Dikshya Baral has long been passionate about technology.
“It’s been very fascinating how technology and artificial intelligence have flourished and improved,” said Baral, a first-generation student who is graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in information systems from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. “That really interests me.”
Technology hasn’t always been accessible to Baral and her family. Baral was born and raised in a bamboo hut in a refugee camp in Nepal because her parents had to flee their native Bhutan as teenagers in 1992 with 100,000 other people because of conflict in that country.
“The lack of resources in Nepal not only affected my social life, but also my educational life,” Baral said. “Even though I had a lot of passion for learning new things, our situation restricted me from increasing my knowledge and basically killed my curiosity because we didn’t have any resources there. My parents held high dreams for me, but our situation simply did not take us any further.”
Her life changed in 2008 when her family resettled to Henrico County, Virginia. Baral was 7.
“Shifting to a new country was very hard because it was a very miserable life in the camp, so we thought coming to the United States was a dream come true,” Baral said. “I realized that it also brought many obstacles, such as language barriers and cultural shock. The most difficult part about going to school in America was trying to blend into the social norms and learning the language. I was always frustrated about not being able to communicate.”
Baral powered through those obstacles, which included navigating a new school system with parents whose educational opportunities were cut short and who spoke limited English. She was motivated by her own drive, curiosity and the dreams her parents held for her.
“When we came to America, a computer was a new thing to us,” Baral said. “I never used a computer in my whole life. So, we started using computers a lot, playing games, searching, browsing through YouTube and all the websites. That’s probably why I was very much into technology.”
In high school, she absorbed more knowledge about computers while studying in a technology-focused medical assistant program. But Baral aspired to go deeper and reach higher into the tech field. At VCU, Baral continued her studies, inspired by her older brother and cousins who also pursued computer science and now work as software engineers. She is proud to have mastered coding and data analysis.
At VCU, “when I took an HTML class with professor Elena Olson, I really loved it, so I took another coding class with her,” Baral said. “She was very helpful.”
During her four years at VCU, Baral has worked part time in a hospital kitchen, a restaurant, an Amazon warehouse and interned as an IT help desk analyst in SOAR365, all while studying full time, even taking 21 credits one semester.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she quit a job in a hospital kitchen to make sure she didn’t transmit the virus to her grandmother at home. But Baral remained active, helping people in need by shopping for essential items for members of her community through efforts with the Bhutanese Community of Greater Richmond cultural organization.
“I’ve always been a very hard-working person,” Baral said. “I’m a quick learner. I’ve always worked hard and got my things done. I’ve always lived a balanced life; I feel like I know how to prioritize.”
Through LinkedIn, Baral was recruited and hired by Capital One for a position as a software engineer that she will begin once she completes their training.
“There were many obstacles that I faced, and I believe that my story is very beautiful,” said Baral. “I feel like I’ve struggled very much in these past four years just to see where I am right now.”
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