by Abby Thompson
August 21, 2023
Aayusha Shrestha, hailing from Nepal, earned her bachelor's degree in computer science with a minor in Economics from NYU Abu Dhabi. Her passion for the convergence of social sciences and technology led her to the Equitech Scholars program for its inaugural cohort in 2021, which perfectly aligned with her interests. During her time at NYU Abu Dhabi, she enriched her knowledge further by spending a semester in London, delving into subjects such as dramatic literature, public policy, business, management, and political science.
After successfully completing the Equitech Scholars program, Aayusha ventured to New York City where she pursued two computer science courses, along with studies in software engineering, data, and a graduate level course called EdTech in a Global Context. She also undertook a capstone project that involved showcasing the front end of Facebook’s app. The project highlighted how social media platforms show sponsored content in comparison to content from friends and family.
Recalling her experience during the Equitech Scholars program, Aayusha expressed profound gratitude, stating, "Abhilash has been an incredible mentor figure in my life. I am immensely grateful to him. His unwavering belief and faith in me instilled the confidence I needed to believe in myself." Inspired by Abhilash’s encouragement, Aayusha applied for the Rhodes Scholars program and reached the UAE finalist round. “Though I didn’t get the scholarship, even making it into the final round was such a big deal for me, and I would not have done it without him pushing me to do it. Abhilash’s mentorship was one of my biggest takeaways from Equitech.”
Delving further into her Equitech journey, Aayusha says “I really like the combination of the Speaking Lab and Writing Lab because I think we all wrote about such personal things, and we were so vulnerable when we were writing them. Oftentimes, I would confide in my journal about these things, but being able to share them as stories and empathize with others when they shared theirs was truly enriching. Being a good listener and genuinely seeking to understand others created a strong sense of empathy within us. We embraced our vulnerability and formed a close-knit community. Being able to share personal experiences is really important because we have so much within us that needs expression, but when you create a narrative and weave it into what you want to say, a lot of people will relate. The storytelling component of the Equitech Scholars program was significant. There was a strong sense of purpose in sharing our stories, whether to showcase specific aspects of ourselves or shed light on issues we had faced. This intentional approach made the experience remarkably powerful for me.”
Aayusha also shares that she values the opportunities that have been presented to her after the program. “I had the chance to attend an online panel discussion with the Climate Change Economy and Innovation Roundtable Discussion at the Concordia Summit. Furthermore, I also had the opportunity to speak on the panel for Moving Science, Technology, and Society Forward Together hosted by Equitech Futures, the Aspen Institute, and the Rhodes Trust in Chicago. I spoke about gender neutrality in STEM and thinking about how we use STEM in our lives and how people keep pursuing STEM careers.”
Presently, Aayusha holds the position of Product Manager at an emerging e-commerce startup named Noon. In this capacity, her responsibilities encompass supervising software development teams, prioritizing project initiatives, evaluating the impact of products, and immersing herself in thorough data analysis. She attributes her proficiency in quantitative skills, which involve harnessing data and conducting surveys and interviews for qualitative insights, to her experiences at Equitech. Additionally, Aayusha proficiently manages tasks, strategizes roadmaps, and collaborates closely with platform vendors to design internal office tools that bolster decision-making and streamline operational procedures through the application of automation.
Aayusha is actively engaged as part of a team entrusted with the onboarding process for the upcoming cadre of product managers and is instrumental in devising a program tailored to their needs. Expressing her enthusiasm, she reveals, "I have always had an interest in teaching and learning since university days." During her high school tenure, Aayusha played a pivotal role with WeSTEM (Women in STEM), an organization championing women's empowerment. Here, she organized conferences and events that extended invitations to girls from schools across the UAE. These gatherings featured diverse panels, engaging discussions, and collaborative group sessions, all resonating with the fields of physics, mathematics, technology, biology, and psychology. Aayusha, along with her dedicated WeSTEM team, focused their efforts on engaging high school women, positioned earlier in the educational pipeline, effectively preparing them for their forthcoming journey into the realm of STEM.
In the future, Aayusha hopes to return to academia to pursue higher or international education and tech education. “I want to work on helping minorities exist within these STEM systems and not just back out in the middle of it. I want to work within universities where there are a lot of support spaces for minorities, helping them as a general part of the university experience so we can see sustainable growth in these fields.”
When asked about advice she’d give to others, Aayusha says, “Don’t be hard on yourself ever. Have grace with yourself. Try the best you can at the moment, and your best can mean very different things at different points in your life. Also, for minorities, reclaim your space, and don’t be shy to do so. Overall, just be kind; that’s how I meet people when addressing sensitive issues.”
Anodya Mishra contributed to this article.