Sakshi Rambhia was ranked in the top one percent academically of high schoolers in the entire country of India. But when she got to college in the United States, her hopes of succeeding in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) industry were put to the test when for more than two years, Rambhia would apply to more than 300 internships, but she was turned down for all of them.
Then, in her senior year, at 21 years old, Rambhia earned not one, but four internships at some of the world’s most prestigious STEM companies – Microsoft, Google and, currently, Tesla.
The struggle to obtain an internship wasn’t the first time Rambhia had to overcome adversity since graduating high school and pursuing a future in technology.
She would need to find a way to pay for college, and the prospect of making it work on her own was overwhelming to the then 17-year-old who loved education and using technology to solve problems.
If Rambhia were to graduate from college, she would become the first generation of women in her family to earn a degree. It would be especially important to Rambhia as her mother had to drop out of college in her final year of medical school. In a way, earning her place in the STEM industry would be carrying on the dream for her mother, who she credits as her biggest supporter.
But still, Rambhia said she worried if she started college, she would soon run out of money, and she too would have to drop out. But being the problem-solver that she is, her passion to go to college ran deep, so she began the steps to make it possible.
“I ferociously learned new skills and started working as a freelancer to develop websites and chatbots, and I also worked as a digital marketer,” she said. “I worked 80-hour weeks.”
Rambhia had gathered enough money to spend a semester at the New York Institute of Technology, which offered her a scholarship that made up the difference in cost.
“During my first semester, I worked three on-campus jobs, received a few fellowships and scholarships to continue my tuition and living expenses for the next semester,” she said.
In addition to her jobs and classes, Rambhia also volunteered as a STEM coordinator in an afterschool program for K-12 minority children.
By her second year in school, Rambhia had received a scholarship from Google that covered her expenses for an entire semester. While the financial pressure was off in the immediate, she kept working and saving to ensure she could afford the next semester.
She would go on to earn more scholarships, from companies like Palantir, Nutanix and more from Google. While in college, Rambhia worked for the United Nations, developing a website for a sub-initiative called The Master plan, which comprises ambassadors and delegates from all over the world. She earned the Consultant of Public Good award in 2019 and the New York Mayoral Service Recognition in 2020.
While Rambhia was busy during college becoming involved in programs and projects that would strengthen her career in technology, she was also active in providing help to others who were looking for the same opportunities she was.
She began writing a blog aimed at guiding students around the world find scholarships and career resources.
In three days, Rambhia’s blog grew an audience of 300,000 people and a month and a half later, she had subscribers from 115 countries.
“I expected it to grow gradually, not immediately. I grew into a small team and developed a program around it called Scholarship Track,” she said. “We now have 65 volunteers working on the cause under me and plenty of students have received a scholarship after knowing about it through us.”
Rambhia said the initiative is important to her because she understands the plight thousands of other students are on to help fund their college education.
Carrying a 3.9 grade point average, she is looking forward to graduation in May. And although her journey to her bachelor’s degree is winding down, Rambhia’s passion to learn and teach isn’t slowing at all. Once her internship at Tesla in San Francisco is finished, Rambhia will return to Google for a second internship there to finish out her final year.
After college, Rambhia sees herself working in social innovation, a way to combine her love of technology with her eagerness to help others.
She said the last four years have not been easy as she struggled to keep the bills paid and grappled with missing her family and friends in India. But she said the will to succeed and the support of her mother were enough to keep pushing her forward, and she would like to serve as a support system to others who are facing the same challenges.
“My message is to keep striving harder to get there. It’s definitely not easy,” she said. “But I got the opportunity to learn and grow during this journey and others can, too.”
*All photos provided by Sakshi Rambhia
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