also plays a major role in featuring and recognizing the events under different student branches across India. They will release the call for volunteers after the completion of one edition every year. Students from every state apply for volunteering since it is like one of the greatest achievements to work in Compute. The senior team of Compute will select the volunteers. Only 30 to 40 volunteers will be selected from the 300+ responses. As I mentioned in the previous question the theme is decided on the basis of the highest poll by the students across India. Only the documentation team volunteers are allowed to write the article and they get published. It is an honor for every content writer to get his/her article to be published in an All India student forum newsletter.

How was your experience in YESIST 2019? How helpful are such project competitions to bridge the gap that exists today between our academia and industry?

Every engineering student has to do a final year project with criteria that it must be useful to people but it is unseen and left behind once they finish their final exams. But YESIST not only awards the best humanitarian projects but also by displaying it in the international forum many investors and companies employ students who have done innovative projects and they label the project under their company to make it useful for the society.

What are those key habits of yours (minimum 1, maximum 5) which you think have helped you reach where you are now?

I always believe in these quotes "Action speaks better than words,'' I'm an Action-oriented person and I believe that we need to finish the work before we say it to others. And I am an optimistic person and this one quality made me reach these heights, though I faced many challenges in my life. My positive attitude and growth mindset helped me a lot.

What are your aspirations for the future? With all these achievements you have already made it big at such a young age. How do you streamline these efforts in the right direction to bolster your future?

From my childhood, I have always wanted to increase the number of women in tech. As I have also won REM scholarship, for one year I will serve as a Student Ambassador for the IEEE Computer Society, so I have planned to conduct several events by collaborating with other fellow REM scholars across the world to conduct events especially for women to bring out the leaders inside them.

How open are you to being a mentor for aspiring students of tomorrow? How do you intend to continue contributing to all these communities even after you start your professional career tomorrow?

I mentor my juniors in college and also I mentor two girls from Hyderabad. Personally, I came to know about them through IEEE events and their perseverance and interest to achieve something in there has made me mentor them. IEEE has the Young Professionals community and also Women In Engineering community, so I will contribute to the community by joining in Young Professionals.

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