By Tracy Miller Geary, Contributing Writer
Rekha Kamat (MSCS ’05), Alumni Graduation speaker for 2019, believes that “we all have our own journeys.” A strategic business development executive for 3DEXPERIENCE at Dassault Systèmes and a 40 Under 40 honoree by Boston Business Journal, Kamat’s journey to Northeastern began in Mumbai, India.
As a young girl, Kamat was interested in science and technology; she sat “glued to the television set” watching NASA Space mission and science exploration programs. In a world history class, she discovered Boston and the city’s role in the American Revolution. Inspired by the “rich history of Boston, its contributions to society and education system especially in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math,” Kamat knew she wanted to study there.
Her family’s demonstrated belief in education was instrumental in Kamat’s decision to study engineering at a local college that was part of the University of Mumbai. Her mother, a brilliant student who at one time dreamt of attending medical school, made sure that her daughters had access to education. About herself, Kamat says: “I am the first woman engineer on both paternal and maternal sides of my family.”
For her next step, graduate school, Northeastern stood out. Kamat was drawn to a story on the university’s website about Agnes H. Chan, faculty emerita, and her research. Just as compelling was the prospect of studying at Khoury College of Computer Sciences with Professor Mitchell Wand in the field of programming for artificial intelligence and Professor Guevera Noubir in the field of security.
Furthermore, Kamat loved that Khoury College was “right in the heart” of Boston, “a commercial and metropolitan city.” She focused on her studies, “aware of how getting a good education can open up new opportunities, especially for girls,” she says. Kamat graduated in 2005 with an MS in computer science.
At Dassault Systèmes, the world’s largest design and innovation software company, Kamat focuses on digital transformation initiatives for its customers and users. Kamat has held progressively diverse roles in R&D, customer success, and strategic business development. Leveraging her deep technical background, she works with the global ecosystem of customers from diverse industries, system integrators, and partners to help companies accelerate innovation by adopting a digital mindset, new digital methods and processes. She has been a speaker at several national and international conferences on topics like digital platforms, data science, and business transformation. Her interests include data science, security, artificial intelligence, and digitization initiatives that drive business transformation.
An advocate for diversity in corporate leadership, she serves on the Boston Steering Committee for 2020 Women on Boards, a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020.
Fired by a strong belief in civic engagement, Kamat has served as judge for the Congressional App Challenge, a competition promoted by the U.S. Congress to encourage students in STEM education, and last year’s Technovation Challenge, a global tech and entrepreneurship competition specifically for girls. By encouraging young students to identify and solve a problem in their community, she believes “we teach them responsibility, leadership, and the importance of education.”
Kamat is passionate about advancement of women in STEM fields. She has spoken to middle school girls about careers in STEM and the tech world. At that age, she says, “Students are just beginning to find their interest in their careers.” Recognizing the importance of role models, Kamat explains that “the more real-life stories they hear, the more they can picture themselves in that role.”
Kamat’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. She was honored in Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 annual compendium as one of the best and brightest young professionals who are making a mark in their respective industries in ways that are fueling Massachusetts’ economic engine. In 2018, Kamat was one among the top 11 young women globally (and two based in the U.S.) to be named Outstanding Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for Economy and Society at their global conference in Paris, France; it is one of the most influential forums in the world. This international recognition is given for demonstrating remarkable skills, courage, and leadership in her professional and personal life and for having a positive impact in her community, professional environment, and society, as well as being committed to engage with generosity and humility.
As a moderator at the Women’s Forum, Kamat spoke of the journey of women in business and technology, saying “it’s time to accelerate the pace and go full speed forward.” Stressing the importance of “inclusion, diversity, and representation,” she called for “changing the narrative and the stereotypes that we see all around us.”