Priyanka Sekhar is a junior at Stanford University, majoring in Computer Science. She serves as the SWIB Director of Finance and also dedicates her time to Applied Cybersecurity, a student group on campus that educates students about cyber security and hacking. Priyanka has interned at a range of workplaces, from startups to Google, and is looking into early-stage opportunities for the summer.
She was also recently named one of the 12 most impressive students currently at Stanford by Business Insider.
Why did you join SWIB?
I'm not sure exactly why I joined, but before SWIB I'd always been working in male-dominated fields (science, business, etc). SWIB seemed like a great way to work with very intelligent women, and I'll admit I was nervous at first because I had so little exposure to motivated and ambitious women. I didn't know if I could do it. Of course, SWIB was a great decision and I learned that competent women come in all forms and joining was one of the best decisions I've made at Stanford.
What is the most useful knowledge that SWIB has given you?
SWIB definitely taught me the art of the email. Email communication is so important and very underrated. When to follow up, how to follow up, how to close, what words to avoid (like just, wondering, hoping.. etc) all these things are important but never really taught, and SWIB helped me become more effective on that front for sure.
What’s changed most for you since arriving at Stanford?
It's really weird to have people assume you are competent. When I first got to Stanford, I was used to fighting for professional attention and trying to compensate for my lack of experience with "... but I'm a really fast learner.." Now that I have a few years under my belt, I feel a lot more confident and don't feel like companies are doing me a favor if they offer me an interview. I feel like I have a little more negotiating power. I feel confident in my skills and know that I could add real value to whatever place I work.
Best SWIB moments?
I really like it when my advice helps people. I remember helping my mentee with an elevator pitch and then her telling me the next day how well the career fair went/how many people were interested in calling her back. That was probably when I realized that I could have a tangible impact in women's professional development.
You've worked at a lot of successful companies, from Google to Constellation Wealth Advisors. What were some of the milestone moments?
Well, switching to Computer Science was a big deal. I think that's when I gave up the premed notion that many freshmen have and decided to just go for something that seemed promising. There were a lot of failed interviews along the way, but eventually something works out.
What was your personal journey in choosing your major?
I started Econ and Premed, became Econ and Pre-Med with a minor in CS, then dropped everything and majored in CS. I realized the field had a lot more that interested me and was very empowering. No one can argue with your technical skills. There's no BS there, no explaining what you really do, no trying to convince people you are competent. I liked that, it allowed me to focus on other things.
Words of wisdom?
You'll never really know what you're doing with your life so don't worry about it. Try things, see what gets traction, see what gets you out of bed in the morning, and run with it. What's more important is knowing who you are. Everything else will follow from that knowledge. :)