An alum of BETA Camp's 2nd cohort, Shreeya Patel is now a computer science student at Columbia University in New York.
"BETA Camp taught me a lot about adaptability and flexibility and staying on your toes. It also taught me about continuous self-improvement - finding ways to improve the startup and yourself. It taught me to stay curious and creative. I think BETA Camp is incredible at enhancing these qualities. Learning to take feedback was critical in the process, and it is something that I've taken from BETA Camp and am applying throughout my schooling now."
Shreeya Patel is a computer science student at Columbia University in New York, but she grew up in Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. She attended BETA Camp’s second cohort and with her sister built a revenue-generating startup. She is now using some of the skills from BETA Camp to build a career as a software engineer and children’s author.
Tell me a bit about Shreeya's life in 2022?
I am currently a computer science student at Columbia University in New York City! What attracted me to Columbia was the idea of developing my technical skills while simultaneously taking some liberal arts courses. I think the opportunity of having a technical background plus a humanity-centered education is something that really attracted me to the school. The location was really important to me too. You're located in the heart of New York City. Columbia is still a tight-knit community, so it’s been great to share a little bit of the city within a smaller community. I came from a small town in Alberta called Fort McMurray. Going from a town of 80,000 people to a city of millions was quite a leap. But that’s what I wanted - and the independence that goes with that.
What was the transition like moving to New York City?
I think that Columbia is very special because it feels like you're in a town. But as soon as you leave the gates, you can take the subway to wherever you want and you get full exposure to the city. For me, the transition was pretty seamless. I remember I went to Times Square with a couple of friends and that was a big culture shock to me - that amount of people in one space. Back home, I was also very used to taking my car to get to places, so public transportation was definitely another big step in the transition from small town to big city.
That being said, there’s a lot of cool opportunities here that I would never have gotten in my small town. Opportunities for research with professors, opportunities to grow as an individual by attending various conferences, opportunities to visit workplace headquarters, opportunities to shadow people you admire. Once on the subway I was talking about wanting to become a software engineer and someone from Google approached me and offered me a tour of their New York office. Those kinds of opportunities are endless here.
What was your high school experience like?
My high school experience was in a way quite similar to some of the interests that I have currently. I did a lot of sports - I played basketball, volleyball, badminton, and I ran 100-meter and 200-meter track.
I was also a member of a number of clubs that promoted tech and coding. I was the Vice-President of Events for YouthComputing as well as the Executive Director for a program called Queens In Code. YouthComputing held events for K-12 students of all ages. We welcomed anybody who was willing to learn, willing to be a little bit curious about a subject and willing to put in the effort to learn something new. Queens In Code was a space for women who were breaking into tech. Not many women attended other tech and coding events, so we got the idea to host events just for women and girls wanting to learn how to code.
How did BETA Camp become part of your life?
In 2020, when I was in Grade 12, I heard a lot about all these companies that were born during Covid-19, because so many people had to work from home. I began considering immersing myself in this space. It was also the time that I was applying to colleges and for scholarships, so I wanted to see if I could do something that would give me an edge on my application.
I attended an info session where I met the program directors and they spoke about what the program would entail and what students would gain from it. I was a little skeptical since it was only the second cohort, but I thought it was a cool idea to be immersed in such a camp and learn a little bit more about startups and entrepreneurship, especially through project-based learning. I quickly applied, and also made my sister apply, and we both got in and then we built our little startup.
Tell me about the startup?
My sister and I were on a team together. We built this startup called Brain Bundle. It aimed to help students retain information better. We were all students studying online at the time and shared the same pain points. We created these “cheat sheet” style notes that summarized lectures or content. We tested our product on some of the other students in BETA Camp and plugged these notes in our Slack channels. We ended up building something that impacted a couple of students, got a few sales and ended up receiving the runner-up title at BETA Camp!
What were some of the key takeaways from BETA Camp for you?
BETA Camp taught me a lot about adaptability and flexibility and staying on your toes. It also taught me about continuous self-improvement - finding ways to improve the startup and yourself. It taught me to stay curious and creative. I think BETA Camp is incredible at enhancing these qualities. Learning to take feedback was critical in the process, and it is something that I've taken from BETA Camp and am applying throughout my schooling now.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Right now I'm thinking of going into software engineering and working for a company that's very open to collaboration amongst its employees to build something great together. I’m really looking for companies that value cross-collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation. I'm also a children's book author and I really do want to keep doing that. My sister and I have published two books so far, but we haven't really gotten into marketing them, so I’m working on a new website and marketing strategy for the books.
Before we go - how did you end up being a children’s book author?
My mom runs a daycare center, so I have always been around amazing, bright, curious children. I would watch these kids grow up, and I still consider that one of the greatest privileges of my life.
During Covid-19, when none of the children attended daycare, my sister and I started wondering how we can help these children to continue developing. There's this one boy who used to come to daycare and he is obsessed with airplanes and helicopters. We wanted to help him learn more about it. So my sister and I wrote him a book about airplanes. Our first book is called Andy's Airplane, which is a rhyming introduction to aerodynamics. The second book is called Briana’s Bucket, which is a rhyming introduction to Computer Science.
You can learn more about Shreeya’s books here.