Shubha Tuljapurkar's good fortune as a child growing up in India to have a quality education in math and science is now the good fortune of hundreds of Silicon Valley students.
As the local director for a national educational startup called Globaloria, Tuljapurkar helps kids in struggling schools to use software and coding tools, developing skills by creating their own educational video games.
"I was very fortunate growing up to have that sort of education," says the statistician and engineer, who first came to the United States more than 40 years ago. "My own parents made me feel like I could do science or math, and I want everyone, especially young girls, to have that opportunity. The students we work with now really shine -- they realize there's nothing holding them back."
We spoke recently with Tuljapurkar. Her comments have been edited for space and clarity:
Q Tell us a little about yourself.
A I was born in Mumbai and went to college at the Indian Institutes of Technology, where I studied physics and got my master's degree. I'd gotten married in India, and my husband wanted to do his Ph.D in physics, which brought us to Portland, Oregon. I worked for Pacific Northwest Bell as a statistician, because my background was numbers. I later got my MBA at Boston University, then returned to the West Coast and worked for Intel as a product marketing engineer, which was a blast. Intel was a really dynamic and growing company back in 1979. Everything was really go-go and they were introducing exciting new products.
Q I know you worked at various startups over the years, and then in 2002 sort of shifted gears?
A That's right. I took a break and started consulting for smaller companies, beginning with a company that was building video-recording and encoding systems. Then in 2008, I took a break from that for personal reasons; my dad was sick back in India and I was shuttling back and forth a lot. I started thinking I wanted to do something totally different with my life and give back to the community.
Q How did you get involved with Globaloria?
A I got involved with Legacy Venture, a nonprofit that hooks up people who have business experience with companies in the nonprofit sector. I was interested in education and I kept hearing that there weren't enough upcoming young engineers in the valley and this sounded like a place I could help out. I joined the Silicon Valley Education Foundation in 2011 and through them met the founder of the World Wide Workshop, Idit Caperton, in New York. She's the brains behind Globaloria, and she asked me to help grow the program in Silicon Valley.
Q So how does it work?
A Globaloria is a learning platform for kids K-12, and it offers multiple courses in STEM computing and coding through game design. So the kids are learning how to build a video game through our online platform and in the process they're acquiring all the tech skills they'll need for the 21st century, whether it's engineering systems, finding resources on the Web, or coding. And it's all tied into the normal classes that any school would offer.
Q How much has Globaloria grown since you started in 2011?
A We're now in 10 schools and two community centers in Santa Clara County. Of those, there are three high schools and seven middle schools, with a total of 1,100 kids involved.
Q And you chose the schools in part because the kids there needed more exposure to science, math and engineering?
A Yes. Christopher School, for example, is an underserved elementary school, with a lot of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. And this program is particularly engaging because most kids love video games and this is a way to get them into programming. They're playing them all the time anyway, so we say 'Don't just play the game, create a game of your own." And they become producers of their own educational games.
Q And the kids are thriving?
A The two things that blow me away are how confident they become as their games come along and how their communication skills grow alongside their coding skills. A lot of kids who maybe initially wanted nothing to do with coding are suddenly blossoming.
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc
1. Loves photography of all kinds: family, travel, landscapes, birds and wildlife.
2. Enthusiastic traveler, has visited over 30 countries on five continents, and Australia is next on the list.
3. Likes fly fishing with her husband in Northern California.
4. Started birding several years ago, and aims to get better at identifying bird songs.
5. Looking forward to spending time with granddaughter Louise.
Birth date: Aug 19, 1950
Birth place: Mumbai, India
Position: Globaloria Network Director, West
Previous jobs: Vice president and general manager of multimedia chipsets and processors at LSI Logic and Silicon Magic; head of marketing and business development at Telairity, which makes Video Encoding Systems for the broadcast industry; started career as a statistician for Pacific Northwest Bell (pre-breakup) and transitioned to marketing at Intel after getting an MBA.
Education: Master of science in Physics from Indian Institutes of Technology, Bombay, and MBA from Boston University
Family: Husband is Shripad Tuljapurkar. They have an adult daughter and a 4-month old granddaughter.
Residence: Mountain View