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Helping beginners in tech with a Smile

From an introvert, I have evolved myself to an extrovert. It's a long, eventful journey.

I love to help people like anything from taking their first step in technology to help them understand what's wrong and what’s right based upon my experience and intellect. By the way, I am a public speaker and a Hackathon expert.

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During my early years, I was always treated as an underdog. I still remember the two instances involving a group project where I was left out. Not even a single person of the class wanted me to be part of their group. I was abandoned and added to the group which had the least number of members. I still remember when sorting was happening for the social science assignment, one girl raised that we should pick Smile in our group. But majority of that group people did not agree and came the conclusion that let’s choose friends instead of a stranger with doubted capabilities.

As an adult, if somebody says we don’t want you to be in our team, I will simply say “Not at all a big issue, your bad”. But yes the child’s heart is so tender that such acts will leave a lasting impression. And thus, this behaviour of my classmates triggered a rebel in me, to prove my worth and show the world what I can do.

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This thirst was something that helped me take the right steps to re-nurture my lost self-confidence. That day was the beginning of my journey. During the journey, I achieved my first checkpoint when I got 9CGPA during my boards. Getting an A+ made me feel confident and gave me the belief that I can do something in my life.

I was determined enough to do something great. But the question that hauled me was HOW. My parents were not much aware of the current trends of the market and apt career according to the need of the hour. So what I was did was, I jotted down a plan before choosing the three streams which my school offered. I wanted to choose science with mathematics and as far as my optional subject was concerned, I thought to pick up physical education.

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Wonder how I made my amazing cameo in technology? It’s actually a funny story. In my school what happened was that my seniors were so sick of computer science that they spread around a rumor that computer science is too tough and also the faulty of computer science did not know how to teach. Because of this rumor, there was not even a single registration of students for the computer science pathway.

In this situation, my school management team did not lose hope. So they tried building a batch of students whom the school thought they can play with computer science. The batch was made with just 10 students and they were forcefully thought computer science.

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Giving up was not the option so, I decided to try understanding the basics of computer. Initially, I hated the stream. The people who have known me for a long time and had worked with me in my field laugh when I tell them that I hated computer science during my initial stages. I tried reading about in and out about computer science and thus this practice inculcated a firm interest in computers. The girl who once hated computers secured 96/100 during the 12th board exam of IT. Miracles can happen, for those who believe in hard work.

Let me tell you that I was a kind of nerd or bookworm.

In addition to the nerd thing I was an introvert. Because I did not have many friends at an early age except my first cousin (basically my twin) Akash. From my school journey, I learnt two things.

1) It’s just a myth that introverts can’t rock the world. But in reality, they can do.

2) Its very necessary to have close friends like a family whom you can trust in the world where fake has become a new trend. I am really thankful that after the end of my 15 years of school life, I got two amazing souls (Maheep and Bhavesh) as my best friends.

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After my Class XII, I thought to be an engineer in computer science because till that time, computers had become my passion. So that’s the reason I took B.Tech.

A week before the college was about to start, somebody came up with the plan that let’s host a reunion party for B section students of the class of 2015. I was really excited about the idea and I asked my mom’ s permission to go to the party. Initially, she said no and later agreed.

I haven’t attended such kind of parties before so I did not know what was the apt dress for the occasion. On the day of the party, I took out my regular clothes and tied a normal ponytail. During the party, I noticed all the girls went to a parlour before coming to the party. I felt like I was standing in the wrong place.

The party gave me the biggest learning of life, that in order to achieve heights you need to leave your comfort zone behind and you must be prepared to mingle with people.

I collected all my learning, gathered strength and filled a bag full of memories and changed my track and started walking on the road that would be a cool computer science engineer.

One thing life made me clear that if you want to leave your impression on this world. Being just good at academics is not enough. You need to do something extra for it. I started putting extra efforts into doing normal things. I tried looking for things that will make me look different in the crowd. My hard work was paying me off as in with the passage of time I became proficient in soft skills and designing infographics. Being a tech enthusiast I was not getting real satisfaction by upskilling my soft skills.

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It’s a a common quote that “Behind every successful man there is always a woman”. Likewise, behind me, there is a man, named Shivanshu Mathur. He is one of my inner circle people and is my classmate since my college life began. He is really proficient in his work. He gave me the motivation to sore high and changed my entire thought process.

After that I started to participate more in the tech communities and delivered my first talk on January 27, 2019 on the “Basics of Git GitHub and OpenSource”. It was a houseful session filled with 75+ odd students from the colleges of in and around Jalandhar.

Participating in Hackathons, tech meetups had become new interest of mine. My persistent efforts in being a pro developer made me the grand finalist of the SMART INDIA HACKATHON 2019.

I still remember at one point of time I was so obsessed with Hackathons that, during the course of 15 days we attended at least four Hackathons. It was really amazing to be the second runners-up in SAP Hackathon or making a complete market-ready product at PU Hackathon.

For a second-year student, getting an office internship was a tough task. But my strong determination got me landed in a Fintech company named CLIX Capital of Gurugram.

It was not like I was getting only success in my endeavors. Some personal issues bogged me down in June 2019. I was shattered. That time my parents offered me every possible help, and they became my new best friends. In order to make me feel re-energized they started cracking jokes on life, work, engineering, etc. They become my mental and physical support system. They motivated me and suggested me to re-look on my journey and they made me understand that I can’t give up at the final stages.

And then after, the most efficient version of Smile came out. The day I started listening to my heart, I had no regrets in my life. I have become that person, who will go the extra mile to help beginners.

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So far, I have helped approximately 750+ tech-savvy people. For my social contributions, I even got the list of ‘’21 under 21” 2109 by GirlScript Foundation. GirlScript Foundation is a section 8 non-profit company who helps beginners to take their first step in technology. I am also Chapter Lead of my City for GirlScript. Besides participating in Hackathons, I myself have become a Hackathon mentor twice for a Hackathon named “Autumn Hacks” which was supported by GitHub and one “Microsoft Hackathon” supported by GirlScript India at DTU last year.

I feel you are the ultimate person who decides what happens in your life. You can bow down to others and accept what they want from you or you can lead your life the way you want to lead it. You are the only person responsible for how hard you work, others can simply motivate.

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First things first. Any interesting story behind your name, Smile?

Yes, there is one. I am actually the youngest of all my siblings and cousins. So what happened was when I was born, my cousin said that everyone in the family got a chance to name one kid or the other and because of the smaller one before me. He did not get to keep any baby’s name. So he named me “Muskan”. Later on, when my parents visited pandit, he gave “S” as the initial letter. So Muskan got converted to Smile.

How did you develop an interest in computer science? What was the turning point?

During my 11th standard, my school allocated me computer science as an optional subject. I did not voluntarily choose Computer Science. It was simply I was not able to say “No” to my faculty at school who gave me computers as a subject. When I joined the computer class, I felt too much difficulty in grasping the basic programming concepts. I still remember I got shattered in beginning. With persistent efforts, my interest in computer science went up.

And slowly you became a Hackathon expert. What’s the significance of Hackathons in a tech student’s life? How useful are they?

I feel today’s students are developers of tomorrow. Hackathons are where students, regardless of majors and minors, can develop real-world coding skills. They also help them develop soft skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork experience that are needed for professional success. In a nutshell, Hackathon is one kind of contest that teaches all the basic skills to aspirants.

As a person who is offering tech talks to tech students, how do you assess the beginners? What is their biggest plus and minus?

Assessing a beginner is easy. When I start teaching a concept, the first thing I do is to ask everyone some pretty basic questions regarding the concept. I will just ask if the person ever heard about the term version control. Version control and git are interconnected terms. Teaching beginners is challenging on its own as you need to go deep down to the roots and making a person learn and develop their interest is a little tedious. But the beauty in this process is, newbies have a different perspective and answering the queries of different perspectives makes a person more curious. Besides this being part of somebody’s journey is a totally different feeling on its own.

Also, what can engineering colleges do to update students with the current technological advancements? Do you think our current syllabus is good enough?

I don’t know about other domains, but the current syllabus of computer science engineering is way too outdated in many institutes. I feel just like the colours of the buildings of education places, the colours of the syllabus must be changed from time to time. The courses should contain more practical knowledge rather than theoretical subjects. Some interesting elements like contributing to open source or specifics of project development and competitive coding should also be included in the curriculum as it is a must for all tech aspirants.

What are your career plans? Irrespective of the job you do, will you be mentoring beginners and students?

As of now my career plan is to get a job in Bangalore and settle there. At worst-case scenario, if I am not able to make it to Bangalore, then for sure, Hyderabad is on my checklist. Irrespective of my job, I have already decided that I will make my routine in such a way that every alternative weekend I will help and guide the local students to take up their first step in technology.

Tell us about those habits of yours
which you are proud of?

  • I plan tomorrow before going to bed tonight.
  • I never lie for my own benefit.
  • I don't judge people. Everybody has a past.
  • I keep a handwritten to-do list.
  • I forgive.

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