An interview with Anuhya Challagundla: 2021 fintech_devcon student scholarship winner

We caught up with Anuhya Challagundla, a computer science student and fintech_devcon 2021 scholarship winner, to talk about her experience attending the inaugural event. In this interview, Anuhya shares her background, favorite parts of the conference, and why students must consider attending next year.

Tell us about yourself.

From an early age, I’ve always loved computer science. In high school I built projects and participated in many hackathons, so I decided to pursue a degree in information systems and computer science. I was first introduced to fintech at a hackathon called Hack Harvard. After that, I knew I belonged in financial technology. I joined this company called Major League Hacking where I got to fly to different universities to mentor people and help make sure their hackathons ran smoothly. Since then I’ve attended over 90 hackathons, and during the pandemic, I got to experience digital hackathons and meet a global hackathon community.

From there, I met and started working for a company called Envel, which is an AI-based fintech neobank. As a contractor, I’ve realized just how much I love the fintech industry, especially when it comes to the educational side of the tech industry. Open source is everything to a person like me entering the industry for the first time trying to learn as much as I can. Now, I love teaching folks about open source and I’m part of a program where I help people kick off their open source projects.

How did you first hear about fintech_devcon?

Through Major League Hacking, I worked closely with another mentor and she knew how much I loved fintech. She recommended I check out the Moov open source community and fintech_devcon.

I’d never heard of fintech_devcon, but one quick search blew me away. Not only was the event in-person, but it offered so much to a student like me. I’m always trying to learn as much as possible about fintech and what better way to do that than from fintech’s biggest brands and builders. Luckily, the scholarship program included a ticket, hotel, and travel, so I applied right away. When I found out I was awarded the scholarship, I was ecstatic.

So, what did you think about the event? Did it live up to your expectations?

Everything about fintech_devcon was amazing.

I left the conference feeling inspired and excited to go home and start building things.

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Don’t get me wrong, I had major imposter syndrome moments for sure. As someone who is very new to the industry, I worried that I’d stick out like a sore thumb, but that’s genuinely not the case. I didn’t know anyone at the event but I easily met people who were all friendly and equally excited to be there. I never felt awkward about being a student or new to the industry because people cared to listen to what I had to say. I felt like an equal contributor and people were interested in learning about me, and I walked away from every conversation learning something new about the industry, which is very cool.

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Did you attend any of the talks or workshops?

Yes! One of my favorite talks was by Saira Rahman from HMBradley. She’s such a badass and brilliant person. In fact, there were a lot of amazing speakers from diverse backgrounds and that was great to see. Some of the workshops were more technical and payments-focused, but overall it offered something for everyone, even a student like me. I also went to an API workshop, which was pretty interesting. I think my favorite was Zach Bruhnke’s workshop that focuses on what the customer wants. We even got to build a credit card from scratch. I love product, so with my technical background, it helped me hone my understanding of fintech products and prioritizing user needs.

Another part I loved about fintech_devcon is learning about niche roles I never knew existed. I love building things, but I also love mentoring, marketing, product management, and helping people. Since I’ve worked with a startup, I’ve had the opportunity to wear a lot of hats. Coming to fintech_devcon helped me realize developer advocacy and technical community roles exist. I left the conference feeling really motivated and excited that there are needs for my interests and talents.

Did you make any new or interesting connections?

I had so many spontaneous conversations with random people, and it almost always led to us getting dinner and drinks and connecting on LinkedIn. I truly enjoyed meeting new fintech people and striking up conversations was easy. I also got to meet up with the groups I chatted with in Moov’s Slack community, so that was really cool.

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My favorite time networking was actually at the build a bike charity event. A bunch of attendees got together to build bikes for the Third Way Center and it was such a great experience for a great cause. It was very easy to build bikes and talk to people at the same time. I definitely walked away with actual personal connections that I’ll likely interact with again. I know we’ll reach out to one another and ask for design input or product help.

Would you recommend fintech_devcon to other students?

I would recommend it to anyone considering a career in fintech, but especially students. I sincerely wish there were other students I could have met up with. So any professors or students reading this, please spread the news about fintech_devcon next year. It’s not just for industry veterans. Everyone was super casual and friendly, but highly knowledgeable and willing to answer questions and make connections.

What would you like to see happen next year?

I’d love to see even more workshops targeted to new developers in the industry. I’d also love to see a hackathon component (surprise, surprise). Can you imagine all these top industry folks building an awesome product together at fintech_devcon? Think of all the mentorship that can happen!

What would you say to others on the fence about fintech_devcon 2022?

They’d be crazy not to attend. Having all the top tier fintech people together in one place, all very willing to teach, mentor, and share information because they want to move the industry forward—there’s just nothing like it anywhere else.

All other conferences or events just want to sell you their product. They’re full of salespeople. At fintech_devcon, you’re surrounded by the people who built the actual products, made the mistakes, learned the shortcuts, and they want to share it all with you, whether you’re working at a competitor or are a rookie new to the industry. I think everyone left fintech_devcon feeling inspired to build, and if they applied any of the knowledge they gained throughout the event, imagine how many products were made stronger in the process?