Staring at the grade on her first computer science test in high school, Dasani Madipalli was upset. Facing a significant learning curve as she entered the field, she had struggled with the challenging coursework.
Spotting her distress, Madipalli’s teacher approached her with encouragement. So she stuck with it. Now a senior at Case Western Reserve University majoring in computer science, Madipalli is gearing up for graduation in the spring and a job at Microsoft soon after.
And along the way, she’s helping girls and women overcome the same challenges she faced.
Madipalli recognizes that even those who have a general curiosity about the field might be too intimidated by the subject matter to give it a try. She also knows that some—especially young girls—may not see anyone who looks like them in the field.
That’s where Girls Who Code comes in. Soon after hearing about the national afterschool organization geared toward girls ages 12 and up, Madipalli decided she wanted to help spread the message in Cleveland.
The program encourages girls (though it’s also open to boys) to take an interest in computer science, helping them learn the basics of programming. But there’s also a focus on building a community for girls to feel comfortable and supported, and in highlighting successful women in the field.
So far, she’s worked with three schools and educational programs: Heights Youth Club, New Bridge Cleveland and Citizens Academy.
“It’s always really exciting to see people finally get excited and engaged with the content,” Madipalli said.
Beyond computer science, Girls Who Code also is related to a cause about which Madipalli feels strongly: access to education. Growing up in a rural area of India, she saw firsthand how a lack of education could impact a person’s life.
“That’s also part of what motivated [me to get involved with] Girls Who Code,” Madipalli said. “I want to make education accessible.”
For her efforts, Madipalli recently was named a Google Women Techmakers Scholar. As one of 20 women in North America to receive the honor in 2018, Madipalli received a $10,000 scholarship and met other scholars during a retreat.
“It’s great to meet other people who have similar ideas and the same values and are really passionate about technology and STEM fields,” she said.
Read more about Madipalli in this week’s five questions.
1. What’s your favorite poem or poet?
There’s one called “A Slow Death” by Martha Medeiros. I actually have it stuck on my wall in my room because, especially in college, you have so many different things you want to juggle. You feel like you have to keep doing this thing—you have to get that grade or get that internship or whatever the next thing is.
This poem reminds me to look at things in perspective. I’m the kind of person who worries a lot about the choices I make or the things I do. It just reminds me that there’s more to life than these things; sometimes you just have to take a moment to enjoy where you’re at and do something fun.
2. Do you prefer e-readers or actual books?
If it comes to textbooks and studying, I prefer to have a physical copy so I can highlight or take notes on paper.
If it’s a novel, I prefer e-readers. I got a Kindle recently. There’s this really cool feature where you can change the font, and you can read in the dark, so it just makes it easier for me.
3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
You don’t always need to be accomplishing something. This is advice that’s been given to me by multiple people.
I try to remind myself that it’s OK to do things that don’t necessarily have any greater reason, to just do something that relaxes you or just do something for yourself. It’s really easy to just get caught up in whatever goals you have.
Money was really tight in my family after high school so going to college was a huge deal. You’re always trying to make the opportunity count, so it’s really hard to remember you don’t always have to be taking advantage of an opportunity.
4. If you were to become famous for something, for what do you think it would be?
Hopefully for something that makes a meaningful impact. I’m really passionate about education; I think education is a gateway out of bad situations for a lot of people. Making that an opportunity for people is really important for me.
Another thing I really care about is accessibility, so making opportunities available for everyone, regardless of ability.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
What I’ve really liked about Case [Western Reserve] is that there’s a lot of commitment toward community. There are a lot of different ways you can reach out and get involved.
I grew up in a very rural, small place in India. It was really tight-knit—everybody knew everyone. I think it’s a lot easier to see your community and be a part of it. I like that we have those opportunities at Case [Western Reserve] as well. You can get involved in whatever way you’d like in the community
[The Center for Civic Engagement and Learning] is really great with that too. They make it really easy for you to get engaged with people in the Cleveland area and in areas you’re interested in.