San Francisco, CA, December 17, 2015 – On October 21st, Toptal launched Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers, a program designed to empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers, and developers, through a combination of financial support and mentorship.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the first winner of the scholarship, Rojina Bajracharya. Rojina is an incredibly inspiring, motivated Python developer, entrepreneur, and mentor from Bhaktapur, Nepal. She will receive $5,000, as well as one year of weekly one-on-one mentorship with a Toptal senior developer, to support her goal of having a successful career as a professional software developer.
“Rojina’s application really blew us away,” said Toptal Director of Engineering Anna-Chiara Bellini, who is organizing the initiative and leading the committee of judges. “She is both brilliant and ambitious, and is not only working hard to develop her own skills, but is also doing amazing things to build and support a community of female technologists around her in Nepal.”
Rojina is a co-founder of Girls in Technology, a rapidly growing community of women in the Kathmandu area who are training to become future software engineers. The organization was founded after Rojina and several friends took a programming course that a mentor from Pagoda Labs, a Kathmandu-based creative agency, had set up for girls in the area.
Founding Girls in Technology
The programming course met every Saturday for 5 weeks, and after it was complete, Rojina and 4 other girls decided to form Girls in Technology so that they could continue their education and support other girls who were also interested in learning software development.
The organization was founded less than 9 months ago, and today, Girls in Technology holds training sessions every Saturday. Over 40 girls attended the most recent session.
In Rojina’s words,
Girls in Technology is a common platform that brings all women studying technology in Nepal together. Technology in most areas of the world has been a male-dominated field, and the same is true in Nepal, where most of the best jobs are related to computer programming and technology. Nepalese businesses are no less capable in technology compared to anywhere else in the world, but while there are skilled programmers here, there are not nearly enough to fill the demand.
What if girls could help fill this sector? Our country has skilled women in technical fields, but on average there are far fewer females than males. Girls who are already interested in technical subjects or who are studying this field should be encouraged to continue it. Right now, many girls in this field leave it because they think computer jobs are too difficult and they lose confidence at some point. So, Girls in Technology is a motto and platform to bring these girls together and encourage them to continue forward.”
As Rojina explains, there are plenty of girls in Nepal who are successful in STEM fields through high school and university, and many who consistently perform at the top of their classes, but she has seen many girls lose confidence when it comes to actually preparing and interviewing for professional computer science positions.
To address this, Girls in Technology organizes technical training sessions (the most recent one was a Python workshop), brings in successful women from Nepal’s tech industry to share their experiences, and provides a forum for support as girls make the jump from achieving university degrees to landing their first jobs as software engineers. These events are hosted by Leapfrog Academy, a technical institute that offers programming courses to students all over Nepal.
In addition to GiT’s short-term initiatives, which include coding classes and workshops on team building and networking, Rojina’s long-term vision for the organization includes directly helping girls land programming jobs with Nepalese tech companies and reaching out to girls across the entire nation.
As she puts it, “In a few years, I want to see all girls in Nepal studying technology and feeling that they can work in the tech industry if they desire.”
Rojina’s software engineering education
Rojina attended high school at the Everest English School, in her hometown of Bhaktapur, where she was named Student of the Year in 2007. She completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics and Communications from Tribhuwan University in Nepal, and is currently in Buddhist Studies at Nepal Bauddha Pariyetti Shichya, one of the Buddhist Studies Associations of Nepal. She is waiting for her bachelor’s test scores before beginning to pursue a Master’s degree, for which she is considering applying to universities outside of Nepal. Currently, Rojina is also working as a Node.js developer at Zyoba Labs Pvt. Ltd., a software development firm headquartered in Kathmandu.
“When we were starting university, a friend and I saw that the Electronics and Communications classes were all boys, and we decided to do it and be the only girls,” says Rojina. “However, we noticed that university classes didn’t really teach you professional programming skills, just academic, so my friend and I started teaching ourselves PHP for around 2 hours every morning, just watching YouTube videos on it from home.”
After completing a PHP programming internship, Rojina joined Leapfrog Academy, where she began learning Python and Django, both as an intern at the academy and through self-study.
Rojina explains, “There are 9 software development companies in Nepal right now that use Python, and they all need senior developers.”
And yet, she still manages to find time to focus on Girls in Technology. Whenever she picks up a new skill in the office, Rojina will quickly make a training video for the rest of the girls in her organization.
“These videos are really advantageous for Girls in Technology,” says Rojina. “They really help to show girls in Nepal who are interested in technology that they can do it. The videos are really attracting more and more girls to join us.”
Rojina’s Toptal Scholarships application
“I found out about Toptal Scholarships on Facebook, when one of my friends shared a link to the application,” says Rojina. “I was so excited to apply when I found out about it. I immediately read all the rules and created a blog for myself in WordPress so that I could apply.”
As part of her application, Rojina worked on building Hamropasal, a Python-based eCommerce application that she has open sourced. Her submission blog post discusses her passion for technology and the challenges she has faced as a woman in Nepal learning to become a software developer.
After continuing to the final round, Rojina had an interview with Anna Chiara Bellini and the rest of the judging committee, after which she was named the scholarship’s first winner.
Rojina plans on using her scholarship winnings to help build and launch Hamropasal, to pay for her independent studies and her future Master’s degree, and to support Girls in Technology initiatives. To help her with that last part, Toptal will be partnering with GiT in an additional capacity to sponsor their initiatives indefinitely and to support their long-term visions, including funding events and providing the organization with access to Udemy’s full course catalog.
Rojina, who in her free time loves listening to music, playing volleyball, and cooking, wrote the following about herself and her country:
I am a girl brought up in a cultural family, where we value norms and ethics very strongly. Nepal is a country where so many people from diverse cultures live together as a community. We believe in “Unity in Diversity.” We also believe in helping each other and growing together.
Nepal is the country of the Himalayas, where Gautam Buddha was born, and where the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, lies. Being a Buddhist, I follow the thoughts of Lord Buddha, which are very practical for every living being’s life. I am strongly inspired by one of his thoughts: “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” I believe that every religion is the same if it teaches humanity and the path to enlightenment and peace.
I want to credit my parents and entire family for always inspiring me to go forward. I would also not be so inspired to learn without my high school experience at the Everest English School. I’d like to thank Sir Dixanta Bahadur Shrestha, the CEO at Leapfrog Academy, for providing me with motivation, and give a huge thanks to all the members of Girls in Technology, without whom my project would not have been successful. Finally, I’d like to thank Toptal Director of Engineering Anna Chiara Bellini and the entire Toptal team for inspiring me and creating this scholarship.
Rojina’s ambition and drive to educate herself and build a growing community of female technologists around her is truly remarkable. Toptal is currently working with Rojina to set up a trip for her to New York City, where she’ll meet members of the Toptal team, other NYC groups that support women in technology, and university organizations.
We are lucky to be able to support Rojina and Girls in Technology as she launches her career in software development, and we are very excited to see what the future has in store for her. If it is anything like what she has accomplished so far, we are sure it will be amazing.
Please join us in congratulating Nepalese developer Rojina Bajracharya, the very first scholarship winner in the Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers program!
About the Scholarships Program
Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers are a series of 12 scholarships for women that are awarded monthly over a year, with Rojina being the first scholarship winner. Women from across the world of any education level are eligible to apply to win $5,000 and a year of weekly one-on-one technical training and mentorship from a Toptal senior technologist to help them pursue their goals as future professional software engineers.
To apply to Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers and for more information about the program, visit https://www.toptal.com/scholarships.
Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.
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