Ask an Engineer Series: Meghna Bhardwaj’s Engineering Journey
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) leverages technology, community-driven solutions and collaboration to help solve some of today’s toughest issues — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. We decided to get an inside look into what products CZI’s employees are building to help achieve this goal.
Meghna Bhardwaj is a Software Engineer at CZI, partnering with educators and researchers to build products that help teachers support their students’ well-being and academic development. We sat down (virtually!) with her to get a closer look at the work her and her team is doing, as well as learn about her personal highlights of her time at CZI so far.
What is your why? What drove you to come work at CZI? What drives you to continue the work you are doing at CZI?
I’ve wanted to work on the latest technologies and continue to hone my skills but also to use them for the greater good. CZI gave me the chance to work at a technology company while still contributing socially, especially in a space that I care about a lot. After becoming a mom, I became intrigued by the science of learning and wanted to understand how adults can support a child’s development. At CZI, I get many opportunities to enhance my knowledge of the science of learning, that drives me to lean into my work more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at CZI?
I grew up in India and immigrated to the U.S. soon after completing my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. I’m passionate about technology, love coding, and dream about building systems that make our lives easier, faster, better, and more fun. At CZI, I’m part of the Education Initiative, and my work includes building tools for teachers that help them equitably provide students with differentiated learning experiences and foster strong connections with students — whether they are learning in school or from home. My work helps bring together leading researchers, software developers, students and educators to build tools that are informed by the fields of learning science and human development.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m supporting the development of our newest product: Along. Along is a digital tool that is designed to help educators make building one-on-one relationships with their students easy and fun. With Along’s launch in June 2021, it is now available to any teacher in the U.S. Our team is continuously striving to improve Along as a product, and works very closely with educators and researchers to identify areas where we can improve. I’m working on supporting a set of feature launches for Along that improves its usability and reduces friction points within the product. There’s so much to do, and our team is always focused on making the product easy to use, and providing a seamless experience to our users.`
What’s the project you’ve worked on at CZI that you’re most proud of?
Along started as an idea and vision based on what we heard from teachers about their needs, which turned into a working product within just a few months. After joining the team during the foundational days, I pushed hard to set up the backend infrastructure and pipelines. This helped the team make informed decisions and iterate on/improve Along as a product. The product has now scaled to many more teachers and students, in a short amount of time. I’m proud of being able to independently execute the work on the backend and pipelines and take it from conception to fruition. Working on Along so closely with the cross-functional teams gave me a chance to experience first-hand the impact this product has in fostering better student-teacher relationships, and I’m proud of being able to contribute to a space that I care so much about.
Can you tell me about one of your favorite things you’ve been a part of at CZI?
One of the things that inspires me about working at CZI is that we have a very diverse group of strong women leaders. As part of our internal Women’s History Month celebrations, I interviewed four women leaders from technology, product, data and communications teams of the Education Initiative at our All-Hands meeting. These women came from very diverse backgrounds and had very unique and inspiring journeys to CZI. One of the tech leaders shared that growing up, seeing the gendered norms and unfair division of labor at her house, she asked her aunt, “Why can’t we have robots do all this work.” Her aunt replied, “If you want robots, go build them!” And that’s what propelled her into a career in coding and tech. Another leader shared her journey as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. and the barriers she had to overcome to access higher education. While conducting these interviews, all that came to my mind was, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Sharing the stage with such inspiring women and listening to their stories was a very uplifting moment for me.
How about outside of work? What is something people wouldn’t know about you?
I consider myself a lifelong learner and have picked up many new skills over time including speaking Spanish, playing piano, knitting, painting and lifting weights. Somewhat related to work, people don’t know that I secretly apply knowledge gained at work to my own kids. You might often see me asking my kids to explain a concept to me (learning by teaching) or make up a story to associate with particular concepts (learning by association).
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Check out our Candidate Journey Page to find more information on what CZI’s hiring process looks like.