Mason Engineering student leads first cloud computing conference


In the summer of 2020, senior information technology major, accelerated master’s student, and student leader Maya Chatterjee realized someone needed to fill in the gaps for students on how cloud computing empowers nearly every aspect of engineering and technology.

President of Mason’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Chatterjee decided to tap into her network and partner with the Institute for Digital Innovation (IDIA) to create Mason’s first-ever one-day Patriot Cloud Conference.

“I was first exposed to cloud computing from the client perspective at my BAE Systems internship a few semesters back,” says Chatterjee. “And over the summer, I was interning with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and seeing cloud from the provider perspective. I was even more exposed to how the cloud can speed up so many business processes.”

Her internship experiences set her on a mission to ensure every engineering/technology student can learn cloud computing's foundational concepts. With this idea in mind, she established the first free-to-students virtual cloud computing conference at Mason to demonstrate the cloud’s capabilities.

“I contacted Kammy [Kamaljeet] Sanghera, associate professor and the interim director of IDIA, over the summer to see what she thought we could do, and she said we have to do a cloud conference,” says Chatterjee. Then they got to work.

Chatterjee contacted everyone in her network and worked with her SWE board members to get the word out. “I wanted to make sure to include a variety of different backgrounds in cloud computing,” she says. “But what I loved was that most of our speakers were women.”

Chatterjee first encountered SWE and the technology space in high school. Her mother, a SWE member herself and a Mason graduate from the master’s in information technology program, told her about a SWE event for high school students. “It opened my eyes, and I just stayed involved when I got to college. SWE is so important to me. It brought me so much.”

Since then, she has always looked for ways to get other women into STEM and show them possibilities for careers and education, and the Patriot Cloud Conference was a massive leap towards accomplishing her goal.

“Women sometimes get type-cast in the technology space. People limit us to the less-technical roles or project manager positions, and that isn’t right. We can do anything we set our mind to,” she says. And the women in the Patriot Cloud Conference exemplified this sentiment.

“It was a pleasure to work with Maya Chatterjee. She led her SWE team and volunteers, reached out to speakers, and prepared them from a dry run of the event to remind them about the areas of interest to the audience. She has excellent leadership and communication skills. Her passion for cloud computing drove the entire conference,” says Sanghera.

The feedback they received was remarkable, says Chatterjee. “We had around 350 participants total, and we got a variety of different reactions. Participants were all super ecstatic to find a free platform to learn about cloud computing fundamentals,” she says.

Chatterjee is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in information technology this May, and she will begin her accelerated master’s program in applied information technology full-time this fall. So, while she will not be the SWE leader as a graduate student, she hopes that the Patriot Cloud Conference will continue.

“The conference was designed to be for everyone, not just women and not just people specifically interested in cloud computing.” And she attributes the accessibility of the conference to its success. “People want to learn.”