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Nike Software Engineer – “ Follow your passions and know that you too can have an impact”

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

It dawned to me that it was foreign because I had literally never seen anything like that before. I was never exposed to much outside of the basic career pillars of The Bahamas. In honor of Girls in ICT Day we recognize this stellar software engineer , Sowmya Thottambeti

International Girls in ICT Day is an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) initiative and is observed every year on the fourth Thursday of April, under the theme: ‘Expand Horizons, Change Attitudes’. The main objective is to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in Information Communication and Technology and STEM-related fields.

The sector has a pressing need for a wide range of ICT talents: there is a gr​​owing gap between the digital skills needed by employers and the number of jobseekers with the required technical know-how. This means that highly qualified women in technical fields will have a significant number opportunities available to them. However, not enough students are prepared for studying math, engineering, computing, and sciences in higher education. Consequently, the number of female technical students is disproportionately low.​

In honor of this day and to highlight women who are excelling and careers in ICT we interviewed Software Engineer Sowmya Thottambeti.

Sowmya Thottambeti is currently a software engineer at Nike’s European headquarters. Prior to this, she worked as a data engineer and software engineer at #Nike, Cisco, and Intel, respectively. Sowmya has earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunications, then shortly after, a master’s degree in Computer Science where she specialized in Systems Modeling and Data Analysis.

Nike known for their ‘fresh’ athletic gear, does more than outfit the world’s best athletes. It is a place to explore potential, obliterate boundaries and push out the edges of what can be. The company looks for people who can grow, think, dream and create. Its culture thrives by embracing diversity and rewarding imagination. The brand seeks achievers, leaders and visionaries. At NIKE, Inc. it’s about each person bringing skills and passion to a challenging and constantly evolving game. (

NIKE is a technology company. From their website and five-star mobile apps to developing products, managing big data and providing leading edge engineering and systems support, teams at NIKE Global Technology exist to revolutionize the future at the confluence of tech and sport. Software engineers often are responsible for the technology solutions that allow Nike consumers to design their own custom footwear and apparel. So their role is quite important. According to their website the current salary of a engineer ranges between $95,000 to $100,322 a year.

During our conversation Sowmya she gave insight on her career and her journey to becoming a female in a male dominated industry.

1.What is the difference between a software engineer and data engineer?

Many roles within the tech industry overlap. Depending on the specifics of the role within the company, two engineers having the exact same job title may be tasked differently. Imagine a painter. Different painters may work with different painting techniques (oil, watercolor, etc.) alongside its respective materials (paper, wood, canvas, etc.). Despite the conceptual differences, the act of painting still relatively remains the same.

Data and software engineers, although similar in many ways, are still quite different. Though, it’s not that difficult for the former to transition into the latter, and vice versa, simply because they both operate on similar landscapes. The “act of painting” may be consistent but the tools and materials used can differ. Tools refer to the tech stack and the specific technologies that each engineer uses on a daily basis (i.e. spark vs. spring), whereas materials are what the engineers primarily works with – in the case of a data engineer, it would be data. Nevertheless, they both paint! Both software and data engineers still write lines of codes, maintain infrastructures and even set up architectures, just to give a few examples.

2. Of the three internship opportunities which one did you enjoy the most?

What I value the most about my previous internships is the fact that each experience was entirely different. I was exposed to different parts of the tech industry. Each company birthed its own perks. I’m talking about three different – industries, company cultures, tech stacks, leadership, and even cities, just to name a few.

The constant change was definitely worthwhile because I was able to get a feel for the various elements and assess which I leaned more towards to. I realized that I feel energized from the act of designing and creating which comes as no surprise since I love developing mobile applications during my spare time. Though it’s hard to pinpoint which one field I enjoyed the most, I know one thing’s for sure – I love being in tech!

3.What were the major road blocks faced during your studies?

As someone who has always excelled in mathematics, I didn’t think much of engineering at the university level. For the most part, it was smooth sailing, but I would be lying if I say that I didn’t struggle in the beginning. My first year was a huge game changer! There was this one course in particular called “Algorithms in E&T with MATLAB.” I simply couldn’t grasp the concept of a computational algorithm. It seemed so foreign to me. For loops were traumatizing and I had never hated a semi colon so much.

It dawned to me that it was foreign because I had literally never seen anything like that before. I was never exposed to much outside of the basic career pillars of The Bahamas. I experienced information overload during my time at university and my eyes have opened to an entire new world. I always look back at that certain period of time and smile. Then, writing algorithms was a pain and would always be accompanied by anxiety, but now, I write algorithms on a daily basis and sometimes, even for fun! It goes to show that with practice and persistence, you may overcome.

4. What is the most common misconception about your field?

It’s really no surprise that the word “hacker” has been loosely associated with my career field. As much as I fantasize about being a Penelope Garcia, it’s pretty safe to say that your day to day tasks are fairly different. Although, there are many other misconceptions about my field, there is one in particular that I would like to address.

In the day and age of technology and robots, many standard tasks are being automated. There are many reports stating that several jobs will be replaced by robots. Although, there is some partial truth in such studies, it’s imperative that we also evaluate the flip side. Like any other job, a career in the tech industry does not automatically equate job stability. It’s always easier to imagine the jobs that exist today and might be destroyed than to imagine the jobs that don’t exist today and might be created. The focus on creativity and innovation will always be important. Whilst machine intelligence is still a very long way from matching the full range of human capabilities, it’s important that we implement a lifetime learning mindset so that we may always remain agile in this ever-changing world.

5. How is data analytics important during this time?

Data is amongst the most powerful forces when it comes to solving social problems. When used efficiently, data helps us along the pathway to large-scale change that may address the needs of both communities and individuals. It enables us to be result driven, finding out what’s what and utilizing such intelligence to make informative decisions. The current situation has triggered a chain of innovation that’s being powered by huge volumes of data. From utilizing artificial intelligence to detect coronavirus in a matter of seconds to predicating later behavior based off of previous and current trends, the role of data is significant when it comes to solving this global crisis.

6. From your perspective, what are 3 implications, issues or concerns of the COVID 19 virus?

It’s no surprise that the effect of COVID-19 has taken many by surprise. Many industries have been taken aback and in due time we must come to terms with the aftermath of this global pandemic. A lot of emphasis is being placed on healthcare, and rightfully so. In extreme cases, doctors are having to choose who gets treated and who doesn’t due to limited supplies. Many national healthcare systems are simply not equipped to handle the exponential influx of patients.

Millions of people worldwide have filed for unemployment. National borders have closed, and many physical businesses have been forced to temporarily halt. As the cost of basic commodities have moderately increased, as in The Bahamas, the welfare of the nations’ citizens ought to be priority moving forward in this economic tumble.

Are we even prepared for the next one? Many of these diseases are linked to animals and unless we take stern measures to limit the atrocities on wildlife and their surroundings, we should be willing to embrace a future filled with more global shutdowns and financial crashes.

7. If you could have a billboard with any messages about this pandemic, what would it be and why? Be frank lol

“Rethink your relationship with nature” – I read an article the other day where the author essentially justified why novel illnesses and other detriments may outpace our ability to fight them sooner or later should we continue on the same path. It’s important that we, as collective citizens of this earth, work towards a common goal to ensure sustainability and longevity of the natural resources for generations to come. In order to do this, we ought to rethink our relationship with nature – realize our relationship with animals, both wild and domesticated, nature, and most importantly, with each other.

8. What do you want the reader to takeaway from this interview?

I really hope that the readers are encouraged to follow their passions and know that they too can have an impact. Inevitably, not everyone is going to shoulder the weight of finding a cure for a global pandemic but do know that the difference of a single ripple effect can be infinite in reach.

9. Anything else you would like to share with our viewers?

I want the viewers to know that I am within arm’s reach – whether they are looking for a mentor, someone to ping ideas off of, or an ally. You are not alone.

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