Growing up in Nepal, Kripa Shakya ’21 wanted to become a software engineer, data analyst, cryptologist, or business analyst, but, “in my country, technology is kind of a male-dominated field,” she says. Not letting societal norms stop her, Shakya came to the United States, enrolled at LaGuardia Community College, connected with the Nepalese community, and set her sights on John Jay. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information systems, Shakya landed a software engineering position at JPMorgan Chase in their payments department, fulfilling her childhood dream of starting a career in technology.
What was life like in Nepal?
In Kathmandu, I always had my mom, dad, and sister around me. Life was a lot calmer. Every day my mom would call us for tea. I didn’t have to work or worry about finances. I was a bit pampered, but Nepal is still a developing country. We often experienced power cuts and there weren’t as many opportunities in technology—especially for a woman. Anything in technology was considered a man’s job. I didn’t like that. I was the kind of kid that wanted to be independent, earn my own money, and work in technology. That pushed me to apply to schools in different countries, which my parents fully supported. Many parents in Nepal want their children to go abroad to study so that they can gain more knowledge, come back home, and help develop our country.
What was it like when you first came to the United States?
It was 2016 and I was 18 years old. I studied English as a secondary language in Nepal but wasn’t great at it when I came here. At first, I was very nervous speaking and interacting with other students and professors. As a first-generation college student living in a new county without any family, the hardest thing was figuring out New York City—finding a room, learning where to shop, and navigating the subway system. What got me through it was a network of Nepalese connections. It didn’t matter if it was your mother’s friend’s aunt or a distant cousin’s in-laws—if you were from home, they were going to help you. When I first got here, I tapped into the Nepalese community on social media and they were extremely helpful in getting me settled.
Why did you decide to come to John Jay?
I wanted to explore cybersecurity and John Jay was the only CUNY with a specific cybersecurity program. That really appealed to me.
What drew you to computer science and cybersecurity?
When I first came to the United States, I was on social media all the time—Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Two years into my stay, my Facebook account got hacked. It was really horrible and felt like a personal attack. I started to thik about how much personal information people have on social media and the internet—be it their bank accounts, health information, or private details about themselves. That made me care a lot more about cybersecurity.
What program at John Jay helped you get your current position?
I’m really thankful for the TTP (N.Y.C. Tech Talent Pipeline) Program. Through the program, I did a web development bootcamp for over a month where a software engineer taught me coding. Then TTP helped me land an internship at a tech startup called Plate Rate, where I got to be a web development intern. After the internship was officially over, the CEO asked me to work there a little longer which broadened my experience even more. Putting this program and professional experience on my resume—along with references from TTP’s engineers and Plate Rate’s CEO—without question helped me get my current job. It made my resume stand out to hiring managers. Being part of TTP also helped boost my confidence when I first started at JPMorgan Chase.
What has it been like working at JPMorgan Chase?
I’ve been a software engineer at JPMorgan Chase for a year now. We have a team of 12 members working on software engineering in the company’s payment department. It’s challenging. I work with a lot of senior developers. Every day I ask them many questions, but they understand because I’m learning on the job.
What are some of your favorite memories from John Jay?
Being a part of the Himalayan Club at John Jay. This was a cultural club for Nepalese, Tibetan, and Bhutanese students. Being far away from home, having this group helped me feel connected to the community. I relied on our group chats and looked forward to when we got together. Celebrating Dashain with the Himalayan Club was really fun. Dashain is a national festival in Nepal. During the festival, we put on our tikas (a red paste applied to the forehead for spiritual wisdom, good health, peace, and prosperity), elderly people in the community give blessings, we cook native foods, and all eat together. It was a touch of home for me.
What advice would you give to a current John Jay student?
When you’re looking for a job, it’s a numbers game. Apply to as many jobs as you can. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get the job, but that’s a guarantee if you don’t apply.