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Harshitha Arul Murugan: Undergraduate

Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Program: 
Computer Science
Bangalore, India
Harshitha Murugan at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration for women in tech

Harshitha is an undergraduate in computer science in the Baskin School of Engineering and the current president of UC Santa Cruz’s chapter of Girls Who Code. Harshitha participated in Girls Who Code in high school, and was eager to get involved when the organization announced it was starting a college program just last year. She spoke with us about her experience at UCSC and the importance of community for women in male-dominated field.

Why did you choose UCSC? 

One of the main reasons I chose UCSC is that it is close to home... but at the same time the campus is so beautiful. We get the forest and the beach- I don’t know if you can get that anywhere else, honestly. And when I came to visit I was shocked at how nice people were. In my highschool people were a lot more competitive and I didn’t feel safe in that space, and I felt really depressed. It wasn’t that great of a time, but just coming and touring UCSC and seeing how excited the students were... it just seemed really exciting and a really nice place for me to go to school. 

What interested drew you to computer science? 

Both of my parents work in the tech industry, but at first I did not want to go into it because I took a couple of coding classes, and there were only two girls and eight boys. If the boys finished anything faster they would say, “Oh, it is because we are boys, we are good at this naturally.” It was really discouraging. As a ten year old, when boys say they are better at something because they are boys, you kind of just believe it after a while. I was determined to go into business instead, but then I got involved with Girls Who Code and gave computer science one last try. It was so nice being in a room full of girls, not being embarrassed to ask any questions. It was great, and that is actually what got me back into the computer science major.

Tell us about your experience with Girls Who Code, both as a member and now as a president. What has it taught you?

In high school I attended a Girls Who Code summer immersion program where myself and twenty-nine other girls went to GoDaddy in Sunnyvale and were taught the basics of programming languages like Python, HTML, and CSS. After that experience, I started the club at my high school, and now here I am at college. And I am actually more excited for the college version of Girls Who Code because we can do more practical job-related things like prepare for technical interviews and also discuss issues like imposter syndrome in a more intimate setting. 

Do you have any favorite moment in a class that you can share with us?

I took CS12A with Narges Norozi, and she became my favorite professor. It was really inspiring to see that she is only 28 and she has her PhD and she is doing research in all the hot areas. She was really inspiring. She gave us a project at the end of class to do anything we wanted in Java, and I made a simple scheduler. She liked it so much that I actually got the extra credit portion of the project, and I was really proud of that moment because I used to hate Java, but coming to college and having great professors really made a difference. 

Why is it important to get more women and underrepresented minorities in tech?

I think it is really important to get women in tech because you can see how much the male perspective has had an influence on tech. Even with phones, you see how big they are- they are not designed to fit in a woman’s pocket. Women don’t have that much of a space in tech because there is a lot of sexism, and we need to get rid of that. I think that women should get into tech so that we can have more diverse perspectives and learn how to use technology in different ways that are not as male-centric. 

Do you have anything you would like to say to our incoming class of female engineers? 

I would ask the incoming class of female engineers to join clubs like Society of Women Engineers, AMC-W, and Girls Who Code to build a strong network of women around them whom they can go to for help. That is what has helped me get through high school and college, and I really want incoming students to find a strong group of women to help them as well.