Five female STEM graduates step up early to pay it forward
- Posted on May 21, 2021
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
New “Thank You, Avanade” scholarship continues the tradition of supporting young women STEM students
“One good turn deserves another.” – Aesop
Shravanthi Budhi knew from an early age that she wanted a career in technology. It just came naturally in her family. Her father was deep into a career in data analytics, and the conversations around their dinner table involved tech as often as it did any other subject.
Today Shravanthi is a business analyst at Avanade, and the story of how she and four of her colleagues are gearing up to support other women entering STEM fields is an inspiring one that may become a new prototype for how peer-to-peer support can have practical and long-lasting impacts in the digital world.
Shravanthi was a freshman at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2016 when a professor alerted her to a pilot scholarship program designed to support young women entering STEM careers. The Avanade STEM scholarship was part of the company’s Corporate Citizenship slate of programs to “enable young people and their communities to achieve more through the power of our people and digital innovation.” Successful applicants would receive a full scholarship, as well as personal and group mentoring, opportunities for internships, and plenty of chances to interact with Avanade professionals already in the field, as well as STEM students from different parts of the world.
After a competitive application process, Shravanthi and 14 other women scholars were admitted into the pilot program. It was an immediate hit. Today, six years later, 110 Avanade STEM scholars from 16 universities around the world are in or have graduated from the program.
And that’s where the story gets even more interesting.
Turning more dreams into reality
“Many students begin their academic pursuits with the weight of student loans or other financial burdens,” Shravanthi says. “Avanade has led by example and embodies what it means to be a true pillar of support for young women intrigued by STEM-related professions. Following its lead, five former Avanade scholars and recent graduates of NJIT have started a ‘Thank You, Avanade’ scholarship with NJIT to support additional young women studying STEM and, in a small way, thank Avanade for all the support it has given us.”
Shravanthi and four fellow NJIT alumni have pledged donations for the next 5 years to endow the scholarship for up to $25,000 to help other women STEM students.
“Having been an Avanade scholarship recipient myself, I know how life-changing a scholarship can be,” says Dikasse Zalla, a consultant in Avanade’s New York office. “Nothing compares to when you are able to just focus on going to school and getting an education, instead of worrying about whether or not you'll be able to pay your tuition for the semester.”
Women who are in or have been through the program have formed the Avanade Scholar Network, with participants all over the world staying in touch and supporting one another.
“I think the creation of this new scholarship is a great way to pay it forward and recognize Avanade’s generosity and commitment to women in STEM,” says Emily Costagliola, also an analyst in Avanade’s New York office. “Having been a scholar and recipient of the company’s continued generosity, I would love to help other young women in STEM further their education and career without the extra financial burden. Overall, this is a great way to pass on a legacy and expand the Avanade Scholar Network.”
The young women want to give others the opportunity they had to set aside financial concerns long enough to explore the full range of STEM-related careers.
“Avanade changed my life in so many ways, from pushing me outside my comfort zone academically and personally to giving me opportunities to network with such successful people from all around the world,” says Tracey Brereton, who will graduate from NJIT this month and plans to pursue a master’s in health informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. “I have explored and learned about fields of technology through my experience with Avanade that I never knew existed! I am forever grateful for all of the opportunities Avanade provided me and believe that this scholarship fund is a way for us to show Avanade the impact they have had on each of us and how we couldn’t be more excited to let others experience these opportunities, as well.”
Company purpose in action
Establishment of the new scholarship wasn’t an outcome Avanade expected.
“The fact that these women, at the very start of their technology careers, are so passionate about stepping up to help other scholars coming up behind them is unbelievably inspiring to all of us at Avanade,” says CEO Pam Maynard. “Our company purpose is to make a genuine human impact. The initiative and generosity they’ve shown demonstrates that purpose in the most profound way. They are going to change people’s lives.”
This initial group hopes its endowment will be just a first step and that others may follow suit.
“Graduating seniors could also continue this tradition of paying forward Avanade’s generosity, and contribute to investing in the potential of future students,” Shravanthi says.
For now, however, this is the story of five young women who on their own are choosing to #PayItForward to help the next generation of women technologists.
“I am grateful for the mentorship and financial support I received during my undergraduate degree,” says Priya Ravi, a senior analyst at Goldman Sachs. “The Avanade scholarship enabled me to prosper personally, academically and professionally. Now I'm honored to be on the other side and to help the next generation of exceptional young women reach their full potential.”