JTD Foundation Andhra Pradesh laptops software developers education training girls AP- Edexlive

Madhavi Latha had a dream. The student in his final year of a bachelor’s degree in science, specializing in mathematics and physics, wants to become a software developer. Join the Dots (JTD) Foundation helped her keep the dream alive. How? “JTD, apart from training us in software skills, gives us a sense of control over our own careers,” reveals the student studying at Government Degree College, Palamaner, Andhra Pradesh. Now Madhavi Latha has two new dreams. The first, to find a job and the second, to help more girls by supporting their dreams.

Sumitra M had a dream too. But with her mother away on the job, all of the household chores as well as the responsibility for her own education fell on the tender shoulders of this final-year Bachelor of Science student majoring in Mathematics and Physics. Enter JTD. From someone who has never touched a laptop, the foundation lent her one and she spends four hours a day coding. “I even received the Student of the Month award for solving 19 algorithm problems in less than two hours,” Vani Degree College student Gangavaram shared.

The common link between the dream of these two girls, and many others, is JTD. The dreams of 30 students have already been fulfilled as they are trained in software development while another 70 of them will start training on October 2. But laptops could prove to be a hindrance. JTD’s Dhananjay Ramakrishnappa tells us how they plan to overcome this downturn in this journey towards female empowerment. Excerpts from a conversation:

Why laptops, why rural girls and why software developers?
JTD works with students from three mandals: Palamaner, Gangavaram and Baireddipalle in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. These mandals have a population of three lakh and more than 30% (about one lakh) of them are students. Among them, about 50,000 are girls and about 20,000 are in undergraduate courses. A good 75% of these girls are married right after their studies; most of them before the end of their studies.

At JTD, we believe India’s prosperity cannot be achieved without gender equality and financial independence is one of its most important needs. Rural girls suffer the most from this inequality and hence the focus on rural girls.

Software development as a career option is one of the few options that provides a level playing field for the whole country. Especially with billions being poured into start-ups, there is a need for quality talent. Most start-ups today don’t ask for a pedigree or rating. Education is not the most important factor and this gives us the most flexibility in choosing this profession for these girls. It doesn’t matter whether they study science, commerce or the arts.

In fact, one of our students was a Class XII passed out and had dropped out eight years ago and was married. Today, she earns a salary of Rs 7 lakh per year. These software publishers rely on pure skills. So it is worth perfecting anyone to become a software developer today.

To become a software developer, one needs a powerful laptop in order to be able to load the software needed to improve. These laptops cost between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000.

Who do the girls train from and what does their training schedule look like?

The cycle lasts about 24 months.

Month 1 – 2 (Selection)
A grueling selection process where students are asked to learn python and javascript on their own without any support. We test students to accept ambiguity and show courage. Students pass the JTD quotient test by acquiring Hackerrank (Technical Support Solution) certifications for Python Basic and Javascript Basic as well as solving ten easy data structures problems on LeetCode (online programming platform). It is not an easy task to achieve this feat, especially without a laptop.

All these girls are learning and passing these tests using their parents’ smartphones. Coding on smartphones is very painful and enduring the same is what prepares a student for what comes next. Some of them don’t even have a smartphone. They borrow their neighbours’ telephones for this purpose. After passing these tests, we conduct the JTD value adequacy interview. The interview will test the student’s capacity for appropriation as well as his integrity and commitment. Most students are currently in their second year undergraduate (UG) course.

Months 3 – 15 (Pre Bootcamp)
Students will undergo four training terms of three months each delivered by JTD skills mentors. Trimester 1 and Trimester 2 focus on solving 100 data structure problems on LeetCode and basic algorithm concepts. The third term is focused on learning Backend technology where students will learn MongoDB, NodeJs, ExpressJs and write Apis. Quarter will complete what we call the Pre Bootcamp stage by learning HTML, CSS, Javascript and ReactJS.

Months 16 – 24 (Bootcamp)
At that time, students would have graduated from their undergraduate coursework. Now they will enter a bootcamp (Masai, DevsNest, Newton, etc.) that follows the 9-9-6 model (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week). What JTD trains students in the pre bootcamp phase, these boot camps will train students in depth.

These boot camps last for seven months during which students will develop real-world similar software projects that will help them showcase their skills in job interviews. Although bootcamps last 12 hours a day, most students spend more than 15 hours a day. It is very difficult for anyone to endure the rigors of bootcamps. And those who do are real winners.

Tell us how you made the decision to take out an interest-free loan instead of just giving them the laptops.
A donor ships a laptop to the JTD office or sends money to the JTD account. JTD will send a document that speaks of a three-way contract between the donor, the student and JTD. After 24 months if the student is unable to repay the loan, JTD repays it.

JTD thrives on building a cooperative community that will sustain its growth after getting a boost from the support of external donors. Any cooperative community is built on the peerage for which respect for self-esteem is essential. If you don’t respect self-esteem, the community will have a superior/inferior mentality that is not conducive to self-sustaining growth. And that’s why we decided to get laptops as loans instead of donations.

In addition, the loans will help girls develop a greater sense of belonging and responsibility. It would have been very easy for JTD to obtain these 100 laptops as donations from a CSR program. It would have damaged our girls’ self-esteem and, more importantly, JTD wants to build this program in a way that could be emulated by any NGO in the country.

Can you tell us about the girls? Where do they mainly come from? How did you select these 100 girls?
They are all from Palamner, Gangavaram and Baireddipalle mandal of Chittoor district. The majority of them studied in public schools and in colleges where one could complete their studies thanks to state scholarships.

We selected 30/100 girls from six different colleges in and around the mandals mentioned above. The selection process for the remaining 70 girls will begin in August once their diploma exams have been completed. We will finish selecting these girls by the end of August. JTD has already received more than 150 applications.

What can we expect from the JTD?
So far, 10 girls have gotten jobs as software developers with an average salary of Rs 7.5 lakh per year. It took us two years with lots of trial and error. Now we have reached our 10x goal of 100 girls becoming software developers by April 2024.

By 2027, we would like to increase this number to 1,000 girls. For the 1,000 goal, we would also involve girls from neighboring mandals such as Bangarupalem. Once we reach the goals of 100 software developers, we would like to publish a case study that could help other organizations emulate the same.

Sam D. Gomez