You can succeed anywhere and in any role!

Image for post

“I tricked my way into programming and computing,” says Suruchi Dhungana, who is a software engineer at Possible Health, an NGO that delivers quality healthcare in several remote districts in Nepal.

Suruchi’s mother encouraged her to pursue Nursing, but she had developed a passion for computing and programming. In school, she did basic HTML and QBASIC, which sparked her interest in computing, and she wanted to pursue something along that line. Not being able to fully convince her mother of the career she had chosen for herself, she tricked them and took Mathematics for her electives instead of Biology in her high school. Later, she told her mother that she would not be able to pursue nursing because she did not take the pre-requisite course.

“My mother believed nursing to be a profession where women succeeded. She knew little about programming or tech. Since I did not have enough examples of women who succeeded in tech, my arguments were always weaker than hers. So, I worked towards removing nursing from the equation all together”.

Even though tech was not something that her parents wanted her to pursue, they eventually understood her and invested in her dreams.

“I remember a few of my relatives telling my parents that IT is not meant for girls, and they are wrong in letting me pursue a degree in IT. I am just grateful that they decided to invest in my dreams”.

After high school, Suruchi joined Amrit Science Campus to study for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Technology (BSC CSIT). There she developed a better understanding of how technology and software engineering can transform different fields, especially health care. After graduation, she joined Possible Health as the only female software engineer in their Electronic Health Records (EHR) team. At Possible Health she is developing and integrating diverse products, including OpenMRS (Medical Record System), OpenELIS (Laboratory Information System), OpenERP (Inventory Management System), OpenIMIS (Insurance Management Information System), DHIS2 (Health Information Management system) among others, into an EHR system. This EHR system is designed especially for use in hospitals in remote Nepal. Suruchi is revolutionizing the way health care is delivered in villages in Nepal, and she is passionate about it.

While Suruchi got great support from her team, she says that being the only woman in the group made her transition in her job difficult. She recalls having difficulties in talking about issues specific to women.

“Looking back, I feel I was fortunate, as my team members were supportive, and they helped me a lot when I was starting. However, being able to discuss women-specific issues was challenging. I remember calling in sick when I was on my period. Talking about something as normal as period while working in an NGO that is aimed towards delivering quality health care was not normal to me.”

With time, Suruchi understood that being the only woman in her team was never a problem, and all these discomforts stemmed from the constructs of the society she grew up in. She knew that the only way to go further was to go beyond these issues. She reminded herself of her desire to transform health care delivery in Nepal several times over and used this as her strength to pull herself out of these discomforts. Today, she is a “Women can Code” advocate and is helping other women come out of such difficulties at the workplace.

“I was not going to give up on my dreams because of the discomfort that was on my head. I have read and heard of the worst things that women go through in the workplace. All that I was going through was because of the rules I grew up with, and it was all on my head. My team was supportive, and I chose this career. It was my dream, and I reminded myself of that every day.”

In her career in tech, Suruchi has learned two things the best — talking about her dreams and breaking past the traditional rules of society that dictates the profession that a woman should pursue, and we cannot be more proud of her.

“You can succeed anywhere and in any role. Find your passion, talk about why you want to, and need to pursue it! If they say you cannot, tell them over and over again. Or maybe keep a few tricks up your sleeves.”

This story was written by Shreeya Singh Dhakal, the Founder and Advisor of Nepali Women in Computing.