Software Engineer, Global Network Services
At 23, Bhuvana Hegde is already a master at blazing her own trail. Raised by a traditional family in rural India, in a remote, impoverished village with a one-room school house, it was hard to imagine that she would one day work for one of the world's largest financial services companies.
But she's never been one to subscribe to expectations.
Hegde soon learned that, if she wanted to live a life beyond her village, she'd need to chart her own course. Her first step was securing a scholarship to one of India's top engineering schools. Then, she joined Katalyst, a nonprofit organization that provides financial support to low-income, high-performing female students. Through Katalyst, she participated in a JPMorgan Chase hack-a-thon, a coding challenge that introduced her to the company—and to the challenges that awaited her.
What does success look like to you?
Success for me is all about satisfaction. If you feel satisfied with the work you've done and the knowledge you've gained, if you feel that you're satisfied with your life, then you've achieved success.
What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome in life?
I grew up in a very remote village of about twenty-five people. I grew up very poor in a house made of mud—not even cement. My father was a farmer, growing vanilla, cardamom and black pepper, and we had an annual income of about $335. I spent my childhood outdoors playing and exploring the forests and rivers in my village.
I was a great student and I got a scholarship to a very good engineering college in the city of Bangalore. My parents were worried for me to go because we are from a traditional village and are afraid of new things, but I was able to convince them to let me go. College was the first time I left home, and it was very tough—this was a posh college where the students were rich and all of them could speak English, while I hadn't learned how to communicate in English. I was so scared that first day because I had no idea what the teacher was saying. I called my father and cried so much because I just wanted to go home. I felt like I couldn't survive with all of these people who looked like aliens.
But my dad calmed me down and told me how brave I was, that I had shown so much courage to get this far and that I could do it. So I decided, "OK, I am here. I need to learn better English and figure out how to make some friends." I started watching English movies and reading English novels, and got help from my Katalyst mentor. That's how I learned English.
I started expanding my horizons. I joined some clubs, and because I am a classically trained singer of Hindustani classical music, I started performing with a band that has toured a lot. I ended up graduating on time with good grades, and also with good friends, and I am very proud of that.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My father, because I get so much energy from him. I never see him cry or see him talk less of anybody.
What do you consider the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received and where did it come from?
When I wanted to quit college, my dad told me that whether I am happy or sad, time will pass. And because time is always changing, you have to always adapt to keep up with the time, and that adapting means not thinking less of yourself when things are tough, and not getting overconfident when things are going really well.
Work-from-home, go to the office or a mix of both?
I like working from home. Right now I am back at my parents' house in the village I grew up in, which is an eight hour drive from my office in Bangalore. Here, I am more efficient, and I don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic or having to travel out of town for work. It's such a luxury to be able to be with my family. And I love the food at home. I am a vegetarian and we grow all our own vegetables here, so I can eat straight out of the garden, and we have a cow and a buffalo for milk.