While women engineers in electronics have been consistently low in numbers, Madhura Purnaprajna, professor at PES university says that the trend is slowly changing with many initiatives for women both in industry and academia. Here are a few excerpts from her conversation with the EFY.
You had selected the electronics and communications field for education. Why did you select and what did you aim to be?
I was always interested in Maths. Electronics felt like a balance between maths, reasoning, and hands-on tinkering. I wanted to learn, explore and contribute genuinely to technological advancements. My dream was to excel in the art of scientific investigation. I did not see myself fitting into the system, pursuing routine engineering tasks. I wanted to actively participate in research to push the boundaries of technology.
You had focussed on computing applications and architectures from the first few years of your journey. How did you choose and carry it forward within academic lines?
Computing applications and architectures rely on the design of efficient target devices. My focus has been to design these target devices efficiently. Within academia, I get the freedom to explore unconventional methods without the fear of failure, because failure comes with lots of new lessons.
How was your first job and would you tell us how you got it?
My first job was as a hardware design engineer at Spike Technologies (acquired by Qualcomm). I worked on the design of a bus functional model for the I2C serial interface controller. My BTech project guide referred me for this job. The primary reason for taking up this position was that it was exactly what I wanted to work on, viz, Digital VLSI design. I gave up other software job offers to explore VLSI design.
It was very exciting — stepping out of college, trying to prove to the real world that you have what it takes to innovate and make a difference.
What are the key mistakes made and learnings from them over the years?
My key mistakes have been around the fear of failure and sometimes in overthinking, trying to solve problems all by self. In the long run, I learnt that one could excel by getting into the details and also it is absolutely okay to seek help when you feel stuck. If bored, be bold to try something new. Teamwork helps and remember it is amazing to befriend constructive criticism.
Any mentors/colleagues who played a significant role in enabling you to succeed in your professional journey?
I was fortunate to have senior colleagues, with whom I could seek advice and mentoring. I was in a mentoring circle with senior professors and other fellow doctoral candidates. Even today, I seek advice from senior colleagues. Advice from experienced mentors has played a vital role in all stages of my profession journey.
Any one tip for male colleagues to make it a more levelled field for women?
Make it more inclusive. Focus more on quality, culture, and excellence. Like at home, a gender balanced workplace is bound to thrive!
Sometimes women might not be loud enough or aggressive, this is not an indicator of lack of confidence or talent. Your efforts to include them will result in some remarkable ideas and discussions.
How do you see the future of the electronics industry and what would tell youngsters contemplating between electronics and other popular streams like computer science, AI/ML, etc?
Electronics gives you an edge over popular streams like computer science and AI/ML. You have the inside knowledge of what happens within a computing system at transistor-level — giving you crucial information on how computing systems operate. This inside knowledge is extremely essential in any field, be it computer science or AI/ML. We need high-performance, energy-efficient computing systems in all domains.
If you are not sure, try it. Take a decision based on how you like it, not solely on what others say.