Student Spotlight: Anoushka Deshmukh


(Photo: Anoushka Deshmukh)

Miguel Alves, Editor

Student Spotlights are created by the Centreville Sentinel team in order to showcase the notable talent and accomplishments of Centreville High School students. These students are sent to us through a nomination process. This Student Spotlight showcases Anoushka Deshmukh, a senior at Centreville High School and self-proclaimed “girl who loves computers.” An intelligent, driven, and impressive woman, Deshmukh was nominated on the basis of her many accomplishments in STEM at such a young age, especially in the cybersecurity field.

According to Deshmukh, she is currently taking five AP courses, one academy course, and one dual-enrolled course. She also actively participates in several of Centreville High School’s clubs. Deshmukh said that “if [she] had to reduce them down to [her] top three favorite clubs, [she] would say Model UN, CyberPatriots, and ISA (Indian Student Association).” She notes that although these clubs are “vastly different,” she enjoys “being able to pursue various interests and share [her] passion with others.” Deshmukh is currently the captain of the 2019 all-female CyberPatriots team, which she treasures as a place to “practice [her] cybersecurity skills in a challenging and collaborative environment.”

While all of these are incredible achievements, this is just the tip of the incredibly impressive iceberg of Anoushka Deshmukh, because her work doesn’t end when she leaves Centreville High School. She also works as an analyst at Mach37, a cybersecurity accelerator that works to develop cyber-security startups. She also works at Kaleidoscope, an educational fellowship program in Washington, D.C., as a student advisor.

One thing that stood out to me was how she managed to balance all of these things, along with her social life, family, and personal time — after all, just her accomplishments in school must be exhausting. On this, Deshmukh notes: “For me, my passion and love for my career keep me going.” Deshmukh says that it is through “the support of understanding teachers and faculty at [Centreville High School]” that she is able to balance her career with school. She also tries to set aside Sundays to see friends and catch up on schoolwork. She mentions that she is very thankful for the supportive community of friends, faculty members, and family that allow her to do all of this.

When asked what her greatest achievement is, Deshmukh says that it would have to be her publications; over a dozen of her works on federal cybersecurity have been published by FCW, GCN, and Defense Systems through an internship she did with 1105 Media Group this past summer. What makes this even more impressive is that English is not Deshmukh’s first language. “I immigrated to America when I was around seven years old,” she wrote. “At my elementary school, I often faced struggles comprehending the other kids.” At this time, Deshmukh found it hard to express herself due to the language barrier she faced. However, just like every other barrier she has faced, she overcame it dramatically, as seen through her publications.

Regarding barriers, Deshmukh has faced many as a woman of color in her field. On this matter, she said: “I always knew there was a huge disparity between women and STEM careers, but I never expected to feel the impacts firsthand.” Deshmukh was one of the first female graduates of her pre-college cybersecurity course at George Mason University, where students are cut every semester until only the highest scorers are left to graduate. In a research program, Deshmukh found that she was the only female researcher on the team. “Even now when I go to conferences and cybersecurity events, I find that I am the only person like myself in the room,” Deshmukh sadly noted. When asked how she overcomes these barriers, though, her tone shifts from solemn to hopeful. “For me, the best way to overcome this is to be the role model I wish to see in the field,” she answered. She does this by encouraging those from all backgrounds to pursue their passion, especially those who wish to work in a STEM-related field, because Deshmukh herself knows how it feels to be held back in this sense. Even when succeeding, she continues to face criticism from others, but she refuses to respond to negativity with more negativity. Instead of bringing others down, Deshmukh encourages us to bring each other up — “I hope that those critics can look to foster positive change and encourage the success of others, instead of bringing women in the industry down for personal validation.”

After highschool, Deshmukh plans on pursuing higher education in the cybersecurity field. According to Deshmukh, she’d like to start by working for a defense or intelligence agency in the federal government, despite knowing that the demand for this type of career is high in large companies like Amazon and Facebook. “Understandably working for the tech giants would provide much more financial benefits,” Deshmukh wrote. However, she follows this by saying that she wants to work in a place where she “[has] a mission” and “can best use [her] skills to serve the nation.”

If being a woman of color isn’t enough, it is arguably her natural love and empathy towards others that will set Deshmukh apart in this career field. “My greatest passion would have to be making people happy.” She sees the opportunities she’s been given and dedicates herself to “giving back to the community” by volunteering with nonprofits such as Kids Are Scientists Too (KAST). KAST is a national nonprofit organization that works to introduce young children to STEM through fun, interactive activities and experiments. Deshmukh describes volunteering with these kids as “immensely gratifying” — her dedication to helping others was perfectly summed up by the promise she then made: “No matter how busy my future gets, I will always make time for my community.” She also notes that, although we are lucky enough to live in a highly-educated area with many great institutions, not everyone has this luxury. Because of this, Deshmukh mentions that she would like to work with underserved communities in the future to also introduce them to STEM.

All-in-all, Anoushka Deshmukh’s passion and dedication to cybersecurity, education, and helping others makes her the perfect nominee for a Student Spotlight. She gives everything she has to her passions, which is evident through her extensive work days, which can stretch to be twelve hours long. Despite this, though, Deshmukh finds the time to volunteer and spend time with the people she cares about most. If you’re friends with Deshmukh, maybe now you’ll understand the next time she doesn’t text back quickly. Also, if you ever see her with a coffee in her hand, don’t be surprised.

By the way, her perfect Starbucks order is a nitro cold brew with light ice and cold foam on top.