How one grad student went from summer intern to full-time data analyst at a top tech consulting firm.
When Nirath left India to pursue her master’s degree in Engineering Management at The University of Texas at Arlington, she knew having a hearing impairment would present some additional challenges. But she credits the condition for bringing out her courageous side—and inspiring her determination to prove that people with disabilities can change the world.
“I can’t stand being told that I can’t do something,” said Nirath. “Our abilities matter—not our disabilities.”
Last summer, Nirath had what she describes as a “life changing” opportunity. With guidance from the Emerging Leaders Internship Program for College Students with Disabilities, funded by The UPS Foundation and coordinated by the National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center, she landed a spot in Booz Allen Hamilton’s renowned Summer Games Internship Program.
The Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm is highly selective about the interns it hires for the program—out of more than 6,000 applicants, only 318 interns were chosen this past season.
Nirath joined a multi-disciplined team tasked with developing an assistive tech prototype that could help those with visual impairments navigate their environments independently. After exploring cutting-edge advancements like 3-D mapping and machine vision, the team created a headset equipped with sensors and GPS for obstacle detection. They presented their model to a panel of senior consultants, and took home the Summer Games Challenge cup trophy, beating out 60 competing intern teams from across the country.
Booz Allen Hamilton now hopes to partner with the National Federation of the Blind in an effort to test and further develop the headset. The project’s success encouraged Nirath to consider how advances in technology—like real-time screen captioning for Google Glass or hearing aids with sharper sound quality, she says—could also remove obstacles for people with hearing impairments in the future.
“Technology is changing our lives,” she said. “I sometimes face difficulties when it comes to having group conversations, and I am trying to find ways to overcome this. I hope to come up with something that makes our lives much easier.”
This winter, Nirath may be on the road to discovery. Recognizing her leadership potential during the ten-week internship program, Booz Allen Hamilton has reserved a full-time data analyst position for her upon graduation. She plans to relocate to D.C. after completing her degree and begin a career with the firm. CLICK HERE to watch Nirath’s video message.