From Ohio to Boston to New York City, Sravanti Tekumalla ’16 has always tried to put herself outside of her comfort zone. As someone who never imagined herself attending a women’s college, Tekumalla didn’t even consider Wellesley College as a top choice. This perspective changed when she visited Wellesley for Spring Open Campus.
Interacting with women who held positions of leadership and who offered inspiration was what drew Tekumalla to Wellesley. “Seeing people like you really grounds you—makes you feel like that could be you,” she explained.
Tekumalla initially entered Wellesley with the expectation that she would go to medical school. However, this changed when she was surrounded by computer science students in one of her math classes. Many people around her told her to take a computer science class, so Tekumalla decided to try a class out for fun and ended up falling in love with it. “I stumbled into Wellesley and stumbled into computer science,” she said. “[I] loved how tangible [computer science was]. I could see results. It almost felt like magic.” At a time when she didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life, she appreciated the security that a career in technology offered.
Looking back at her time at Wellesley, Tekumalla reminisces about Marathon Monday, the micro-focus area in the computer science lounge where she spent most of her time and the Clapp library views of Lake Waban: a favorite student study spot.
Tekumalla was also heavily involved on campus. She was a member of the Student Organization Funding Committee, Community Action Network (which, during her time at Wellesley, was called the Diversity Committee), The Wellesley News and WZLY.
Tekumalla claims that her experience with The Wellesley News helped her see the importance of language and technology. She originally wanted to be a data journalist because she “wanted to marinate science and journalism together.” But she took the second semester of her junior year off to intern at HubSpot as a software engineer.
While this decision was a difficult one, it was worth it. Tekumalla referred to this decision as one that “solidified [that] I wanted to work in software engineering.” Even though her internship was not related to her interests in journalism and technology, she still believed that there were elements of journalism and technology that were included in the internship.
During her senior year, she took a class on natural language processing that helped reinforce her passion for language and technology. Her appreciation of language coupled with her love for computer science led her to work for Newsela, a tech startup that republishes daily news at five different age levels.
“[I] wanted to work for a startup because of how mission-driven it is,” she explained. Tekumalla truly values the importance of assisting children to think critically and analytically, especially during a time when fake news and alternative facts are common phrases.
She also added that she preferred working at a startup because it offered her more responsibility, which is not something she would necessarily have had in a larger firm.
When reflecting on her transition from the “Wellesley bubble” to the “real world,” Tekumalla said, “You question your ability [once in the real world] because of Wellesley’s mentoring environment, but Wellesley gave me the confidence to look within myself and assess ‘Is this me? or [is it] a product of the situation I’m in?’ It taught me to have courage in my convictions.”
Tekumalla’s biggest piece of advice to current Wellesley students is “to go out and do practical things that are related to your major.” She mentioned how real world experience could benefit students and give them a great advantage upon graduation. The reflected on her own decision to take a semester off for her internship and how that benefitted her after graduating by saying “it was a great experience for me to work at a company for a longer period of time than a summer.”
Through Wellesley she learned that putting in work will follow with results. She looks back to her experience in computer science and relates it to most instances in her life. She said, “Even in computer science, if you have a huge problem, you break it up into small pieces,” which is comparable to how many problems in life can be addressed.
Tekumalla now resides in New York where she works for Newsela and spends her free time cooking, working out and finding new ways to get out of her comfort zone.