Alumnus Amyn Rajan with his children.

Computing science alumnus helps more women enter tech field

October 03, 2017

This story was orginally published in SFU News' special feature, Celebrating 150K engaged alumni.

For Amyn Rajan, diversity is strength. He was taught this at a young age and saw it on a larger scale when his family emigrated from East Africa to Canada.

But when he began working in the technology sector, he was surprised to discover a lack of gender diversity.

“You scratch your head and wonder, what’s wrong with this picture?” says Rajan, who graduated from SFU in 1993 with a B.Sc. (honours) in computing science.

A software industry veteran, he has held several leadership roles including, most recently, a 14-year stint as CEO of Simba Technologies, a data access and analytics software company.

In 2007, he was recognized as one of Business in Vancouver magazine’s Top Forty Under 40.

Throughout his career Rajan has recognized the under-representation of women in the field, despite a growing need for more skilled workers.

To him, the solution is obvious: “Why not go out and bring more women into this field?”

That’s why he has established several scholarships to encourage more women to study computer science. He remembers receiving the SFU Gordon M. Shrum Entrance Scholarship and says it played a significant role in helping him achieve his academic goals.

“It was difficult for my parents to put three kids through university, and the Shrum scholarship really helped me,” he says.

He was determined to pay it forward in the future and donate the original value—$12,000—back to SFU to help other students. Little did he know his successful career would allow him to multiply his gift 100-fold.

To date, Rajan has donated more than $1.2 million to SFU, the University of B.C. and the University of Victoria, primarily to support women studying technology and engineering. This includes scholarships for female students in SFU’s School of Computing Science, as well as a significant contribution to support the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (B.C./Yukon). The chair is currently held by SFU engineering science professor Lesley Shannon.

Rajan has already witnessed the impact of his philanthropy—he has met with some of the scholarship recipients and has seen them start great careers.

“It’s really exciting to see them out there, being successful,” he says.

“These women have so much potential, and their successes will have a significant and positive impact on all of us.”