Born in India and raised in Boulder, Harshitha Adapa is a recent CU Denver graduate who found her passion in cybersecurity.
By taking advantage of Business School resources and her mentors, Adapa applied her knowledge from the classroom to the real world and successfully landed a program management internship with Netskope, a private cybersecurity firm based in California.
Discovering herself in college
While Adapa graduated this past May from the CU Denver with a BSBA in Information Systems, she didn’t have a traditional college path. Because of her love of the city, she initially chose CU Denver despite pressure from her family to attend CU Boulder. She did end up transferring to CU Boulder as an information management student. But her pull to Denver never lost its strength, and before long, she ended up back at CU Denver.
“My heart belongs to Denver. Even though I grew up in Boulder, I love this city,” she shared.
First starting college, Adapa felt like she was stuck choosing between her analytical side and her creative side. She also felt confined by the requirements and systematic nature of the university.
Luckily, CU Denver gave her the freedom to express both sides of herself. After transferring back to CU Denver, she took a class in HTML web design. One of the projects for the class was open for students to do anything they wanted. Adapa embraced both her creative and technical side by developing an Indian wedding website. For the project, she went to Red Rocks Amphitheatre at sunrise to do a traditional Indian wedding photoshoot.
“It’s a challenge for me to stick to specific lines, because I think differently,” she said. “That’s why I really enjoy being at CU Denver. It’s really helped me think creatively and learn from a diverse group of people.”
“My heart belongs to Denver. Even though I grew up in Boulder, I love this city,” – Harshitha Adapa
Catching the internship fever
Very early on, Adapa caught the internship fever. Like most college students she started her search on LinkedIn for the perfect opportunity.
It was there that she found her first internship with Cochlear, a hearing implant company, as a web sports specialist. It was her first taste of the information technology world. She worked on the marketing team, integrating global projects and improving the usability of their online store.
Growing up in a family of engineers, she felt like she was striking out on her own, and this internship solidified in her mind that information systems was the right path for her.
Last summer, she landed another internship with IHS Markit, a financial service company, as an information security intern. There she learned more about the securities side of the company and the processes they developed.
Applying classroom knowledge to her internships
At her many internships, Adapa faced a number of unique situations, especially in the field of security. She was able to take away many lessons from her classes and apply them to her internship.
Specifically, she connected the dots between what she was learning in her Business Law class to her internship. “My professor, Linda Fried, thinks so differently. She has so much experience, and she helped me out with some issues I was working through at my internship in disclosing information to clients,” she said.
“My professor, Linda Fried, thinks so differently. She has so much experience, and she helped me out with some issues I was working through at my internship in disclosing information to clients,” – Harshitha Adapa
But there was one class, in particular, System Architecture and Design, that applied directly to Adapa’s upcoming Netskope internship. Professor Jahangir Karimi taught the system development lifecycle, including the planning, analysis, design, and maintenance stages. She used the framework of that lifecycle to guide one of her answers to an interview question.
She will also be applying this class directly to her projects on quality assurance for Netskope. She’ll form her own processes and develop her own applications and reports. Because she had to create her own reports for Karimi’s class, she is already comfortable using software like Access and Visible Analyst.
Finding her voice
Though it might be surprising, this burgeoning cybersecurity professional didn’t always feel so ready to take on the world. Throughout college, Adapa went on an unexpected journey to find her own voice.
She shared a story of a time she was working with the group of interns, all male, at IHS Markit. The project was to develop a voice-integrated mobile application for requesting meeting rooms. With 26 offices all over the world, it was not an easy task to redesign an outdated room reservation system.
When the group of interns would meet, Adapa wouldn’t share her opinions. Feeling a little isolated, she reached out to Stephanie Sindt, Business Career Connections advisor, who gave her the confidence to make her voice heard.
At a work event, several of Adapa’s mentors and managers noticed she was quiet and encouraged her to speak up and share her ideas.
That experience helped her grow both personally and professionally. “You can’t be quiet in the real world. That project really helped me become who I am today,” she reflected.
A new start in California
With several internships under her belt, Adapa set her sights on landing a job post-graduation. She applied to Palo Alto Networks, a network and enterprise security firm. Her connection at Palo Alto Networks forwarded her resume to another company that had a position more in line with her career goals.
Adapa was looking for a program management position that integrated security aspects and Netskope’s program management internship would give her exactly that experience.
With some guidance from Sindt, she passed four rounds of interviews and landed the internship by March. Now, she had her future plans set and could focus on enjoying the rest of her time at CU Denver.
Community over competition
That sense of community here at CU Denver and mentality that “you only succeed when everyone else around you succeeds” is a big piece of Adapa’s story. CU Denver’s community supported her into becoming a confident woman ready to embark on a new chapter in her life.
She’ll miss her peers and being around people with all different kinds of life experiences. “You never know who you were going to sit next to. One day it’s a veteran the next it’s a 19-year-old high school graduate. I love how diverse CU Denver really is,” she said.
“You never know who you were going to sit next to. One day it’s a veteran the next it’s a 19-year-old high school graduate. I love how diverse CU Denver really is,” – Harshitha Adapa
Adapa went from being afraid to ask questions in class to sitting in the front row of every single class in her last semester and graduating with her highest semester GPA.
Her biggest piece of advice to students is to take advantage of the professors. “The professors want you to grow. They care about your success. They have the crazy industry experience and they want to help you,” she said.
As she looks forward to California, she knows Denver will always have a special place in her heart. “I’m going to miss the city itself and the feeling of being where I belong.”
“I’m going to miss the city itself and the feeling of being where I belong.” – Harshitha Adapa