UCI informatics major Shalini Bhakta leaning against building with leaves in the backgroundl
Calling GHC an “incredibly rewarding experience,” Shalini Bhakta says she also learned about new technology and various career niches to explore. Steve Zylius / UCI

Shalini Bhakta is furthering her passion for information and computer sciences – from one Orange County to another. The third-year UCI informatics major flew to Orlando, Florida, in September for the Grace Hopper Celebration, a conference and job fair for women in the computing industry.

Born and raised in Southern California, Bhakta didn’t consider ICS as a career path while growing up – preferring to read and draw. However, she took some computer science classes in high school and entered UCI with a willingness to explore the field. Bhakta joined the Society of Women Engineers at UCI and Women in Information and Computer Sciences; she’s marketing chair for the latter. Bhakta says WICS has provided her with a supportive community and notes that the members often go to events together – like the Grace Hopper Celebration, which she attended with more than 20 Anteaters from WICS.

Earlier this year, Bhakta applied for and won the ICS Diversity Conference Scholarship, sponsored by UCI’s Stacey Nicholas Office of Outreach, Access and Inclusion. The award, which covered GHC travel, lodging and admission costs, allowed her to speak with recruiters and connect with professionals in the computing industry. One of Bhakta’s standout memories from the event is attending a panel on Disney animation.

“It was so refreshing getting to hear from two women software engineers and about their work, the tools they use and build, and more,” she wrote in a blog post.

Calling GHC an “incredibly rewarding experience,” Bhakta says she also learned about new technology and various career niches to explore.

She concluded the blog: “I’m so grateful to have gotten the experience to attend GHC in person with other WICS members and [to] get to know them better as we all navigated the conference’s several opportunities.”

Bhakta is still weighing career paths, with an eye toward graphics, visual computing and virtual reality. She says that as a woman in tech, it can be hard not to compare herself to others – not only men but also women she doesn’t know. However, organizations like WICS have shown her that people will support each other regardless of experience level.

“No matter your gender, you have to be very headstrong,” Bhakta says. “[ICS] is going to be difficult and consume your time, but in the end, it’s worth it – especially if you make friends in your classes and clubs.”

If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website athttps://brilliantfuture.uci.edu. Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/donald-bren-school-of-ics.