The day Ruby was born her aunt cried. But not for the reasons someone raised in the West would understand. The tears were traditional in nature, for it was customary in India to cry at the birth of girl babies and celebrate the birth of boy babies.
But Ruby’s father would allow no sadness to tarnish this bright day.
“’No one will ever cry for the birth of my daughter,’ my father told my Aunt,” says Ruby, “’because I will give her everything.’” And he did.
Not Your Average Farmgirl
Raised on a farm surrounded by family in a small village in Punjab, India, Ruby’s upbringing while rural was rich. Her father was an electrical engineer who ran his own business in the neighboring town and would bring home the newspaper so his family could stay current on what was happening in the world around them. Her mother is well educated and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art. “My mother is one of the strongest people I know,” Ruby offers. “And she always encouraged me to be an independent girl and embrace independent thinking.”
So while the other girls in the village were learning how to cook and sew, Ruby was reading the newspaper and attending one of the best private schools in the region. “My mother had a degree but she couldn’t take it anywhere,” Ruby says. “She wanted for me what she couldn’t make for herself. She wanted me to follow my dreams, not be restricted by society.”
When the time came to discuss higher education, the Nahal family arranged for Ruby to go to Canada to pursue a degree. “When I was a girl I loved Nancy Drew. And for a while, I wanted to be a cop!” Ruby says, seemingly delighted to revisit the dream of her past self. But her parents had other hopes for Ruby – they felt that becoming a doctor or an engineer was the best way to ensure her success in the West. So Ruby chose Engineer – and got her Master’s Degree in Information Technology. It turned out to be a great fit for Ruby because “working in IT is like being the Nancy Drew of Engineering!” she laughs.
After graduation, joining the ranks of a notoriously male dominated field such as IT was no sweat for Ruby – she was already used to living in a predominately male-dominated society, so navigating this particular professional subset was a source of pride, not struggle. “When I walk into an IT conference with 100 men and I am the only woman, I feel proud.” She confesses.
That pride stretches family-wide. “My grandmother tells stories about me to the neighbors!” Ruby says. “I feel I have changed the spectrum of things. When I speak to my female cousins in India, I tell them ‘you don’t have to restrict yourself…
…You can FLY!’”