Women Adore Tech

Embracing Change to pursue her love for Electronics – Sangeeta Kumar

Sangeeta’s story is an example of the quote, “Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation”. The moment she realized that her job did not align with her goals, she took the brave step to quit and followed her inner call to pursue her dreams. With a Bachelor in Electronics and Telecommunications from the College of Engineering, Pune and a Master in Analog and Mixed-signal VLSI from the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras (IITM), Sangeeta is currently working as an analog and mixed-signal design engineer at Texas Instruments, India (TII). Read more to know how she used the opportunities in her life, how she got into her current role, and what keeps her driven to accomplish more.

What introduced you to the world of science and eventually opt for Electronics in your bachelor’s?

Science is a field where one must constantly question everything, and you must never accept things as they are. From my childhood, I was always motivated to ask questions. In addition, my parents always encouraged me to find answers to my questions and provided constant support. Furthermore, my natural desire to experiment and books guided me toward the world of science.
Honestly, until 12th grade, my interest was to become a doctor. However, later, I discovered that my real interest lay in Physics and Mathematics. I was intrigued by the principles behind the working of electronic gadgets such as cordless phones, which were just emerging. I was particularly mesmerized by the working of a mobile phone. The invisible carrier carrying voice between a speaker and receiver seemed like magic to be at the time. And thus, I found my calling in the field of electronics and telecommunications.

Describe your bachelor’s journey.

During my undergraduate program, the topics that fascinated me were Analog VLSI, and communication. Unfortunately, my university did not offer good courses for them at the time. I would relate these concepts to a mystical world filled with mathematical models. The fact something as tiny as an electron could be predicted and manipulated into a myriad of innovations truly astonished me. I never missed any opportunity to learn. I was a part of the robotics club where I built several systems, one such being a line-follower robot that can identify a white line drawn on a black surface and follow it. I have also worked on the robots as a part of the ABU Robocon International competition, winning the runner’s up title across India. My time in Robotics gave me hands-on experience in system-level design.

How was your work experience after your bachelor’s and why did you decide to pursue a master’s?

As I mentioned earlier, my college did not offer good courses on Analog VLSI. So, I chose to pursue a job while preparing for higher studies. I worked at a manufacturing plant after my bachelor’s but the role was more management-oriented focused on the supply chain, and not very technical. I soon realized that studying for entrance exams while managing a full-time job was a daunting task. So, I decided to leave my job and focus fully on my studies, grateful that my family fully supported my decision. This period was particularly stressful and lonely for me as I had given up my only backup option and I could see all my friends earning well and enjoying their settled lives. Fortunately, I cleared GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) in 2015 with a good all-India rank and also cleared the written test and interview for the TI-MS program conducted by IITM. This program is unique in a way that it combines learnings from both IITM as well as TII in giving students a blend of exposure to the field of both academics as well as industry. Soon, a couple of my friends followed suit in deciding to quit their jobs to pursue masters and I am glad that I could guide them in their journeys.

Describe your master’s journey and how it helped you prepare for your current role at TI.

I did my M.S. (by research) in Analog and Mixed-signal VLSI. It was a collaborative research program where I spent one year at IITM with my coursework and two years in TI as an intern, working on a project required by the industry. My coursework at IITM equipped me with the knowledge I needed to pursue my degree. It was a steep learning curve especially due to a year-long gap after my bachelor’s and it was both exciting as well as challenging. The beautiful IITM campus also helped make my experience a fond one. During my internship with TI, I got well-versed in the latest industrial software and gained knowledge from my peers. All these helped me gain the required skillset for my current job. I also had access to world-class laboratories and all the resources needed for learning.

As a part of my master’s thesis, I designed a very accurate testing system that was used to test very accurate analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), which means the testing setup had to be more accurate than the ADCs that were tested using them. Under the excellent guidance of my research guide, Prof. Nagendra Krishnapura (HOD, Elec Dept., IITM) and my mentors at TI, I was able to push the boundaries of innovation.

My thesis work was accepted at the TITC (Texas Instruments Technical Conference) in 2018 and I got to present my work to the leaders at TI. My work was also published in an IEEE journal and I got the opportunity to present it at the International Symposium for Integrated Circuits and Systems (ISICAS) in 2019, which was conducted in Venice, Italy.

What’s your current role at Texas Instruments and your future goals?

Currently, my job includes designing integrated chips that are used for various industrial and automotive applications. I understand the requirements of our customers and convert those requirements to design specifications and implement those on silicon within the targeted cost and power consumption budgets. I also contribute to the research that goes into developing TI’s state-of-the-art IP’s in the form of patents and technical papers. I have created my own design methodology which makes my work unique. In the future, I would like to mentor young aspirants in my projects and encourage more women to pursue this field. This would be mutually beneficial. I would also like to focus more on channelling my design based on current industry requirements and explore the business side and widen my knowledge in other areas of my industry.

What were your most challenging moments and how you overcame them?

Until my schooling, I was undeterred by others’ opinions and was always focused on my goal. But as I grew up, I found it difficult to voice out my opinion and aspirations when being stereotyped by society. The best way I found to stay focused is to have a firm plan and direction in my mind and develop the discipline to channel all my thoughts and efforts into it. I firmly believe that young girls must absorb such assertive qualities right from childhood since habits you learn in your childhood are entrenched and define you.

At the beginning of my career, I also found myself sceptical about accepting challenging roles because I would doubt my capabilities while discounting the fact that most skills needed for a job are acquired “on the job”. A quota by a senior TI leader, “If you feel 100% suited for a job, it’s already too late”, completely blew my mind. I started accepting challenging tasks with zero self-doubts and channelled my energy into finding solutions, blissfully comfortable in the knowledge that if I wasn’t capable enough, I wouldn’t be offered the task in the first place. I am also constantly working on building my confidence by being more decisive and a better communicator for which I take help from several tools like reading relevant books, attending Toastmasters meetings, etc. I now firmly believe that even if I don’t have the knowledge/skill required for a task, I have the skills to easily obtain it.

My driving factor is that I love to be challenged and aspire to make the impossible possible.

Never let self-doubt keep you from aiming high. Question every stereotype that comes your way and more importantly, question every voice in your head that says you are not capable enough. Prove them both wrong

-Sangeeta Kumar

Content Editor: Sathya Priya Sakthivel
Reviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand, Giripriya Pai
Interviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand

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