From disassembling her computer in order to study its architecture as a child to becoming the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at SochWare, Eeda Rijal is using her expertise in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create hardware and software solutions to support farmers in Nepal. Apart from running her own company, she also facilitates workshops on IoT and mentors the younger generation of Nepali Engineers.
Growing up in a family of engineers, Eeda got an early exposure to engineering and research, and always knew she wanted to become an engineer. Following her passion, she decided to pursue a degree in Electrical and Communication Engineering, but transitioning to an engineering campus was difficult for her, given she studied at an all-girls school until then.
“I came from an all-girls school, and seeing almost all boys in my class was not just different; it was difficult, and I was asking myself whether I belonged in this field.”
However, Eeda’s communication skills and support from her parents helped her navigate through this feeling and find her place in this field. One of the things she believes has helped her is communicating with people and being involved with Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) Nepal as a Microsoft Student Partner (MSP).
“In my heart, I knew I wanted to pursue this career, so I looked for communities I could be a part of and found Microsoft Innovation Center, Nepal, and became a Microsoft Student Partner. Here, I felt empowered and got opportunities that helped me revisit the reasons I chose this career. I became more determined than ever! ”
Being a part of a community of technologists instilled in Eeda a desire to use her skills to solve real-world problems. She immersed herself in finding how she can use her knowledge and channelize her energy to help Nepal. While still at college, she co-founded SochWare to provide smart and practical solutions to Nepali farmers. At SochWare, she is involved in the research and development of IoT and AI-based software and hardware solutions for agriculture. Later that same year, Eeda, along with her team SochWare, won the 2018 Microsoft Imagine Cup in Artificial Intelligence with E-Agrovet, which is a software that helps farmers in Nepal identify diseases in plants. E-Agrovet also suggests mitigation strategies and helps the farmers connect with experts in crop science. In addition to working on these innovative agricultural technologies, she is also training the next generation of Nepali engineers in IoT, AI, and the art of thinking out of the box to use technology to support the Nepali community.
“SochWare and E-Agrovet are the products of a lot of research and the wish to help my country. The majority of Nepal’s population is dependent on agriculture, and after my research, I learned that farmers in Nepal are using inorganic chemicals excessively, even when they don’t need to. I found that lack of knowledge about the diseases in the plants and the accessibility of an expert input were the major reasons for this, and we could employ technology to help bridge those gaps.”
Starting a company while being a full-time student was not easy for Eeda. However, she had support from her family and friends that helped her in balancing coursework at college and the work at her company. Another critical challenge that she faced was finding the right resources and support for her project as the startup ecosystem in Nepal is not great. She did a lot of market research to help her navigate this challenge and find the right people in the industry who supported her ideas and innovations. In this journey, she also found people, including her co-founders, fellow MSPs, and family, who had been a constant source of support and inspiration.
“I always knew I wanted to develop something for my nation, but it would not have been possible without my family and friends. My co-founders are brilliant individuals and amazing friends. Without them, this would still be a far-away dream. ”
Eeda is equally involved in promoting girls in tech. She is a public speaker, trainer, and mentor. Through her workshops, she is also teaching girls how to navigate through their fears and pursue engineering. She was recognized as Nepal’s Women Leader in 2018 by CMO Asia for her varied contributions to the Nepali tech industry.
“As a teacher and trainer, I get to meet many aspiring engineers. What I see shared among the girls is a fear to raise their hands to ask questions or participate in a class discussion, while the boys are not. This reminds me of the time I felt the same and how having my parents and fellow MSPs tell me otherwise helped me. Today, I am making sure that I am telling these girls that they are going to be innovators and amazing engineers.”
This story was written by Shreeya Singh Dhakal, the Founder and Advisor of Nepali Women in Computing.