“Changing the world with one click” is a trendy buzzword phrase for tech companies and startup CEOs. But for Ikshita Gupta, it’s more than just words. It’s a way of life.
Growing up in Mumbai, India, Gupta realized early on how difficult it could be for women to break into the world of technology, even on a global scale. So she set out to change that paradigm, enrolling in what she knew would be a challenging major with the specific goal of making computer science a more welcoming field for everyone.
“Just a sense of changing this dynamic and making school more accessible, not just for women but for minorities in general,” she said.
She paired that goal with another: using her skills to help the campus community. Now graduating Dec. 6 with a bachelor of science degree in computer science and engineering, Gupta is well on her way to accomplishing both goals, expanding access to opportunities in computer science for women at UToledo, and putting her programming acumen to work in practical ways.
As the president of the UToledo chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery for Women (ACM-W), she helped lead several technology and leadership activities, including organizing a trip to a hackathon at McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago. The experience gave students some crucial opportunities to compete in their field on a national level and to interact with industry leaders.
“We got a chance to meet C-level executives from Google, Microsoft and McDonald’s,” said Gupta. “These are all tech pioneers. These are the leaders in computer science and engineering, and networking and making connections with them was very important for our students.”
She also used her summer to work on a research project within the Cybersecurity Lab to detect malware and attacks on Android applications, in addition to founding a startup to change the dynamics of campus living.
“The startup project focuses on helping students with food delivery on campus. It’s a new and exciting concept as this kind of service isn’t deployed anywhere yet,” she said. “We have completed the initial research, planning and design for our product, and I must say the entrepreneurial support I got from the College of Engineering has been great in moving forward with the product. Two months ago it was just an idea, but now the service will have a big impact on students and staff and help our university flourish.”
As she’s worked to pave the way for others, campus leaders are taking notice.
“Ikshita’s leadership qualities are what stand out the most to me,” said Jon Pawlecki, director of student services and transfer partnerships in UToledo’s College of Engineering. “Ikshita is an excellent listener and communicator who is committed to using her strong leadership qualities to positively impact our society. Future Rockets should use Ikshita as an example of what is possible if you take advantage of the many opportunities that UToledo has to offer.”
Gupta also has been involved in the college’s Roy and Marcia Armes Engineering Leadership Institute (ELI), which works to maximize members’ leadership potential and professionalism by creating opportunities to network with industry leaders and grow through engagement in professional development activities.
“I have been highly impressed with Ikshita since the first time I interviewed her as part of her application to join ELI,” UToledo College of Engineering Dean T. Michael Toole said. “Her initiative, professionalism and commitment to achieving excellence in everything she does are off the charts. She has a tremendously successful career ahead of her and I look forward to watching it unfold.”
Gupta is graduating, but her mission to change the world — with one click or many — is just getting started. She intends to pursue one of two tracks post-graduation, going after either a non-profit enacting social change or an opportunity to wield power for good in an executive position. Either way, she’ll be leaving campus ready to find the perfect spot to contribute.
“UToledo has groomed me in such a way that I feel like now I have vision in both eyes to look for opportunities, and I wouldn’t say this if I was at just any other school,” she said. “Being from a Midwestern school where there are not a lot of big-name people, it’s easier to understand the impact you can have with your opportunities. Toledo has helped me understand that.”