Dismantling stereotypes, social good, and Priya Ganesan++

18 Aug 2015

Dismantling stereotypes, social good, and Priya Ganesan++

Dona had the pleasure of meeting Priya Ganesan at Grace Hopper 2014 where Priya asked her to speak at Stanford about the intersection of tech and other industries for the SHE++ organization’s fall event. Dona was continually impressed by Priya’s love of bright colors and classic lines during all of their meetings, a trend, it turns out she brings to life in all of her outfits. We learned that Priya’s younger sister Maya is also quite the fashionista.  We call this week Ganesan Week and we will be showing off both sisters (and a special guest!) 

Tell us a little about you.

I’m a rising junior and Computer Science major at Stanford University. I’m focusing my studies on natural language processing and information analysis because a) it’s fun, and b) the applications to other fields are exciting and endless.

At Stanford, I’m part of a nonprofit called she++, which works to dismantle stereotypes about the tech industry and empower women and minorities to get interested in technology. Last year, I ran our high school program, and this upcoming year I’ll be running our ambassador program - both focused on increasing accessibility to and diversity within tech.

I’m also a founding board member of a new organization called CS+Social Good, and we’re starting a movement to encourage students to use tech for social good and generally increase awareness about the applicability of CS to fields like environmental science, philanthropy, healthcare, education, and more.

I love to read (I used to run a book blog, sadly now defunct), play tennis, dance, travel, and watch Tom and Jerry. Everything makes me laugh, from my code crashing to terrible puns to cute baby videos to playing pranks. I can’t keep a straight face!

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

Yellow Top/Snake Leggings: My sister urged me not to get these leggings because she thought they looked creepy, but I thought the snake pattern was different and cool! The first time I wore them, I actually scared myself because I mistook my leg for a snake at one point. I love the cheerful yellow color and cutout pattern on the straps of the top, and the boots are super comfy - I wear them everywhere!

Blue Lace Dress: I love the color and lace back on this dress, which I got at Nordstrom last summer. I first wore it this past April at the she++ Gala and Celebration of Young Changemakers, which I co-hosted. This party dress was perfect for the occasion!

Cream Lace Top/Jeans: Although I’d like to say that I dress up every day, I have to admit that my typical school outfit consists of jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Clothes like this lace top and these cute flats help dress up my outfit and make it look like I put in more effort than I actually did!

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

I’ve always loved bright, colorful, flashy clothes. I think this may be partially because Indian clothes are so vibrant and opulent. But I also think of myself as a pretty playful person and wearing colorful clothes makes me feel happier and more energetic.

I wore a ton of matching shirt-pants sets in elementary and middle school. I don’t do that anymore. I also used to wear lots of glitter. I mean LOTS. This all stopped the first day of 10th grade, when I excitedly wore a new bubblegum-pink shirt with big peace signs on the front, covered in enough glitter to supply a kindergarten classroom for a year. I ended up looking like an Indian Tinkerbell, trailing glitter all over the desks and everyone’s notebooks for the next 7 hours.

I don’t wear glitter anymore, but I still try to wear clothes that are fun, whether they have beads or tulle or interesting prints or swishy fabric!

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

Some of the coolest jobs that utilize STEM aren’t in inherently STEM fields, and aren’t just desk jobs either. One of my friends is a tech intern this summer at a major fashion retailer and gets to see some of the ins and outs of the fashion industry. Another friend gets to constantly travel around the world and meet new people for her tech job. And some of the most impactful and fulfilling jobs are at the intersection of science/tech and another field.

Also, just because you are interested in STEM doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed with it or spend all of your time on it. There’s a prevalent mindset I’ve encountered in tech that if you are a programmer, you should be unequivocally passionate about coding and spend all of your extra time building apps, contributing to Github, and racking up points on Stack Overflow. I completely disagree! I think you should do with your free time whatever makes you happiest. Spending significant amounts of time on things other than STEM can help you be more creative and gain new and diverse perspectives.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

You can find me on Facebook :)

A big thank you to Priya for sharing her story, her closet and her amazing adventures with SHE++, CS+Social Good, and her studies round natural language processing–one of the hottest areas of tech right now!  Next up–her younger sister, technologist + poet, Maya!

Till next time!

Dona & Beth