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Manya Gupta, a software engineer for telecommunications companies in her native India, is the fourth winner of a Knight News Challenge "programmer-journalist" scholarship. She’s now in her second quarter studying journalism at the Medill School at Northwestern University. She blogs occasionally at http://manya-myvoice.blogspot.com/.

Learn some more about Manya from the following edited Q&A.

Tell us about your background.

I am from India. I received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from JSS Academy of Technical Education in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.. While working on projects I realized my passion for programming and decided to make it a career.

So, I moved to Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, to work as a software engineer for Infosys Technologies and worked in the telecommunications domain. Three years later I decided to move to Ordyn Technologies, a small company, to gain some startup experience. My stint at Ordyn as a senior design engineer was very fruitful, and among many things I learned Python.

But I am not a complete geek. I am a traveler, a big sports buff, a trained dancer and an avid reader. I love playing football, tennis and volleyball and won a best player award for football in a tournament in Infosys. 

How did you get interested in journalism?

Four years ago I participated in a national level anti-reservation protest. [Editor’s note: Here’s a BBC article about the protests and the policy change that spurred them.] It was then that I realized the power of journalism to effect change. I experienced, for the first time, the positive impact journalism can make in creating a better society. What started as a small protest by a group of students in the national capital soon turned into a youth movement and it was because of effective, strong and powerful journalism. The reach to the youth through different media was amazing. There were traditional sources like the television and newspapers, but there was Twitter and Orkut and Web images and blogs. So, there was this curious mix of new and old and everyone, with whatever means he could, was participating in the movement.

That experience stirred me. It made me want to take the plunge into journalism and explore the new avenues that appeal to today’s youth — because the whole idea is to get the message to them, and adapting to their tools is important.

What have you learned by studying journalism so far? How has the experience changed your outlook?

So far I have thoroughly enjoyed the Medill experience. First and most important, I have learned to report, write and think like a journalist. I look for a story in everything around me! But it is not just old-style writing that I have learned. Medill is a place where the old meets the young — because with every print story I also created a multimedia piece and that is how I learned the importance of storytelling in the most effective manner.

Beyond that, I have met amazing people, participated in some very intriguing discussions and learned from people with tremendous amount of experience. What I have liked most is that everyone is so willing to share what they have learned.

Moreover, it has given me the opportunity to explore; by interacting with people from different walks of life, by understanding their problems, issues and lives, and by telling stories through creative media.

The experience has enriched me. It has given me the power to bring people’s day-to-day issues to light. At the same time, I have learned not to tie my emotions to one side and be balanced and fair by listening to other points of view. In short, I have learned to walk the tightrope.