Any teaching is meaningless without experience. You need both personal experience as well as professional experience to succeed in any field.
– Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
Introduction and Education of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
Prof. Timila Yami Thapa comes from a very conservative tuladhar family. Her father comes from a tuladhar family, and her mother comes from the kansakar family. These two families are local to Kathmandu valley and they carry a very conservative kind of culture inside their community.
For a girl belonging to a conservative family, it was extremely difficult for her to break the social norms and culture. Her journey in breaking and transforming that conservativeness is the area that she is very excited to recall back on.
Although coming from such a conservative family, Mrs. Thapa joined Kanti Iswori Rajya Laxmi High school and then Amrit Science College for a higher secondary level. After that, she went to India for further studies.
Even going to India from such a conservative family used to be a new thing.
Without looking back, she somehow entered into IIT Kanpur, which in those days used to be a place where all the toppers of whole India used to compete to enter.
She did electronic engineering from there. Although they were from electronics engineering but right from the first year, very well-known computer scientist professor V. Raja Raman taught them. He was a lead figure in IT academics, IT industry of India.
From the first year, she had to do a lot of programming, a lot of software-related courses. After that, she went to the De Montfort University in the UK for a master’s degree. She also went to Philip Holland for a year. After coming back to Nepal, she joined the Institute of Engineering and taught for 35 years.
Computer engineering started in Nepal in 1998. From 1998 to 2015, Prof. Timila Yami Thapa taught CE courses. During that period she was assistant dean for four years. She has now retired from there. Before retiring, she worked as a chairperson in KUKL.
She was also a senate member at Pokhara University, where she made a lot of changes in the course curriculum. She was on the advisory board on the RTDF fund. Prof. Timila Yami Thapa was one member of the prime minister’s council for a year.
All these are very important positions where she played a key role to make an impact in bringing up the IT industry of today.
Family Background and Childhood of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
There were seven children in her family. She was the third one. There were six daughters and one son. As a child within the seven children, she had a huge gang. She and her siblings used to move around together. At the same time, they were also very responsible kids.
From the early days, because of her mother’s poor health, she had to stay home and take care of her mother. Her mother was severely ill with two heart valve damaged and acute Asthama. Her elder sister went off to do MBBS from India and her brother went to engineering. She was the eldest one among the remaining five of her siblings.
The latter part of her childhood, where she should have been enjoying and playing, was somehow, unfortunately, spent with a load of a sick mother and then looking after her four younger sisters. But she considers herself very fortunate of being born by a mother who was a political leader. During 2000-2007 BS, her mother had also been to jail.
Her mother made sure that each of her children is ready to support one another. She made them very responsible people, despite her failing health. She thought that educating their six daughters and one son would make their life secure. Prof. Timila Yami’s mother taught her till class 4.
When she was in class four, a classmate of hers got married. That was big news for her. She remembers asking her mother about the meaning of marriage and the birth of a child from a woman.
She used to hear from the mothers of her batch mate that education is not very important. The important thing according to them was the proposals from a good family. They thought the sole purpose of women is to be married off, look after the kitchen, and then produce children. They thought these things were the top priority for women. Their mind was prejudiced that four or five classes are enough for education. And slowly, Prof. Thapa’s friends got married one by one.
And as far as she remembers, some families who had access to government jobs only educated their children. And during the Rana regime, only a few families had access to getting educated in Banaras, India, but not all did. But about ninety-five percent of parents local to Kathmandu valley had no education. Due to this, they never understood the value of education and educating girls. Education was given a very low priority.
Some families gave the right background environment in the house. She recalls some of her friends getting a higher education.
Role of Parents in the life of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
Prof. Timila Yami’s father was a politician. His name is Dharmaratna Yami. And when the four martyrs were killed on Magh 12, 1997, they sentenced her father to 18 years of the jail sentence. He was freed later on but he was mostly in jail. Her mother also went through that revolution and got arrested.
The lesson she learned through her parents, from what they learned in their life, is that life is not sure. Her parents believed that their seven children should be given top priority for education and lesser priorities for their early marriage. This principle guided Prof. Timila Yami to be who she is today.
As far as teaching was concerned, her mother never went to school. However, she was given English tuition by the master who was a very well-known English teacher in the valley. And with her own interest, she learned English, and she landed up in Calcutta. Prof. Yami thinks that influenced how she and her siblings grew up. Her mother taught them to follow their interest, even if they have no prior skills in that interest.
Her mother was treated by a German doctor and then she was taken to the Bengali doctor. There, with her own interests, she used to read a lot of political articles regarding the famine of Calcutta. Because of the books she read, she was a different person in her community. She knew how to teach and she taught the middle class. Prof. Yami says that her mom had a meaningful role in her life. She learned a lot from her mother directly as well as indirectly.
When Prof. Yami started pursuing academic fields, her mother was the one who motivated her. Her mother used to support her choice of science courses and mathematics. And she was very keen to get all of her children into the engineering line or medical field. So her elder sister went for the MBBS course. Her brother went for an engineering course. Prof. Yami was very strong in mathematics and took science.
She loved the environment of her house as it differed greatly from the rest of her conservative relatives. And she had an education-focused and rational environment in her home. As a result, all six of her siblings also ended up taking science. And they all have done well.
Then, unfortunately, after she cleared Class 12, her mother expired. Behind her, she had her father as a support pillar. Her father was a writer, and he was a very dedicated person for social transformation in society. His books were very popular, and he was a literate spiritual person. That same trait transferred into Prof. Yami. Whatever her mother had aspired, her father also had aspired like that.
Prof. Timila Yami landed up in IIT Kanpur and that’s when she understood the importance of science education and the importance of mathematics. She understood what her mother meant and what she understood during her stay in India.
Prof. Yami thinks that was the greatest thing that happened to their life. She considers herself very fortunate as far as career development is concerned. Her father was totally on a different track than her mother. He used to write books on politics and culture and inspired Prof. Yami in a unique way. He taught her to stand only for things that benefit society. But after she joined IIT Kanpur, her father also expired.
Interests and Career of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
The Engineering track was a technical subject. It was different from what was taught in her home by her parents. She got motivated in technology through the professors of ITT Kanpur and began to specialize in a particular field. She considers herself very lucky that she landed off with some brilliant professors in her Engineering Classes.
Prof. Yami’s first job after graduation from her school was in a research project from the Department of Electronics, the Government of India. This was a research project which was handed over to a place. She got a great opportunity of working on that project. They also published her work in the journal and kept it in courses.
She worked for three years. She had taken her youngest sister with her after their mother’s death. She made her sister join class seven in a school where the children of all the professors were studying. There was another sister of her doctor whom she had to look after, being the elder one. These two responsibilities made her stay on and on in her tracks and motivated her to work harder. Her first job was very memorable that really enriched her life.
Her drive to join the Institute of engineering was that she will get the opportunity of going abroad for doing a Ph.D. She could have gone to the USA, but she had family responsibilities and she came back to Nepal.
Prof. Yami was asked to join Nepal Telecom, the Ministry of Electricity, and such prestigious positions. Instead, she opted for joining the Institute of engineering at the Tribhuvan University. She saw a very huge gap between the education standard of the Elite Premier Institutes of India and the education standard here. So having come from IIT Kanpur, she contributed to making a lot of good policies for engineering in Nepal.
She had a passion for teaching. She taught for 35 years from 2000 to 2015. She got into the computer engineering department and thought she enjoyed it more.
During that time, the IT-related industry was slowly booming. So, there was big headhunting of IT graduates that was happening from Europe and the USA. They badly needed a lot of IT graduates from a technical background. Prof. Yami enjoyed motivating her students to actually go there to work after graduation. There was a lot of money in that area. Those things drove her to open her own software company in 1991.
Prof. Yami believes that only teaching and learning from a book with no practical experience is totally useless. At the time when she opened her own software company, there was a lack of resources. But there were few excellent projects from her friend’s brand and an international fund which boosted the work in her company.
Around 2010, Prof. Yami became the assistant dean of the Institute of engineering. She had really aspired to be in that post so she could directly contribute to the engineering education system of Nepal.
She also had an opportunity to go to Hannover Germany in 1996, in one of the International Trade Fairs of the software industry.
Contributions of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa in the IT sector
Although they were no resources in Nepal, they were offering enormous projects which required some 5060 computer Engineers. A client would say, do you have a hundred Computer Engineers and Prof. Yami would say no. Nepal had not even started an academic Institution for computer engineering back then.
The only way was to open at least 10-12 Computer Engineering degree campuses in Nepal. The situation motivated her to start all the new courses in computer science and engineering sector. As an Assitant Dean of the Engineering campus, Prof. Yami converted three years degree in four years full engineering degree. She takes big pride in that.
She always used to object when she saw so few girls in her classes. Similarly, when she was in IIT Kanpur, she had 400 boys in the class. They were only two girls.
The same scenario continued to present itself when she came and taught on the Engineering campus. There were sometimes no girls in the class. She had heard about girl’s quotas previously. She quickly jumped into the construction of a girls Hostel at The Institute of engineering through one of the USA fundings. This allowed the girls from Regional cities to come and study there without the hassle of logistics. That was one of the happy moments for Prof. Thapa.
Life Experience of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
When she was in school, people would say that Science and Mathematics are subjects for boys, not for girls. Prof. Timila used to be so angry about it as she was naturally strong in mathematics.
Even in grade 11, everyone used to say that biology subject is meant for girls and engineering is not meant for girls. Whenever people said no girls can’t do it, she made it a resolution to work against it. In her workplace, when she started functioning as a leader, it was very difficult for women to take over the leadership posts. She wanted to work hard to make it accessible for other women as well.
This nature pushed her into successfully functioning as a leader. She properly acted on her duty throughout her tenure, so she didn’t have to quit in between. She advises all the girls to share a lot of experiences, the adversaries, the difficulties we’ve gone through, and the lessons learned from there. Other girls might hugely benefit from our story and experiences.
She believes that a good education makes us face any problem differently. We have to be very patient and not be very reactive. If we learn to handle a situation without being reactive, we have a big picture of the whole situation. When we understand the situation from the big picture, we can cool down to handle it. That really emerges as a blessing. In the end, despite all the difficulties, we learn to handle complex, conflicting environments.
She says she’s sure that a lot of other wonderful ladies have even better experiences than her. She encourages them to share it with everyone. She feels proud of the achievements of her female students. She feels blessed to have been there in their journey.
Prof. Timila Yami Thapa advocates that if the country wants to transition with the help of computer engineering, computer science, and engineering information system in a big way, there has to be a radical change in the curriculum of computer engineering.
She requests all the girls involved in technology today to take responsibility for next-generation girls. We all have to emerge as superb role models.
Lessons learned from the story of Prof. Timila Yami Thapa
We can gain tremendous insights from Prof. Yami’s story. Information Technology is a very mentally demanding area. It is an area in which traditional mothers-in-law do not understand the dimension of things. 80% of mothers of the country don’t know what the daughter should be doing. To change the stats, colleges in the rural areas should also take courses in the IT sector.
But there is a bright side to this otherwise grim story. Female-driven tech industries perform very well. The result is significant. There are so many examples of projects driven by a female which has resulted in overall better performance. The infection rate of COVID was less in countries which had female leaders. There is already a demand for engagement of women and girls in IT because females have few characteristics and personalities which even AI cannot surpass.
There are proven cases of successful female leadership. With the grip of artificial intelligence, these kinds of success stories are going to grow more. We are already late in this nation. So if we really want to speed up girls in IT, we have to not just work. We have to emerge as leaders in this field. And the best way to create female leaders is to empower them.