Faces on Campus – Rucha Damle
Rucha Damle is currently completing her Masters in Computer Science at Northeastern University – Seattle. While studying, Rucha also undertook a co-op at Latchel. We caught up with Rucha to find out more about her co-op experience, and to see what the future has in store for her after graduation.
Hi Rucha! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Rucha Damle and I am completing my Masters in Computer Science here at Northeastern University-Seattle! I am already in my final semester, which I find so hard to believe. I am from India, where I was awarded my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the Pune Institute of Computer Science (PICT). Then, I decided I wanted a change of scenery and relocated to Tokyo, where I spent a few years as a software engineer in a Japanese company called Rakuten. During my time at Rakuten, I decided to return to higher education. I also wanted to go to America, as it has always intrigued me. The U.S. is the land of opportunity, and I felt like I would definitely learn a lot and thrive if I moved to the States. So far, I think has been proven right. Since I moved to Seattle, I have undoubtedly learned something new every day!
Although I love Computer Science, I am also very passionate about the arts. I love theater, and I am actually trained in Indian classical dance. Fortunately, Seattle has a few dance groups, so when I have graduated and I have settled in my new role, I will definitely get more involved. I am going to strive for the optimal work-life balance.
What influenced your decision to study at the Seattle campus?
Seattle is such a great place–the climate is mild, the people are friendly, and there is an abundance of opportunities. My cousin lived in Seattle for a long time, so I was always hearing about how amazing Seattle is. I definitely wanted to come and see it for myself, so I did and I have never looked back.
The Seattle campus was always my first choice. Northeastern has such a fantastic reputation, but I have always been attracted to smaller, entrepreneurial, grass-roots organizations. The schools and companies I have been involved in or associated with have always started out as something small. PICT, for example, is a renowned university, but it is not a big one. I chose to enroll at the Seattle campus, as the classes are smaller, and there is a lot more opportunity to interface with your fellow students and professors. It is difficult being so far from home, but I am very fortunate as I have formed very strong friendships and have made lots of connections here on campus. The NU-Seattle campus is so diverse, so it’s nice to make new friends and learn more about their culture.
The staff and faculty are also really great. The people at the front desk are so friendly and helpful. Dr. Ian Gorton and Paco Mesch are very supportive, and offer valuable advice to students looking for co-op opportunities and internships. Laura Iwane is also an excellent advisor. She is so approachable, and she will go out of the way to actually help anyone who needs it. All of the professors are industry professionals, so they are very helpful and offer the students excellent advice. Oh! There are two names I HAVE to mention; Darryl and Freddy. They are amazing! If I am having a terrible day, maybe I’m stressed out or I have screwed something up, I’ll see them and they just cheer me up. They are always smiling, joking and they are so helpful.
You recently completed a co-op. How did you find this experience?
My co-op experience has been outstanding. My co-op was a little different from a lot of my fellow students–I worked at Latchel, a scalable maintenance service management start-up. To put it simply, Latchel allows the property managers to just spend time focusing on their business goals and leave the maintenance management to the company. I was just one of two people in the engineering team. It was daunting initially, but I really enjoyed working there. It was similar to the TV show “Silicon Valley.”
While there, I learned that when you are involved in a small start-up, it is really important to be flexible. Sometimes the higher-ups in the company might make decisions that may not be successful, but it’s important to roll with the punches. I was also fortunate enough to see my company actually go through investment rounds, and noted how they sometimes needed to tweak the company vision to be more successful.
While it was really beneficial to see the inner mechanisms of a start-up, I also learned a lot on a personal level: how important it is to adapt, be open to new ideas and that it’s OK to fail. If you screw up or if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. However, it is also critical to take responsibility for your actions, if and when you do mess up. I am now able to voice my opinion, and I now know that it is crucial to take responsibility for your mistakes, to remain informed and not to be afraid to take risks.
I am so grateful to the amazing team at Latchel. My mentors and team were so kind and helpful, they even helped me to improve upon my English–I know all the slang now! I cannot wait to see the company take off, and I wish only the best to the entire team there!
What do you hope to achieve after you graduate?
I’m going to go visit my family and then come back and get to work. Once I have settled on a career I like, I’m going to travel all across the U.S. I have a big dream, I’m going to visit all 50 states. I really want to visit Iowa, I don’t know why! Arizona and California are also on my agenda, before I head over to the East Coast. And yes, I will be stopping by Boston.
Once I get that out of my system, my goal is to get a job that I love! I believe that it is really important to have a healthy work-life balance. I’m definitely going to be seeking a position that fulfills me, yet also allows me to pursue my interests. I definitely plan to stay in Seattle, so of course I’ll stay connected with Northeastern-Seattle. I’m going to be involved in as many alumni activities as possible.
Do you have any advice for new students?
I think every student has a different path to follow. Some students might be really successful in their first few endeavors, while others might really take a lot of tries before they reach success. Right now as a student, failures are just when you don’t get into companies or you fail exams miserably. Remain positive and keep trying. Every failure teaches you something. I can vouch for this, because I myself have failed a lot. I have probably had more failures than success, frankly! As students, we are fortunate, as we have the privilege of failing. It’s vital to learn from mistakes, but also to understand that you have a very strong support system here.
Also, it can be very difficult to strike a balance between studies and other pursuits. We are here to learn, so all students should make the most of the wealth of knowledge and experience that the professors at the Seattle have to offer.
Finally, it’s important to get to know your fellow students, because they all understand what you’re going through. The Seattle campus has such an enriched culture, so go and talk to people. I guarantee you’ll make some lifelong friendships.