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Grit, Google, and Gratitude: Meet Nimisha

A recurring theme in the field of computer science seems to be the rate at which new capabilities are discovered means that it’s never too late to start learning. This rang true in Nimisha’s story, edX’s Chief Architect, who shared her best advice for those new to (or in her case, returning to) web development in this edition of edX Insider.

How has your educational and professional background led you to your current role?
Through my experiences over the years, I have appreciated the impact of the journey that you choose on the way to achieving your goals. In software engineering, this translates to how you write your code and how you work with others, in addition to the final outcomes you strive for. In my current role as Chief Architect, I encourage teams to consider the long-term implications of the software they develop and to apply industry and academic best practices in their design thinking. For example, I value educating our engineers on how SOLID design principles will lead to a more scalable codebase with appropriate cohesion, abstractions, and extensions.

Another part of an engineer’s journey is how you collaborate with others. In this global marketplace, diversity of thought and inclusive behaviors allow us to create innovative solutions to world-class problems. In my assumed role as an Engineering Director, I empower my teams to establish core values and to appreciate each other’s individualities to collectively learn, create, and solve.

I was fortunate to have an early academic start by getting a computer science degree that provided me with foundational concepts and analytical skills that I can build upon as the industry evolves and moves at lightning speed. This educational background also inspired a craving to understand the underlying principles behind any work that I do, leading to an active mode of lifelong learning.

What’s your best advice for those new to learning web development?
Grit, Google, and Gratitude. I had the pleasure of taking off 8 years from the industry in order to live a life as a full-time mom and an active community volunteer. When I returned to the workforce, I was inundated with the plethora of new technology, which was overwhelming, not even knowing where to start. But my love for problem-solving and engineering kept me going. Here are a few tips that helped me return and may help those new to learning web development.

Grit. Seek successes you’ve had in the past – be it small or large – to foster the grit you need to keep going. It’s not always easy and you need to be patient with yourself to know that others have also been there and you can also do it – so accept it as a (frustrating yet fun) challenge.

Google. Be resourceful. The global engineering community has shared many learnings from our experiences over the last few decades on the public internet. Answers available through sites, such as Google and StackOverflow, were delightful surprises for me since there weren’t as many available yet when I had left the industry.

Gratitude. Ask a lot of questions and be grateful. My peers (when I returned to the industry) can attest to how I frequently asked the most elementary questions. At times, they may have been surprised by how I didn’t even know the basics. But I remained inquisitive and was very thankful to learn from those around me – their explanations provided the guidance and context I needed to rapidly learn and come on board.

What are you most excited about for 2020 at edX?
edX, now 8 years old, has proved itself as a solid online platform for higher education from top universities. Going forward, I’m excited about increasing our access to a wider demographic of learners through new programs such as MicroBachelors programs. I also look forward to our continued investment in our Open edX platform, allowing us to create an extensible core that fosters innovation in learning and educational experiences.

How does the Architecture team collaborate with other teams at edX?
The edX Architecture team was formed about a year and a half ago. Our goal is to improve our platform and processes to sustainably support rapid experimentation and scale development of impactful teaching and learning experiences. We value a customer-centric approach to prioritizing and designing, empowering independent autonomous teams, while counter-balancing with creating an intentional architecture. As a relatively new team, we continue to iterate and evolve in how we collaborate with other teams, both inside edX and externally in the Open edX ecosystem.