In Her Father’s Footsteps

6/8/2020 11:35:38 AM By Steven Hall & Laura Schmitt, Illinois CS

Shobana Radhakrishnan (MS CS '99)
Shobana Radhakrishnan (MS CS '99)

Shobana Radhakrishnan (MS CS ‘99) takes pride in balancing community service with a demanding job as director of engineering at Google’s Android TV.  She serves on the board of a non-profit school foundation that enhances the educational environment of her local high school and a second non-profit that promotes arts in the schools, and she is actively involved with a women-in-tech networking group. 

She is also committed to providing the best environment for her teenage children, fellow female colleagues, and anyone with unrealized potential. 

Recently, Shobana established a scholarship in Illinois Computer Science honoring the source of her inspiration, her father SS Radhakrishnan.  

“My father made continual sacrifices that enabled me to become the person I am today,” said Shobana.  “Without him, I would not have been able to come to the US and launch a career in tech.”

Radhakrishnan (Nov. 28, 1936 - Oct. 25, 2006) grew up in a predominantly patriarchal society, but he always advocated for women to have equal educational opportunities, financial independence, and respect.

Although he held management positions in the packaging industry, Radhakrishnan was an engineer at heart, having earned a mechanical engineering degree. He successfully fixed anything that broke in the home, including electronics, mechanical devices, scooters, or cars, and he enjoyed doing it.  He often invited his children to be his assistants in the repair process, which inspired Shobana’s love of engineering.  

Shobana Radhakrishnan (right) and her parents outside of the Digital Computer Laboratory.
Shobana Radhakrishnan (right) and her parents outside of the Digital Computer Laboratory.

He fully supported her decision to pursue engineering, enabling Shobana to become the first female engineer in their family.  His support continued when Shobana decided to pursue a graduate degree in computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  

Despite social and financial pressures faced by their conservative middle class family, Radhakrishnan helped his daughter secure scholarships and government funding to realize her dream.

The SS Radhakrishnan Scholarship supports international students who want to pursue their educational dreams—either undergraduate or graduate—at Illinois CS, with a focus on those students with interest in groups that support women in engineering and computer science.