When Rekha John moved to Tampa from India at the age of 23, she had some frame of reference for what she might experience in her new home.
“I had seen the American movies,” said Rekha, who arrived in the United States with her husband in 1999. “I had seen ‘Friends.’ I had an idea of what life in America was like.”
It also helped that Florida is a lot like Kerala, the state on the southwest coast of India where she was raised.
“There are beaches and lagoons and coconut palms,” she said. “Even the climate is similar.”
Rekha returns to India to see her family every few years and subscribes to more than a dozen Indian television channels. A movie theater near her house regularly features Bollywood films, and she goes to see them almost every week.
A senior software developer, she is at the helm of a project called Data Warehouse, which will provide daily statistical analysis of airport trends and finances.
“It’s all new technology,” Rekha said. “We’re still in the process of developing it. Right now it’s mainly about parking, and that’s our biggest revenue source. It shows concession and airline data as well”
Easy-to-read graphics in the Data Warehouse show the previous day’s parking figures and compares them to the corresponding day in previous years. A few clicks of the mouse shows more detailed information, such as how long the average car stays in the parking garage this year as opposed to last year.
Before Data Warehouse, such information was available only by looking at raw numbers and taking the time do all the crunching and comparing.
Developing the software was unlike anything Rekha had ever done before, but she was eager to take on the challenge
“We had never done anything like this before, and we looked at outside applications but they cost a lot of money,” she said. “So I taught myself the technology. I really enjoy learning new things.”
Her love of learning comes naturally. Rekha’s parents are both college professors in India. Her father teaches engineering and her mother teaches English. Rekha speaks five languages. In addition to English and Hindi, India’s “official” and “national” languages, she’s fluent in Malayalam, the language of her region, and Tamil, from a neighboring region.
Her husband is also a software developer, and they keep each other up-to-date on the ever-changing technology, sharing information gleaned from reading computer magazines. They have two sons: 9–year-old Kevin and 7-year-old Aidan.
Rekha worked at Masonite, a door manufacturer, before joining the Aviation Authority in 2007. The job brought her back to one of the first places she experienced when moving to the United States. At that time, she was immediately struck by how user-friendly the Tampa airport is.
“What surprised me was how much effort goes into it,” she said. “You don’t realize how many people are working behind the scenes to make this airport so comfortable.”