Leela graduated from the University of Idaho in 2004 with a BS degree in Computer Science and a BA degree in Spanish. She is originally from Moscow, ID. Leela has an interesting story to tell about what convinced her to pursue a career in Computer Science. "I have always liked technology. I was good at math and I wanted to do something that incorporated it, yet was practical at the same time. Computer science seemed like the best fit for my goal. I had a high school classmate who sat in a wheelchair and in order to communicate needed the computer attached to his chair. The tipping point for me came one day when he gave a presentation on why technology was so important to him. He really exclaimed that if it weren't for technology, he would not be able to speak with anyone or even have friends. That sealed the deal for me."
"My student activities have enabled me to practice my leadership and communication skills as well as taught me how to work with all different personality types."
Leela's diversity is well illustrated by the student activities in which she participated while a University of Idaho student. She was especially active in the Associated Students of the University of Idaho (ASUI) including: ASUI Senate (Pro-tempore), ASUI Vandal Taxi Committee (Founder and Chair), and ASUI Academics Board (Chair). "My involvement with ASUI has played a very significant role in my professional development. It enabled me to practice my leadership and communication skills as well as taught me how to work with all different personality types. Also, due to the intense nature of my computer science degree and my goals within ASUI, it forced me to learn great time management skills, which is imperative in being an effective manager and leader." In addition to her ASUI involvement she participated in the Honors Board (Founding member), Senior Class Board (Member), Student Computing Advisory Committee (Member), and the University of Idaho Symphony Orchestra (Violinist).
"I do find playing the violin to aide in the achievement of balance in my life."
Music continues to be an important part of Leela's life. "Playing the violin is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. I have played since I was three. I believe that music in general enables someone to think with a different part of the brain that cannot quite be put into words. Studies show that music also helps develop math skills in young children. Maybe that's why I like math so much. I do find playing the violin to aide in the achievement of balance in my life. It calms me down when I play and even though practicing takes time, it is something that is a priority to me."
"The time to take career risks is when you're young and have little to lose. The fast-paced experience taught me a lot about so many things"
After graduation, Leela took a position as a data analyst for a small cell phone analytics company which eventually was acquired by VeriSign. The following year, realizing the job wasn't the best fit for her interest, she took a rather uncommon and bold step in her professional career, co-founding an e-commerce company, Atlas Frontiers, that sold primarily medical and dental, overstock and liquidation items online. "The motivation came as an opportunity that presented itself to me. A friend of mine that I had work well with in ASUI had just started a business. I listened to what he was doing. I was intrigued and fascinated so I took a huge leap. I figured if there is any time to take such risks, it is when you're young and have little to lose."
Atlas Frontiers operated from Boise, ID, working mainly through eBay. "It was a great, fast-paced experience that taught me a lot about so many things — from my analytical skills used in my CS degree, to the business, marketing, and people side of things. I wore ten different hats all the time. From going to chamber of commerce events for networking, to knocking on businesses doors to introduce Atlas Frontiers to them, to building a marketing plan, to choosing what our IT infrastructure was going to look like. There was no typical day. There was always something different to do and we grew the company from the two of us to six people by the time I left."
"Keys to Business Success: A positive outlook. Persistence. Hard work."
Leela summed up what she though the critical skills were that made for a successful business venture, "A positive outlook. Persistence. Hard work. The ability to work smart, not just hard. People skills. And the ability to think analytically (thank you CS)!"
"After running my own business for two years, I kept having this nagging feeling in the back of my head saying: 'You've always wanted to do your MBA. It's now or never!'" Listening to that inner voice, she took the GMAT exam and is now a first year MBA student at Boston College. "I love it. I will be interning at Johnson and Johnson in their global strategies unit this summer  and hope to work for them upon completion of my degree in May 2009."
"The high caliber professors and small class size helped me develop analytical skills that let me compete favorably with graduates from some of the most prestigious universities."
Leela's final comments put the quality of her education into perspective. "My Computer Science degree provided a foundation for understanding details all levels of computing – from building one, to coding programs. This has enabled me to think about problems strategically, and with attention to detail. Being able to think this way helps in so many ways. Now that I'm pursuing my MBA at Boston College, I realize how high the level of education at the University of Idaho really was. My other MBA classmates did their undergraduate work at universities like Harvard, Brown, Princeton, and Berkeley. My problem solving and strategic analysis skills are just as good, and I equate much of this to the high caliber of professors and the small class size in the Computer Science department at the University of Idaho."
The views expressed on this page are those of the individual being profiled and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Idaho or the employer. References to specific companies or organizations does not constitute endorsement of their products or services by the University of Idaho.
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