Telling Our Stories – Rahma Mukta

Each year we meet wonderful women at womENcourage. This year was no different, and in the rest of the year, we will have womENcourage participants telling their stories in blog posts. We start with Rahma Mukta, from University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia. She is a second-year PhD student in Computer Science and Engineering. She works on blockchain security and anonymous credential systems. 

I moved to Sydney, Australia, after completing my undergraduate and master’s degrees in Computer Science in Chittagong, Bangladesh. I had never travelled to Sydney before, so settling in was an incredible adventure. I started my PhD in UNSW Sydney under the supervision of some extraordinarily talented supervisors.  

My journey in computing officially begins in 2009, with learning how to code during my undergraduate programme in Bangladesh; I met some helpful mentors at the ‘School of Computer Science and Engineering’ where I found joy being a member of a community of computing learners.  What impressed me while starting the computing journey was seeing a supportive community that acted as a living resource for underserved communities by providing knowledge of technology. My greatest gift in this journey was when my senior Safeeul Safee taught me how to start coding in C. In the beginning, I struggled, but my friends helped me a lot. Doing projects in several courses helped me to create a portfolio, and I proved to myself I could code. 

I graduated from Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), Bangladesh in September 2013 and started my career as a lecturer of ‘Computer Science and Engineering’ in the same institute starting from December 2013. As an academic in computing, I was much excited to work with some brilliant faculty and super talented students.  

I started Master’s by Thesis in CUET under my respected supervisor, Prof. Mohammad Shamsul Arefin. That was an excellent experience to work under his supervision. I had more questions about conducting research and the methods we chose to implement our framework. To satisfy my curiosity, I enrolled in several online courses related to my research. As an outcome, we published one conference paper and one journal article when I finished my Master’s in 2017.  

Meanwhile, I got married and had our first baby.  It was challenging to balance among personal life, student life, and also professional life (as a lecturer). As someone who regularly joins in social gatherings, I barely saw my friends and relatives that period- this new routine was a drastic change to what I was accustomed to, but my thirst for knowledge was fulfilled. That time, I went from learning about computer science to being a researcher in computer science.  

I moved to Sydney in February 2019 for my PhD in UNSW. The path to Sydney was not a trivial undertaking. Managing my office, a newborn baby, getting prepared for IELTS, and applying for a competitive scholarship program in UNSW Sydney were challenging. That was one of the most challenging times of my life. Eventually, I was rejected on my first attempt of an application. That failed attempt was my inspiration to publish some more research articles and start applying again. I was successful in my second attempt to secure my position in UNSW with the prestigious Australian Government-sponsored ‘Research Training Program” scholarship.  

It’s nearly two years since I have been enrolled in my PhD position. In my first year, I enrolled in a graduate research course to develop my research and communication skills that would support my research program in Australia. Thanks to their vital support, I received a boost of energy for my further learning.  Meanwhile, I started learning blockchain technology for my research work and python programming on my own. I worked as a casual tutor to an Introduction to Programming in Python undergraduate course. In the meantime, I submitted my literature review and research proposal to complete my first-year requirements for being promoted as a confirmed PhD candidate.  

My second-year started with the challenge of quarantined life due to COVID-19. In this new normal, for the very first time, I got the chance to introduce myself to the ACM womENcourage conference 2020. The conference was my first ever experience to join an online event to present my work. Though I regretted missing the chance of visiting beautiful Azerbaijan and not meeting personally with all the computing enthusiasts, still I am happy to have met very talented female pioneers in such a male-dominated field. I am extremely motivated and happy being a researcher in computing, and I do not feel alone in this field any more. This event gave me a feeling that it is one of my best decisions to continue in a technology-related area. 

And that is where I am today—looking forward to going a long way to make my dad’s dream true, to honor my husband’s extreme support, and to contribute some impact on the computing world. Despite all the challenges in research, I close my eyes at the end of the day with a broad smile on face for taking a short relief from my roles as a mom, a wife, a student, and a tutor. 

So, that is my story in a nutshell!

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