Women Adore Tech

My persistence for excellence in Analog Electronics – Apoorva Bhatia

Though progress has been made in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented in the STEM field. However, Apoorva Bhatia never let this fact stop her from pursuing her dream of studying Electronics Engineering. Despite being one of the very few women in her degree, she persevered. She completed a B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Mandi and then joined the M.S. in Analog and Mixed Signal Design, a degree in collaboration with Texas Instruments, at the prestigious IIT Madras, India. She now works in the Clock and Timing Team at Texas Instruments, India. Over the course of her successful journey, she has written multiple research papers and contributed to 4 patents. Apoorva shared with us her fascinating M.S. degree, how she overcame her struggles as a woman in engineering, and why she wants more women to have a seat at the table. Keep reading to learn more.

How did your childhood influence your decision to go into Science and Engineering?

When I was young, I would watch documentaries about Astrophysics that aired on Discovery Channel, with my brother. As I grew up, I deviated from Astrophysics and got more curious about Engineering. I also remember hearing about Kalpana Chawla, and her work fascinated me. Also, my uncles are engineers and my father is a doctor, so I gained awareness about the science field early on through their conversations and stories. I gradually learnt about the different branches of Engineering, and that’s how I came across Electronics. My family, too, served as an inspiration. I was lucky that way, in that there were always signs around me that led me onto this journey.

How did an Exchange Programme at IIT Madras shape your Masters trajectory?

Although I was interested in Electronics, I pursued a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from IIT Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, because Electronics was not an option yet at the Bachelors level. By the end of my second year, I decided that I wanted to study further. I had completed some academic internships with professors from other IITs in the country, and my interactions with them solidified my idea of pursuing a Masters degree.
At the time, I also got the chance to be part of an Exchange Programme at IIT Madras, which is very well known in the VLSI field. The Exchange Programme lasted a year, and I completed my final-year Bachelors project there itself. However, I had some credits pending and hence took up some Analog Electronics courses during my time there. During the programme, I learnt the basics of Analog, got involved in laboratory work and interacted directly with many professors in the field. These opportunities sparked my curiosity about Analog Electronics. I hadn’t learnt much about the field during my Bachelors, but the exchange programme made me feel like Analog Electronics was what I was meant to do. So, by the end of my Bachelors degree, I prepared to get into IIT Madras to pursue a Masters in Analog Electronics. I was ecstatic when I got in!

Did your Masters journey improve your professional journey? How has your experience been at Texas Instruments?

The Masters programme in Analog Electronics at IIT Madras is a 3-year course in collaboration with Texas Instruments, which is a giant in the field. As a part of this degree, I got the opportunity to intern with them. My internship work involved working on a design of an 18GHz LNA-Mixer with a high spur-free dynamic range and it included rigorous tests for simulation to silicon correlation. This work was later published in IEEE.
I would really recommend choosing a Masters degree that is in collaboration with the industry if one wishes to get into the corporate sector because it is certainly beneficial. The collaborative structure of my Masters degree helped me learn more about the work culture and developed my skills accordingly. Later, I joined Texas Instruments as an Analog Design Engineer in the Clock and Timing Team. I joined the same team that I’d been interning under for 2 years. This was certainly an added benefit because they already knew about my work ethic, and I also knew the expected work already. Hence, the transition was quite comfortable for me.
I really enjoy problem-solving, so when I was finishing up my Masters and moving to the corporate sector, I was concerned that I would have to give up on problem-solving and get stuck doing repetitive tasks. Luckily, my team at Texas Instruments was working in high-frequency and clean clock generations with a lot of cutting-edge designs (which were still under development). So, after I joined, I had something different to work on almost every year. I was given problems I had to read about and find solutions for, which was really interesting to me. I get to learn and research something new each time.

What kind of projects do you get to work on in your role as Analog Design Engineer?

Over the course of 4 years as an analog design engineer, I’ve worked on different circuits needed for clocking, like high-frequency current steering-based clock buffers and generators, clean CMOS-based clocks and delta-sigma modulator-based temperature sensors to generate temperature insensitive clocks.
The best part of my work has been that it helped me publish 4 patents. My recent patent in 2022 is titled “ Methods and apparatus to implement pulse swallowing circuitry in a phase frequency detector”.

How do you spend your free time?

I love to play table tennis. During my childhood, I represented Uttar Pradesh state in table tennis nationals in the under 12 and under 14 categories. I was also part of the Under 17 team. I still participate in corporate sports tournaments.

What challenges did you face during your journey?

Both my degrees were challenging to some extent. In my Bachelors course, I was one of the 8 women in a batch of 108 people. We were often underestimated because we are women. The boys would refuse to team up with us in the initial years because they thought we weren’t good enough. The boys also felt that the professors were being lenient with us because we are women. We had to constantly prove our technical expertise to be included. In my professional life, too, I have faced some challenges. When I was an intern at TI, I was the only woman in the team. In terms of professional work, everyone was very helpful and kind. However, in informal settings, I often felt left out of the circle. It definitely took time to form informal relationships with my co-workers. I think they felt awkward about including me in casual conversation. I am an introvert, so I found it difficult to interact as well. But now that I am a part of the team, I’ve had enough time to get comfortable with everyone, and I can say I was able to overcome the challenge. When I was starting out, I wished to have more women as seniors and colleagues. Now, I make sure I’m giving that inclusive environment to any woman who joins us– like interns and juniors– so they don’t feel the way I did.

What message would you give to women who want to get into Analog Electronics?

I would say that this can be a high-earning field, but that’s not what you should be in it for. If there is no element of interest, I think it’ll get difficult to sustain yourself. This field demands a lot from you, and you’ll burn out quickly if your heart is not in it. If you want to sustain yourself in the industry, you need to truly love problem-solving and electronics. The field is not particularly easy– it gets hectic and you have to study a lot. But if you enjoy this, it won’t ever feel like too much work.

I want to be someone who people can approach when they’re stuck in a problem. Most of all, I want to be remembered as an innovator– someone who is so technically sound in the field that I can come up with a solution for the most difficult challenges. When I’m able to fix a problem or create something new– like coming up with a new circuit– each solution is a victory to me

-Apoorva Bhatia

Content Editor: Giripriya Pai
Reviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand
Interviewer: Maanasa Sachidanand

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