Long-time Waterloo donor responds to call to support the Student Emergency Support Fund

headshot of man smilingWhen Shanku Niyogi (BMath CS '94) learned about the Waterloo Student Emergency Support Fund, he knew he had to pitch in.

A result of the collaboration of campus leadership with the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA), the Student Emergency Support Fund provides short-term financial help for students facing unexpected expenses as a result of COVID-19.

With his generous contribution, Niyogi is among a community of donors who responded to the call to support students in this time of need. Within the first hour of the fund’s launch alone, donors committed hundreds of donations representing tens of thousands of dollars.

“I was a co-op student myself, and the story really spoke to me,” explained Niyogi, who now serves as the Senior Vice President of Product at GitHub, a platform used by over 40 million developers worldwide to collaborate together to write code.

For Niyogi, the Waterloo co-op experience was a game-changer, opening doors for the young computer science student that might otherwise have stayed shut. And it wasn’t hard for the father of two to see that COVID-19 could close doors for many of Waterloo’s students.

“I’m giving a bit back in this important time,” said Niyogi. “When you’re a student, every bit counts, especially when there are other headwinds involved.”

Opening doors to careers in tech

Niyogi has worked in the tech sector since his first co-op placement with IBM in 1991, including 21 years at Microsoft and a recent stint as Director of Product Management at Google Cloud.

Now in his role leading Product at GitHub, Niyogi is quick to underscore the synergy between his commitment to helping others enter tech and the organization’s mission to connect people and code across barriers.

He’s excited by the record numbers of users around the world taking advantage of GitHub’s Student Developer Pack over the past two months. A free toolkit, the Developer Pack gives students access to tools from over 40 vendors to learn how to code by doing.

Niyogi explains that “GitHub strives to be a home for every developer, and education is a big part of that mission. By learning to code, every one of us has the chance to unlock our potential, create with software, solve problems, and contribute to human progress”.

This summer, GitHub is also partnering with Major League Hacking to launch the MLH Fellowship program, bringing students together to contribute to open source projects in return for a stipend, along with mentorship and training.

A decade of giving

The desire to help open doors for others inspired Niyogi to start giving back to the University as early as 2010.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be in the tech industry,” explains Niyogi, “and a large part of that is due to Waterloo. I want to do my part to help others take a similar path.”

Niyogi points to his family as inspiration, and in particular, his grandmother, who was a vocal advocate for women’s education in India. Her four daughters would go on to earn Master’s degrees, and in 2011, Niyogi established an endowed scholarship in her honour.

Today, the Sampriti Devi Ray Scholarship has been awarded to 17 outstanding young women entering their first year of undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Mathematics.