Volunteering—Family-style: Profile of Athira M and Anandhu S Kumar
The Computer Society has outstanding volunteers around the world, and INTERFACE seeks to profile their lives and the ways they are making a difference globally, in their countries or in their communities. This week we have spoken to Athira M and Anandhu S Kumar, siblings who study electrical engineering in the Indian state of Kerala, and work to expand the reach of IEEE and the IEEE Computer Society.
Meet Anandhu and Athira
Anandhu is in the fourth year of his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the College of Engineering, Chengannur. He is focusing his studies on electrical technology and information technology development, which he hopes later to develop into a job in industry. Previously, he studied at the College of Engineering, Karungapally where he was the Student Branch Chair.
Athira is a second year student of the NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad, one of the top engineering colleges in Kerala. She studies engineering, and has only recently begun volunteering with the Computer Society upon the recommendation of her brother, who pointed out that the Society would help her better understand the current trends in information technology and its application in the field of engineering.
It is clear from talking to these students that they provide each other substantial support in developing their careers. In addition to Anandhu’s recommendations that Athira become involved in the Computer Society, according to Athira, he also helped her prepare for university entrance examinations, which she credits for her admission to such a high-quality university.
A Support System at Home
Over the years, Anandhu and Athira’s parents, a residential painter and a stay-at-home mother, have supported their children’s interest in the sciences. Joined by Anandhu’s and Athira’s teachers, they have encouraged their children to study engineering as a way to follow their passion for physics, while at the same time bettering their lives through a good career.
Like many other students around the world, one of the biggest hurdles, according to the brother and sister, is the cost of tuition. However, through Anandhu’s and Athira’s hard work and their family’s encouragement and emotional support, the two siblings were able to attend government-funded universities and receive scholarships from private organizations.
Both students were high achieving even through high school (higher secondary school, as it is known in India). Anandhu took first prize in the sub-district science fair and the Technology Quiz Master in the Kollam district. He then went on to represent Kollam at the state level competition.
Athira scored 100% in her final year of high school, becoming one of the best in the state. She is also an LIC Golden Jubilee Scholar. She has won the Best Outgoing Student of Vimala Hriday Girl’s Higher Secondary School Kollam (2016) and the Merit Awards from Quilon Latin Catholic Diocese Education Development Council and has received the Center Sector scholarship from the government of India.
Such a foundation of hard work and familial support has translated into success through school and the university.
Expanding Support Networks through Volunteering
Despite attending different universities, Athira and Anandhu continue to support each other by sharing textbooks and notes, as well as helping out on projects and sharing information they learn in various seminars.
Nevertheless, sometimes a network of two is not big enough. Anandhu explains that he believes the IEEE and IEEE Computer Society play a significant role in developing professionals by giving them access to cutting-edge information and expanding their network.
To make the best use of this network, Anandhu and Athira have volunteered in the community—most recently at the All India Power and Energy Society Student Congress as a member of the event coordination team and publicity volunteer, respectively. Athira notes that her brother helped her understand the benefits of IEEE and volunteering. In fact, he encouraged her to work toward developing a Computer Society Student Branch Chapter in her school. Such activity has given them a chance to meet highly respected professionals in industry, eminent professors and C-suite executives.
Through their involvement with the Society and events, as well as through their efforts to expand the work of the Society, Anandhu and Athira have increased their support network from two to many. Athira says, “Currently, I am a second year student, so not yet a leader in the Student Branch. I hope it will happen very shortly.”
I would say that it already has. Taking that extra effort to get involved, with or without a title, is a sign of leadership.