1. What’s your education background?Electrical Engineer and MBA (Finance and Marketing)
2. Did you apply for and/or obtain any scholarships?I received a merit entrance scholarship for a $1,000 during my undergrad, however, I did not apply for any other college scholarships for women in STEM or general STEM field college scholarships and internships.
3. Did you have any internships? If so, what did you learn from them?I did have two paid internships. The first was with Nortel Networks as a paid junior design engineer and the second at Hewlett Packard (HP) as an inside field applications engineer. I learned a lot on juggling multiple priorities, fine tuning my communication skills with different audiences, conflict resolution within a remote global team and how to handle constructive criticism from veteran engineers.
4. How would you describe your current job in layman’s terms? What does a typical work day look like for you?In layman’s terms: I am the solver of all problems and making sure we hit the revenue numbers we commit to our shareholders on a monthly basis. A typical work day starts around 5 a.m. on a conference call with my team in China. I will review my operations metrics with them and also help solve any outstanding issues they have (capital requests, quality issues, customer issues, supply chain issues etc.). From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., I typically review/answer my emails. I will conduct business/customer reviews from 9 a.m. onward with my direct reports and the sales team to get a status on large strategic opportunities. I’ll have a separate meeting to review product roadmaps and cost with my product management teams after any business review. Typically, after lunch, I get together with my engineering teams to review status on their projects. The rest of the afternoon will usually include customer calls or meetings. My days are extremely dynamic since I travel a lot to Asia and Europe. One day could be spent entirely at my factory attending a customer audit or product development meeting or could be meeting a high level customer for a strategic request for quotation (RFQ).
5. What do you love most about your job?I love seeing the results (such as order and revenue) from all the hard work my team puts in daily. Increased revenue means our customers are actually buying the products we design.
6. What advice do you have for students going into STEM fields?My advice is to reach out to people in the industry you are targeting. Gain an understanding of what they do, what skills they have or have acquired, ask lots of questions and use them as your mentor to guide you through your education and especially while entering the workforce.
7. What specific advice do you have for females going into the field?Don’t focus on being one of the few women in a field or industry. Concentrate on constantly honing your skills to make yourself invaluable and an expert in an area. Put in the hours, hold yourself and those around you to a high standard of excellence, be professional and be prepared. Build a strong network around you. You will need to rely on your network especially when navigating the barriers women often experience in STEM fields. Set a goal, build a plan (including acquiring skills you’ll need to achieve execute the plan), schedule regular touch points (monthly talks or visits) and stay persistent. Most importantly, speak up. Speak up to have your opinions heard or especially when something doesn’t feel right.
8. What qualities should students thinking about pursuing a STEM career have in order to be successful?Persistence, out of the box thinking and determination.
9. What’s it like being a successful woman in a male-dominated field? Any advice?Being successful in a male-dominated environment can be very challenging and amazing all the same time. Challenges exist, like being taken seriously as a high level leader when all your direct reports are males that are at least 10-15 years older or dealing with a boys’ club mentality. As proud as I am of my accomplishments, there are still days I come home and feel like more barriers went up that day versus came down. During these times, I take a time out for myself to remember everything I’ve accomplished, remember my goals/visions and that tomorrow is a new day. Know that you’re not alone and keep going!
10. What do you think the solution is to get more females in STEM fields?Early exposure to STEM activities and industries. The earlier, the better. It has been proven that girls learn a lot quicker than boy even at the preschool level. Expose young girls to strong females and achievers in STEM fields. Make it part of their normal everyday life. If you have a question for our featured woman in STEM, Susan Prakash, send an email to ask Susan your question today.
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