Long before Rosalva Gallardo became a security and privacy program manager for Google Cloud Platform, she was a student studying informatics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. A native of Peru, Gallardo then worked for five years in Lima, leading teams that created software for telecommunication companies and banks. During that time, she recognized the need for improvements in software quality, and her desire to learn about potential solutions led her to apply for software engineering Ph.D. programs in the U.S. In 2006, she was granted a fellowship at UCI. “I was very excited to accept this offer,” she says, “because UCI has one of the strongest software engineering programs in the U.S., with top professors and students working on cutting-edge and innovative research.” Gallardo received her Ph.D. in information and computer science in 2012 and now not only applies what she learned through her work at Google, but also shares her knowledge and experiences with other aspiring tech professionals in Peru.
What kind of work are you doing at Google, and how did your UCI education help prepare you?
My experience at UCI prepared me to thrive in a multidisciplinary and collaborative environment. The teams I worked with at UCI generally included researchers from multiple disciplines and different labs with specific research interests. Similarly, in my work at Google, I collaborate with cross-functional teams, including lawyers, security and privacy engineers, and program managers, among others. It’s important to understand the goals from each team and align the expectations. The education and opportunities I received at UCI prepared me for this type of environment.
Can you tell us about an influential professor or share any memorable UCI moments?
The most influential person was my advisor, Professor Susan Sim, who taught me how to conduct independent research and use qualitative and quantitative research methodologies in practice. She was always very supportive and took care of her students at the academic and personal levels.
One of my most memorable experiences was being invited to be the student volunteer chair for the 33rd International Conference of Software Engineering by Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus Richard Taylor, former director of UCI’s Institute for Software Research who was also the 2011 conference chair. It was an amazing experience because I had the opportunity to select and work closely with around 40 highly motivated Ph.D., master’s and undergrad students from all over the world to make sure that the multiple conference tracks ran smoothly. I got to work closely with the software engineering research community, and we ended up creating a great experience for the conference attendees.
Speaking of a great experience, can you tell us about your recent trip to Laboratoria in Peru with a group of Google employees?
Laboratoria is an organization that is transforming the lives of low-income Latin American women by training them as front-end developers and UX designers. Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, provided a grant to Laboratoria in 2017 that included not only monetary support but also Googlers’ knowledge support. I was selected by Google.org to lead 10 Googlers on a trip to Peru for a two-week immersion sprint at Laboratoria.
The immersion sprint had two main goals. First, we wanted to review Laboratoria’s curricula for front-end development and UX designers and add a new track for mobile development. Second, we wanted to improve the job placement process. We accomplished both goals while mentoring all current Laboratoria students. Personally, it was a very rewarding experience to go back to my home country to inspire other women like me to pursue a career in technology.
Do you have similar trips planned for the future?
I’m continuing my involvement with Laboratoria and will be following up on the ongoing projects started during the two-week sprint. I hope to participate in similar Google.org opportunities in the future.
I’m also co-founder of the Network of Professional Peruvians in Science and Technology in Silicon Valley (PeruSV.org), which aims to create a bridge between Peru and Silicon Valley to close the technology and innovation gap in Peru. We work with universities and corporations in Peru that send students and employees to Silicon Valley on academic and corporate missions. Similarly, PeruSV members visit Peru to participate in technology and academic events and share knowledge that will benefit the Peruvian community. PeruSV is also a co-organizer of Techsuyo, an annual conference for Peruvians in the U.S. working on science, technology and innovation. I am the conference chair for Techsuyo 2018, which will be held at MIT in September.
I plan to continue working on initiatives that improve technology education in Peru and other developing countries.
Any words of advice for UCI students, especially for international or female ICS students?
Follow your dreams and persevere to achieve them. If somebody says something is impossible, say to them, “Just watch me as I make my dreams come true!” When you face challenges, ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” You’ll often find that the worst case isn’t that bad. Also, when you’re afraid, ask yourself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” Then overcome your fears by following through on your answer. Follow your heart and work on what you’re passionate about. Have fun in the process and, once your dreams come true, celebrate!
— Shani Murray