From our Women in STEM TV series meet Prof. Shailaja Venkatsubrmanayan, associate professor emeritus, School of Information Systems and Technology (MIS) at San Jose State University (SJSU).  She never dreamt  she would be a teacher in a MIS department. Her career after high school was geared towards becoming an accountant.

Growing up Prof. Subrmanyan was surrounded by her extended family, who were all very good in mathematics. So,  it was no surprise that she too was good in math. But, it was science that interested her and she dreamt of becoming an engineer. 

Her dream of pursuing an engineering degree after high school did not materialize.  Instead, she pursued a degree in commerce and came to the US to do her master’s in accounting, which is when she took her first computer information systems class and fell in love with the subject. She continued to take a few more classes in computers and information management and had no plan of pursuing a degree in computers or information systems. On the advice of her graduate teacher she applied for a PhD program in information systems. She held a dim hope of being admitted to a PhD program because of her commerce and accounting background. To her surprise she was accepted into University of Arizona’s PhD program in information systems and recollects that it was one of the happiest days of her life.

Armed with her PhD degree she first taught at a school in New Orleans and then relocated to Silicon Valley, where she worked for a startup before joining the MIS department at SJSU.

We sat down to talk to Prof Subramanyan about her journey to become a teacher and uncovered an interesting family connection to the Indian mathematician Srinivasan Ramanujan. We also explore the “fear of mathematics,” that many of us experience and how she works with students to overcome that fear. Small steps of success is the key to understanding difficult concepts she point out.

This conversation with Prof. Venkatsubramanyan is part of Season 2 of our TV series on #WomeninSTEM and highlights the role of hidden figures in Silicon Valley.

This interview aired and continues to air on PBS, Public Media and cable  stations in the US.

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