To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2019, we’re showcasing women in STEM who are on course to shape an important part of our world. Meet Arundathi Shanthini, engineering graduate…
What exactly do you do?
I am currently pursuing my MEng (Electronics with Computer Science) degree in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering here at UCL. We learn how to design, simulate and analyse circuits, the theory behind communication systems and the various processes involved behind its working; designing, synthesizing and testing digital circuits in various different ways and a lot more! But it is not all theory, we also have lots of practical work in our course in the form of challenges, scenarios and lab work, which gives us exposure to working in teams. This also helps us develop project management skills whilst learning various practical skills like designing circuit boards, designing and building prototypes, simulating communication systems on software etc.
What made you get into an engineering career?
It is definitely my interest in science that initially drew me towards engineering. As a child I went through different phases during my time at school. There was a time when I loved Biology and wanted to do something in the medical field. But when I was introduced to coding, I started enjoying it more. Then I realised that I like building things and just pure coding probably won’t keep me creatively satisfied so then I started working on small electronic hobby projects. That’s how I discovered electronic engineering as an option that had the potential of involving both logical and designing/building. But yes, at the end it all started with my love for Engineering which started growing in me around Year 7 at school.
What do you like best about it?
I have always loved building and creating things. I enjoy the process of creating something, even though sometimes it involves failing and trying again or sometimes even starting all over again. But when I finally see it work as expected, I get a unique feeling of satisfaction and joy. That’s what I work towards. Even though I initially hated the process of having to go through several failed iterations of the same task before succeeding, over the years I have grown to like and appreciate this process of failing and learning, as much as the joy that the final product gives. So even today, being able to work hands-on on projects and the creative satisfaction you get at the end of achieving the desired results is what I find the most exciting about engineering.
Why might you encourage others into a career in engineering?
It is sad that engineering is (or shall I say was) perceived as a man’s field. This is an entirely wrong concept as there is no aspect about engineering that a man can do better in than a woman. Engineering is an absolutely amazing field. Given that it has the potential to directly impact the lives of people across the globe, makes me feel proud of being part of this community. So, I always utilise every possible opportunity to encourage others, especially girls into the field. Unfortunately, there is lot of misconceptions around the subject as well. I think that STEM subjects usually demand a bit more time for you to be able to understand and grasp the basic concepts but once you crack that, the rest is all just extensions that were derived from them. As a school going kid, I also found science difficult till I gave it the time it demanded. But once I got the hang of it, I started to love the subject like no other and it was extremely rewarding.
What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on?
Since my time as an undergraduate student at UCL Engineering, I have had several opportunities to work on different projects. One of my favourite projects that I have worked on since the time I joined UCL is the robotic arm I made in my first year. It was something that I made from scratch for the first time, from designing the chassis to laser cutting the parts myself to building and coding it.
I have been actively involved with several student societies at UCL and this has also given me many opportunities to work on interesting things. Last year, the UCL Women Engineers’ Student Society, set up an International Mentoring Programme and I was one of the International Role Models to two girls from Ghana who were aspiring to become engineers. The sessions I had with them through emails and video calls involved sharing my journey and experiences at university with them, clearing their doubts in the subjects, talking to them about the process involved in applying to universities etc. The experience I had with these girls and the way we engaged in conversations just on the basis of our passion and enthusiasm towards the same field even though we never met in person was an amazing experience and it is something I hold very close to my heart even today. Over the past few years, I have also been the President of the UCL Robotics Society, a member of the Fleming Society and the UCL Women Engineer’s Student Society.
Currently, I am on a Year in Industry and I work with big datasets and use the power of several machine learning tools to build predictors or tools that categorise topics within huge texts or conversations. My work here helps the company save millions of pounds a year and this means that the users get the products and services for cheaper prices.
What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career?
When you are studying a subject like engineering or working on a project and contributing towards a field that has the potential of revolutionising the lives of the entire world it makes you feel important. At an individual level, we might just be contributing a little to the bigger picture but when you have the vision of the bigger picture there is a great sense of creative satisfaction and pride. And that vision or realisation of the impact my work will have on consumers and users in the near future is the biggest motivation and is the biggest satisfaction I get from my work.
Why is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) important and what does it mean to you?
Celebrating INWED is important because it makes me feel special. I feel that women engineers who make it in the field should be celebrated. I also believe that campaigns and efforts around a day like INWED is one of the most efficient ways to decrease the lack of diversity in engineering as it gives the women in the field a platform to exhibit their work and to inspire younger girls out there that unlike the popular belief, women can also have really successful careers in this field. To me personally as a student, attending social events or the opportunity to network with other female engineers on INWED is one of the most inspiring experiences. Hearing about their amazing journeys and experiences, the different pathways that brought them here and the different areas that they work in are very inspiring and informative. In fact, that’s the beauty of engineering. With so many options, so many routes that you could take and so many specialisations you could choose from, there is always something for everyone in the field of engineering.
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