Our work at ACM-W majorly focuses on the gender disparities in the various fields of engineering and encourages the decrement of the same. The third article of our series features Shreyaa R, a final year student majoring in Mechanical Engineering, who is a stellar example of maintaining balance between passions and academics. She is actively part of ACM, Baja NITK Racing, the Music Club and Genesis, the Dance Crew. She has done internships at reputed companies like ExxonMobil and Royal Enfield. Her interests lie in CFD as well as the medical field. She will start her work as associate engineer at Caterpillar after completion of her degree. Shreyaa has been an exemplary member of ACM and motivated us at every step of life.
The number of women choosing mechanical as a field – in our college to be specific – has spiked very recently, what was it like taking it up when the numbers were still very low?
- I was advised by pretty much everyone to not take up mechanical because the girl to boy ratio is extremely low and there will be courses like workshop that girls cannot do or may not have the strength to do, but I wanted to take it up and prove them wrong. In fact, since we’re in an NIT, the number of girls in the mechanical branch is still relatively high compared to the private colleges. I had applied to some of those as well and over there it was about 3 girls among 300 students, but here it’s about 8 mechanical girls in 160 and even more in the recent batches. While applying everyone asked, “Are you sure, are you completely sure?” In the beginning it was intimidating, but now it’s challenging. Going back home, people respond to me pursuing mechanical engineering by “Ooh that’s interesting…” or “Did you actually want mechanical?”
It’s never really a normal response!
You have been a part of multiple projects in the past 2 years, could you give us an insight on some of them and how you managed to put them in your schedule which includes a multitude of college clubs you’re actively a part of?
- Honestly, there is no particular schedule. Like every other student, I procrastinate a lot or just perform really well under that final deadline pressure which is how I think I got through most of it. Usually, even if you set apart half an hour and dedicate yourself to your work, that’s more than enough. I sacrificed my sleep schedule but if you really set your mind and schedule a concentrated time period, you can actually achieve a lot. Many people leave other clubs once they get into a tech club to work towards their resumes, but I ended up going to the dance room as a way to escape from all the work. In my point of view, clubs actually give you an out more than making your schedule hectic. They give you space, and interacting with people gives you a break. Once you come back, you can work much more efficiently! Usually in college, either almost all the clubs are working at the same time or no clubs are working. So in cases like these, you have to decide where your presence is more required and prioritise accordingly. If possible, shift schedules slightly. For me, I don’t touch academics at all until after 11PM. I’m a night owl. I work better in the late hours. It’s silent and I have a clearer mind then. The eleventh hour pressure makes me be super productive and that’s what helps me the most (would not advise this level of procrastination though). There’s no such secret behind managing all at once; it’s just mostly working under the pressure and getting it done.
The past two internships you’ve been part of are both highly esteemed and respected companies, how different was your experience compared to what we are prepared for in college?
- Firstly, what you envision your workplace to be is completely different from what it actually is! We expect it to be super formal but there’s a nice level of informality associated with it as well. With Exxon, I didn’t really get to experience the proper work culture because it was an online internship. They don’t babysit you through your work. They assign you a project but you have to learn on your own, talk to others and get it done. Whereas in college, the professors will ask you questions about the progress and keep checking in for updates or where you’re getting stuck. For the internship, they just overlook your progress.
- In Enfield, I actually learnt how to apply what we’ve learnt in an industrial manner! A lot of what we learn in college is theoretical but there you see how to apply what you’ve learnt and it’s nice to see that correlation. You get a better understanding of everything once you see it practically.
Being one of the few women in a very male dominated line of subjects, did you ever feel underappreciated or overshadowed?
- A lot of times, actually. First is actually during workshops, the instructors tend to help the girls because they think we can’t do it as well as the boys and as a result come across a lot nicer to the girls than the boys. I would specifically tell sir, “No, let me do this on my own. I want to do it.” Second, when we secured an internship with ExxonMobil it was only two girls who got it, so people commented that we only got it cause we were girls. Being constantly judged by gender, even when I got placed, there was a part of me that wondered if that was the only reason, and if I even deserve to be placed. There have been several moments where the girls were undermined, but I think at the end of it all we came out on top.
What lies in your eyes for your future with your varied interests including your active participation in ACM and BNR as well as music, dance and writing?
- I don’t know if I have a clear cut answer for this. I feel like I’m sort of figuring out where I stand exactly. The projects I’ve done, even the major project I’m doing right now, are in CFD but with a medical focus. I think ever since second year, I’ve been drawn towards the medical field so I see myself doing something in that further but I also liked the marketing internship I did at Exxon. It made me question what I really want and that’s why I sat for placements in core because I liked working and I would like to see what the industry really looks like. As for marketing, I don’t know. Maybe 2 years down the lane, if I still enjoy it then maybe MBA is an option. Or I could do an MS. Music and dance aren’t just mere hobbies, I take them as seriously as my academics and writing is pure leisure. Maybe one day I’d be able to integrate all of them in my life.
At last, what is your advice to your juniors who are still steering through the haze? How to claim your stand and make sure you’re being heard and appreciated?
- The first thing is that you have to constantly keep working for you to get somewhere, whether in a club or in your internships. The minute you slack off, somebody will take your place. In clubs, I actively take part in everything.Your work speaks for yourself. It’s only if you give something back to the club that people talk about you. Two years from now, people will not remember me but only my work. Till date, whenever we talk about the seniors, we talk about what they gave to the club. When you set your work ethic, people will recognize you for it. If you’ve signed up for something, keep working for it and do it whole-heartedly. Don’t slack off cause then you’ll never get recognized. I think the accurate term would be ‘hustle’ and that’s literally all you need to do. You don’t have to be the best at what you do, but whatever you do, do it well. You don’t have to work 24 hours a day, concentrate your time. To figure out your field of interest, projects are the best solution. My club projects really helped me figure out where I wanted to go. In both the second and third year, I took up CFD projects with ACM which helped me explore that field. Another thing that helped was electives. Like I said, what we learn in college does not directly apply but it will give you some idea of whether you like it or absolutely hate it. I don’t think I narrowed down on anything specific but it helped me eliminate what I didn’t like at the least. Looking for research papers also helped me. Online internships are actually the one thing I regret not taking up. They might have helped me try things in a different field. Our college has a lot of opportunities, definitely take up whatever comes your way. It’ll help you out. The college isn’t gonna spoon feed us but something will come along the way definitely and you’ll figure out that that’s what works for you. There’s no time like this, so explore as much as you can!
We are grateful to Shreyaa for sharing her experiences and time with us. Furthermore, we wish her the best of luck for her journey which will surely bring us nothing but more inspiration and motivation.
Curated by: Gayatri Gundawar