Freia Lobo

When I stopped by NYU’s Leslie eLab be-fore Tech@NYU’s executive board meeting one Tuesday, club Vice President Freia Lobo took me in with open arms. She showed me around and introduced me to her friends and colleagues like she owned the place. And who knows, one day she just might. That’s the kind of limitless potential Lobo, an economics and computer science major in the College of Arts and Sciences, exudes.

Already a trailblazer for women in the tech industry, Lobo was a self-proclaimed “gadgets-person” while growing up in Mumbai, India, as her dad would bring home the latest in tech toys when he made business trips into the states. Lobo was lucky enough to have access to things like the first iPhone, which wasn’t the norm amongst her peers in India.

“I had a lot of exposure to tech really early on,” Lobo said. “I didn’t realize how much it was compared to my friends until now.”

After making the trek from Mumbai to Manhattan to attend NYU, Lobo broke into the tech world freshman year when she found the technology collective Tech@NYU, which she kind-of-not-really joked has now taken over her life. Lobo initially joined Freshman Circuit, going on tours of tech companies ranging from the likes of Spotify and Facebook to small startups with wide-eyed, sleep-deprived twenty-somethings.

By the end of freshman year she was offered the role of running the circuit, which prompted her to try her luck at the big leagues: applying to a summer internship at Google.

“Spoiler alert: I got rejected,” Lobo laughed.

She instead spent the summer working as a TA in San Francisco at Girls Who Code, a summer program for teaching high school girls how to code.

Lobo said the great thing about programs like these is that once they learn the basics of coding, it creates an opportunity for these girls to create practical solutions to their own problems. It’s Lobo’s belief that personal problem solving is a crucial piece of the puzzle in improving diversity in tech — a battle her and others are fighting constantly.

“When you teach people from different backgrounds to code, they build things that are relevant to them, so if software engineers are all white males, they’re solving the problems of only white males,” Lobo said.

Lobo’s high school friend and current NYU student Shivam Jumani says her strong presence and opinionated nature is impactful on all those she meets.

“I respect that she’s not afraid of taking on new challenges, and once she has set her mind on doing something, she will make sure she achieves it,” Jumani said.

Though Lobo views herself as a feminist, the male-driven nature of the field of technology doesn’t really faze her, having been surrounded by many male friends while growing up. Though an imbalance is apparent — she noted that in one of her computer science classes, she loosely counted 30 women compared to a male contingent of roughly 70 — she said it is essential is that women fit seamlessly.

Tech@NYU is actively trying to break the trend of a lack of women in tech — the e-board is made up of smaller teams that take on individual tasks, and one of these teams has five females to one male. But for Lobo, it’s less about the actual numbers and more about the climates in which those numbers can exist.

“We’re not celebrating that we have five women or that we have one guy; we’re celebrating that we created an environment where that could happen,” Lobo said.

With a host of new experiences under her belt, Lobo moved beyond her past attempt at Google and is now headed into her second straight summer there. The gender issues at Google alone are staggering — just 22 percent of all leadership positions are held by women, so Lobo would be in prime position to make a splash onto the scene there.

However, Lobo’s ambitions go far beyond the San Francisco-based tech company. She’s always hashing out ways in her head to improve circumstances in her homeland of India through technology and propping up a small business.

Meanwhile, Lobo’s former computer science professor Sana Odeh had nothing but kind words to say about Lobo. And when lumped together with the tech industry’s elite, Odeh said that Lobo could more than keep up with them.

“She is very sharp, she can get anything done,” said Odeh. “She’s going to go places.”

Few have their doubts that Lobo is going to do amazing things in technology, but the tech world just might have to wait for her to stop scrolling through Twitter first, something she freely admits to doing too much. Who can blame her though, because it’s what she does best — she’s just trying to connect with people the best she can, and she’ll see where it goes from there.

Read about more of this year’s Up-and-Comers here.