Welcome to the month of May! And as promised, we will be featuring some amazing stories from some amazing people! All month, you can tune in to the 96Boards Blogs section to find new stories each weekday… That’s 23 interviews! If you just so happen to land on this blog and would like to read more about the initiative, please drop by the Women in STEM landing page. This month will be packed with featured content and plenty of opportunities to engage and participate.
Please read on to hear about this months FIRST featured guest’s story. Alveera Ahsan, an electrical engineer with great role models and some excellent STEM experience and advice.
The Interview - First of a kind. We are pleased to introduce you to Alveera Ahsan
- Name: Alveera Ahsan
- Age group: 26-30
- STEM Field of Study (or profession): Electrical Engineer
Q: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and who is it from?
Alveera: “When you stumble, keep faith. And when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” - Hillary Clinton
Q: What was (or is) your favorite subject in school and why?
Alveera: “Mathematics. I loved learning about mathematics because it was objective where everything could be quantified. Also, I enjoyed learning about mathematicians and scientists i.e. Leibniz, Lewis Carroll, Descartes, Ramanujan, Hedy Lamarr, and Ada Lovelace.”
Q: What was your daily routine like (in school, work, or at home). How might this have impacted/influenced your participation in STEM?
Alveera: “My daily routine in high school/college involved taking a lot of science and math courses, which made me interested to learn further about them.”
Q: Describe the first time you heard about STEM, why was this an appealing thing to be a part of?
Alveera: “I knew about STEM since middle school. It was appealing to me because you can build things when you’re a part STEM, especially engineering. I fix most of the broken things in my house.”
Q: When was the first time you became actively involved in STEM? Do you recall a specific project or initiative?
Alveera: “When I first bought my Raspberry Pi board and I wanted to know from my friends and family how to build/create DIY projects. I actively started coding and playing with hardware on a regular basis.”
Q: How have your beliefs, motivations and aspirations changed over time? When did a career in STEM become a priority or choice?
Alveera: “I never thought that I become an engineer. My high school teacher thought that I was a natural when it comes to mathematics. Thus, I ended up following the path and studied Electrical Engineering at UC San Diego. After graduation, I started working for Intel.”
Q: Who has served as an ‘influencer’ in your path to a STEM focused education and/or career?
Alveera: “Hedy Lamarr, Grace Hopper, and Ada Lovelace were a true influence. These women paved the path for modern day engineering and made me realize why I should pursue STEM.”
Q: What is your dream job? Can you see any roadblocks or challenges which might be influenced by your gender?
Alveera: “My dream job was to work in some big project at Intel and currently I’m at my dream job. I consider myself lucky for that reason. Yes, I do see a lot of roadblocks. It’s quite a lonely path for a woman since there are only handful of women in engineering.”
Q: Are hobbies in STEM important? What about hobbies in general? Can you share some of your hobbies that may (or may not) have contributed to your STEM involvement?
Alveera: “Yes, hobbies are extremely important. When I was young, I was always intrigued how electricians used to fix electrical units in our house. I used to ask the electricians and how they were such magicians. I was awe in with fixing things from computers to electrical units, which made me get involved into STEM.”
Q: Has there been any point when you (or someone close to you) wanted to give up STEM (work, hobby, both)? What made you stay?
Alveera: “So many times! In college, I always felt like I never belonged in the field since there was less than 10% women in the Electrical Engineering major and it was really difficult for me to cope in a fast paced environment. My mom pushed me to stay in the field and told me not to quit. I realized that if I quit, then there will be one less women in STEM and I changed my mind. I decided to stay and become an engineer.”
Women in STEM Impact
Q: What does STEM mean to you?
Alveera: “EVERYTHING! STEM is an important part of my everyday life. I’m writing these responses on my PC currently and it’s because of STEM. STEM is bridging the gap in a drastic way and it is helping the society to advance.”
Q: Can you recall any times when you questioned your involvement in STEM because of your gender?
Alveera: “I have that moment almost once every month. I work in a lab and I notice on a regular basis that how there are only always handful of women who are working with me. I always wonder why that is the case.”
Q: What are some of the personal experiences - or compelling arguments - that have influenced your thinking around gender and STEM, and have motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?
Alveera: “Less women in the field motivates me to succeed and do well in the field because I want to serve as a role model. I want to inspire women from every background to get involved in STEM. It’s extremely rewarding once you succeed in the field.”
Q: Can you talk a bit about some of the specific ways you have advocated for change? If so, please tell us more about the successes and challenges you faced?
Alveera: “Many of my fellow female classmates wanted to dropout from STEM. I always tried to influence them by telling stories about successful STEM fellows who overcame adversities. The success part was most of my friends who wanted to quit, but did end up pursuing STEM and received a degree. However, not many people stayed in the field unfortunately. They did work for a brief amount of time, but a lot of them quit after they thought the work was too demanding. It breaks my heart, when I hear such stories because people should reach out and seek help in times of trouble. I always try to help people when they feel dejected about their careers. Recently, I helped a friend from quitting and he ended up landing a great position at HP Enterprise.”
Q: Do you have a network of women in STEM around you to share knowledge and remind you you are not alone? If so, how did you go about creating that network?
Alveera: “I do not. But I wish to be a part of one soon.”
Q: Do you have a mentor or friend who inspires you? How/Why? (someone you know personally)
Alveera: “My colleagues at Intel are quite inspirational. I try to emulate their paths and career. My mentor Chitto, who has a Post Doctorate in Electrical Engineering inspires me. He is working in 5G and I wish to be part of some path breaking projects like that in the future.”
Q: Are you involved/can you recommend any organization(s) that support Women in STEM (shoutouts)?
Alveera: “At work, there is an organization called Women in Intel (WINS) where we advocate and help fellow women in STEM.”
Q: Can you name any women who have made a strong impact in the STEM community? How has their impact made an influenced your life?
Alveera: “Hedy Lamarr and Sandy Lerner. Both these women influenced me deeply. Hedy was an actress during WWII and in her spare time she used to work on frequency hopping architecture, which gave us the modern day Bluetooth ® wireless technology. She donated her work to the US military and they rejected her work because she was a mere actress. However, she was never recognized for her work, she did paved the way for a great technology for the future. Sandy Lerner, one of the co-founder of Cisco, worked in a farm in her earlier years and then studied Political Science for undergraduate. Eventually she pursued Computer Science and Statistics from Stanford University for her graduate studies. While at Stanford she came up with the idea of routers. She wanted to communicate with two computers and ended up creating the first router. I work in a wireless technology group and I see the monumental work Hedy and Sandy have bestowed upon us. I’ll forever be grateful to these two female STEM heroes.”
Q: Are there any (YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc…) influencers out there who inspire you regularly? How/Why?
Alveera: “Sheryl Sandberg, even though never studied STEM. But she is part of Facebook, which is one of the biggest technology companies in the world. Her story as a women in tech is inspirational and how she changed Facebook with her ideas. She made Facebook profitable by advocating for the ad models.”
Q: Top three changes which could make life easier for Women in STEM?
Alveera: “As a STEM fellow, we should create networks and support group for women who are currently pursuing STEM in college and inspire them with our stories. Reach out and help people financially if you have the means to support. Take pride in your work and share what you’re doing with the world by inspiring others.”
Advice to the younger you and women considering a career in STEM
Q: Which achievement do you look at and think “I’d love to go back in time and tell younger me that this was possible”?
Alveera: “In college, I would go back and tell my younger self that things would be fine and I shouldn’t stress too much. Sometimes you may not end up where you want to go immediately, but there is a reason for it. Always trust your journey.”
Q: Did you ever stay at a place where politics got in the way of curiosity, technical progress or personal growth? How did you realize, and at which point did you decide to move on?
Alveera: “It happened many times in my life. I sometimes confront and then move away. These days, I’m lucky enough and I speak to my manager by asking him to assign to a different project. It’s part of life and we have to accept the reality of it. The best part is to be vocal and tactful. Never engage in gossip against your managers.”
Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your STEM path, what would that be?
Alveera: “I would take more mathematics and computer science courses on top of my major. There wasn’t much time to pursue so many different things though.”
Q: What advice would you give to women who are 1) Curious about STEM, 2) Questioning their STEM related studies, 3) Questioning their STEM related career?
Alveera: “JUST DO IT! Ask others who are in the field and try to seek help from successful STEM fellows. The rewards from STEM outweighs the struggles any given day.”