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Shanku Niyogi, Vice-President of product at GITHUB, has a passion for breaking down barries in education
By Lisa Kabesh
Shanku Niyogi started coding when he was 11. The Waterloo computer science graduate (BMath ‘94) admits that it wasn’t always easy.
“You had to learn how to code by yourself back then – I had to go buy magazines to learn how to code. The internet didn’t exist,” he recalls.
Now vice-president of product at GitHub, a platform that enables more than 40 million developers around the world to write code and create software, Niyogi is passionate about removing barriers to careers in technology.
It’s why he’s happy to be at GitHub leading a team that builds tools to help people write code, and it’s why he supports the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing.
These programs, along with the CEMC’s free online courseware and resources, make it easy to see why the CEMC is an organization that Niyogi can get behind. Computer Science Circles, for example, is a kid-friendly, interactive, online resource that anyone can access to learn how to code. It’s not hard to imagine an 11-year-old computer science enthusiast turning to it with excitement
Paying it Forward
Niyogi recalls a highlight from his high school years with a mix of humour and gratitude: a field trip to the University of Waterloo where he and his classmates were given the opportunity to experience what coding would be like as a career.
“They gave us spiral-bound books that you coded from, and I took the book,” he laughs. “I brought it home with me, and I learned to code with it at home. When my aunt found it, she made me give it back,” he says with another laugh.
Without opportunities like that one-day field trip, Niyogi isn’t sure he would have been able to get as far as he did with his studies.
“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be in the tech industry,” explains Niyogi, “I want to do my part to help others take a similar path.”
The Microsoft and Google Cloud veteran also sees the CEMC playing an important role in helping to diversify STEM. He points to programs like Think About Math!, a day-long workshop designed to ignite enthusiasm in high school girls for mathematics, as an example of how the CEMC, is making a difference.
“We have a shortage of 1.5 million developers in the United States alone,” says Niyogi.
“Tech is driving a lot of progress, and there’s huge demand for writing code and software development skills. It’s on us as an industry to fix that, to improve diversity in the computer science space, to reach out to more audiences and find people from under-represented communities.”