Life’s options

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sujana interview 600 2 Page 3 scaled e1616061571206Reya Yeddula

From starting her career in computer science to earning her Master’s degree in education and teaching math to high school students, Sujana Mukund is a San Jose native who has done it all. Today, I’m sitting down with her to talk about her experiences immigrating to the US from India and her journey.

Reya: What were your experiences like coming to the US from India?

Sujana: When I came here, I came to study. On the flight when I was coming here, I left India to meet a few people who were coming here. I ended up going to Houston [from India] to stay with my cousins. I ended up missing my connecting flights twice, my cousins weren’t here to pick me up, I didn’t have enough money to make a phone call, and there were a lot of complications.

Thank god, at the airport, I saw a lady who was a passenger and she let me make a phone call!

R: Would you say you faced any hardships being a female engineer?

S: You know, when I landed here there were only four girls in the entire university out of around 150 men, most of them from India so it was very disproportionate. The professors didn’t give us very good advice so I had to fail the classes and make the wrong choices and then realize those courses wouldn’t help. I think if you’re an Indian girl who came this far, back then, you had to be extremely bold. My roommates had relatives, (living in the US) so they were all supported, but I was not. I feel like Indian women back home are so protected. When we study they really just want to marry us off to some boy. And I said no, I’m not going to just marry, I just want to study. sujana interview 600 2 Page 4 scaled e1616061592466

R: What inspired you to start teaching after your after-school care business and engineering and how did you get the idea since it’s so different from engineering?

S: Teaching was not in my plan at all after starting my after-school care business and quitting engineering. I had hoped I would go back to engineering. When I was interviewing for a job again, I found that many men would ask, “Will you go home from work early because you have kids?” I found this very annoying. It feels like having kids is a bother to those people. For me, family matters the most, and many men don’t like that type of answer. I decided I was going to go do something else. After having my after-school care for ten years, I wanted to start teaching. I applied for a second master’s for education at SJSU and got in. Today I’m teaching 9th-grade math while also doing mentoring. I think, especially Indians, want to only do STEM, but it’s not a cookie-cutter thing. They have a one-sided image, but the world is so huge and full of options, I just want to be there for kids.