Hello fellow problem solvers and STEM aficionados! Welcome to this article, which is for you, if you want to use technology/engineering to solve problems in your daily life. I am Akshta Suresh and I am originally from Chennai, a city in the southernmost state of India called Tamil Nadu. I did my bachelor’s in Electronics and Instrumentation in India and came to the US in 2018 to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering at NYU.
If you ask me what made me choose that field, here’s what I’d tell you – “A matchup between two of the greatest maestros of the game – the final was not yet over. As I slipped to the edge of my seat, Rafael Nadal served out the set and gathered the victory points against his bitter-sweet rival, Roger Federer.” This scene used to be a common one about ten years ago. ‘Grand Slam Tennis’ kindled my passion for Tennis and my love for Rafael Nadal. But above all, it kindled the child-like fascination for technology and an excitement for simulation within me. Maybe this was what set the ball rolling for this inquisitive kid in me, who grew up in a generation where the virtual world was developing at an exponential rate. In a world where the unreal seems real, the near-life portrayal of the present-day virtual characters intrigued me and that was the starting point of my interest in technology and engineering. I wanted to be at that point where I got to build these simulation games and what better option than joining a field that teaches the mechanical, electrical and technological aspects of such a concept.
As a person who completely relies on logic and reasoning for every step that I take in my life, the problem-solving aspect in Electronics drew me like a magnet. This, in turn, led me to take the same subject in my High school. As I was taking little steps into the field of electronics, using bread boards and wires to forge connections, I happened to do a project of standardizing and calibrating the galvanometers and potentiometers which triggered in me a spark – a fire to delve deeper into this domain. This project convinced me that electronics was my area of forte and I was offered admission at Sri Sairam Engineering College, one of the premier institutions for engineering in India to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Instrumentation. All the experiences during my undergrad enabled me to realise that the various domains of electronics are interconnected and that working on Robotics and Control provided me with an immense sense of satisfaction and happiness.
This is what prompted me to apply to colleges in the US to enhance my knowledge further in that domain and I ended up selecting NYU to pursue my master’s. I had initially opted for the Mechatronics and Robotics domain but later moved to Electrical Engineering as I believed it provided me with a vast array of career options. And, that’s how I ended up pursuing my master’s in Electrical Engineering with a majority of my electives being from the Robotics domain. The conscious choice I had made helped me balance out my career choice and passion.
Having completed my master’s in Eletrical Engineering, I worked as an Application Engineer at Everel America, a major manufacturer of different types of switches. Later, I realized that I wanted to get into development rather than being on the application side and that’s when I came across Building Momentum, a company that was into training and designing projects for the US Navy, Military and many other companies. Initially, I joined the R&D team and gradually made the transition into the Training team that not only develops cool products but also goes around training people from all walks of life with technology to leverage the skills they learn to solve their day-to-day problems.
In this article, I will take you through a journey of the various career options available in the Electrical Engineering domain, my personal experiences in finding a job and the interesting aspects of my current work in an endeavor to get you excited about making a career in the Electrical Engineering field.
Becoming an Electrical Engineer is a potential career choice as this field has plenty of employment options. The industries you could work with range from government agencies to private tech companies. For a technical product to work in today’s world, electricity/power is essential. In this section, I have listed the various options you have available in the field of Electrical Engineering in the hope that learning about these career paths will assist you in figuring out which one of them is perfect for you.
Looking for jobs can be an exhausting yet rewarding journey. To elucidate this statement, let me share my personal job hunting experience with you. As you all already know from this article, I came to the US in Fall 2018 to pursue my master’s. I graduated in May 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Neither did I have a commencement ceremony nor a job offer at the time I graduated.
It was a really tough situation to be in. I had applied to hundreds of jobs through various sources like LinkedIn, Indeed and even on company websites since the start of the year 2020. I had a few interviews lined up in February but unfortunately, COVID came about and made life altering changes putting the entire world to a lockdown. This resulted in all my interviews for jobs getting cancelled or being put on a hold. Not only was life already hard during COVID, but not being able to attend interviews made it even worse. These were physically, mentally and emotionally testing times.
The virtual system of hiring was new to most companies and in a domain such as Electrical Engineering, it was even harder. Conducting interviews through Zoom and Skype calls was difficult as display of hardware and design experiences couldn’t be done effectively. Being an international student added more hardships and time crunches to my job search as I had a limited number of unemployment days. At that point, I was offered an internship/ training in the Data Science (Machine Learning) field by a company and I took it up to stop my unemployment days. As I attended the training sessions, I felt that it was not a domain in which I wanted to pursue a career. So my search for a job was still on. At one point, I had lost hope but kept applying for positions online and continued developing connections through networking.
I slowly started getting interviews again around October 2020. I finally got my first full-time job offer as an Application Engineer from a company called Everel America in November after three rounds of interviews. The first round was an initial phone screening followed by an online mechanical and electrical aptitude. This was followed by a technical interview with the hiring manager and then I was offered the job. They were a company that was into manufacturing different types of switches and I knew that this was definitely what I wanted to be doing.
As I was working my way through my job, I learnt many new skills and understood how everything worked in a profesional environment. I developed my communication skills as I interacted with many customers to understand their needs and provide solutions. Although I evolved a lot professionally, I felt that there was something still missing. I slowly realized that it was the absence of giving back to the society. As I was pondering on what to do in order to make a difference to the community, I came across this company called Building Momentum that provided problem solving, training and teaching solutions to almost every section of the humankind through technology on LinkedIn and reached out to them reagrding an opportunity to work with them. And the rest is history!
I interviewed with them and there was a total of three rounds in the interview process. The first one was a general screening phone call followed by another phone interview with the CTO of the company. Then, I was asked to come in for an in-person interview where I had to present a solution to a problem set that I had been provided with 48 hours before the interview. Apart from this, I had to teach a new skill to about 7-10 people at the interview as a test of my teaching and training abilities. Last but not the least, I had to solve an Arduino based coding challenge that was provided to me on the spot. It was a very fruitful interview experience for me and a week later, I was offered a position in their R&D team. As time went by, I made a transition to their training team that apart from developing products and solutions also went around providing training to help the people from the army, defense, military and navy come up with creative solutions to problems that they face in the field using technology.
Some technologies that we provide training for are as follows: Software Defined Radios, Drone Technology, Advanced Manufacturing techniques including design and 3D printing, Robot building and Wireless Communications. I recently got promoted to the manager of the Training team and I am really elated to be in a position that is in line with my passion as well as provides me a sense of satisfaction. I had to patiently wait and put in all efforts before I could end up in a job that I really enjoy. So, this proved to me that everything valuable takes time and there are no overnight successes. Staying postive and loving the process and journey does ultimately get rewarded.
If I could go back intime, here’s the career advice I would share with my younger self. This might be the “classic things” as people may call it but I wish I had someone to tell me all these when I was going through the gruelling process of finding a job.
Electrical engineering is a vast field and can be pursued as a successful career in the long run. You can go and search for a lot of jobs in the electrical engineering occupation and its sub-domains as well. It will provide you with a ton of benefits, such as a handsome yearly income, multiple electrical engineering job career opportunities, etc.
Make use of all the resources available to you starting with your school’s career center to networking sessions. Take advantage of your school’s career counsellors – get feedback and suggestions on how to build and refine your resume. Tailor your resume to the role that you are applying for and also practice common interview questions by doing mock interviews with your peers or mentor. Research about various roles in the Electrical Engineering domain and identify the roles most suited to your area of study. Try improving and sharpening your skills in your area of interest and then actively start pursuing for job opportunities in that area.
In conclusion, do not lose sight of your passion during your job search journey. It’s the force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you. Spend your time solving your favorite problems. Embrace opportunities, face challenges with an open mind and do not be afraid to fail because as you all know – “Failures are the stepping stones to success”. Last but not the least, good luck to all of you and always stay passionately curious!