Women Adore Tech

Navigating life’s challenges to become an Aerospace engineer – Karthika Rani Ramdoss

“Victory is always possible for those who refuse to stop fighting.” Karthika Rani Ramdoss is the perfect example of this. Many doubted Karthika’s decision to move away from her hometown and study Aerospace Engineering. Her parents were sceptical too, unsure of where this path would take her. However, despite it all, Karthika persevered, completing her bachelor's in Aerospace Engineering from Amity University, Noida, India. She then successfully started her career as a Technical Data Engineer at CADES-Studec Technologies India and then moved on to work as a Design Engineer at Aadyah Aerospace Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, India. In this article, Karthika tells us about how she chose Aerospace, her internship at ISRO, why she believes mentors are important, and more.

Describe your childhood and how it had an impact on your choice of study.

When I was young, I primarily watched two TV shows– “Cosmos- A Space time Odyssey” and “How The Universe Works”. I was fascinated by the mysteries of the universe and always wanted to be involved with something related to space. My passion for Aerospace, however, came from reading a book called Wings of Fire by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. I could truly relate to Dr. Kalam since my life experiences resembled his. Reading that book made me realise what it means to be an Aerospace Engineer and that it was the right fit for me. Another major force in my life was my mentor, Thamilarasi, who I met in the 8th Grade. She was like a teacher to me. She motivated me to pursue my dreams, whatever they may be. She believed that passion and career dreams don’t see your gender– only your talent. As long as you work hard and persevere, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

How did you decide on a university for your Bachelors course and what was the experience like?

I pursued my Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering from Amity University, Noida. My Bachelors experience was enriching. Amity allowed me to build myself in all aspects of both my professional and personal life. I especially appreciated their teaching methodology. There was no spoon-feeding involved. Lecturers always told us, “If you are truly interested in the subject, it is you who has to take action.” I found that very motivating. In the spirit of their advice, I would try to absorb as much of the class as possible and make a note of things that I found difficult. I would then approach my professors after class to bombard them with all my questions! Apart from academics, we also received a great deal of exposure to the Aerospace world. We had conferences regularly and the faculty actively encouraged the students to attend and participate in them. We also had industrial visits. Altogether, these experiences greatly benefited me.

How was it to move far away from your hometown for higher education?

I’d been in my home town in the state of Tamil Nadu since Kindergarten. I really wanted to step out of that comfort zone to explore. That was the primary motivation behind moving to Uttar Pradesh for university. I wanted to meet new people and expose myself to a different environment. My parents were quite sceptical about this choice. While they had no issue with me moving out of state, the thought of sending me all the way to North India was worrying them, because of the stark difference in language, culture and especially women’s safety. However, I thought it was a risk worth taking and I was confident about moving out. I will admit, the first few months in Noida were quite difficult. Everything was new– the food, temperatures, weather, culture etc. But I learnt how to be independent and take care of myself.

What was your internship at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) like?

During my Bachelors, I was more inclined towards space than aeronautical. Concepts like space dynamics and rocket propulsion intrigued me. So, I set out to look for internships in the field. Through a few references, I got the opportunity to do an internship at ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. It was an incredible experience. I was fortunate enough to watch a live rocket launch– the PSLV C35, I think. It was like my childhood dream coming true. Watching the rocket take off truly solidified my passion for aerospace. But the internship made me realise that aerospace and rocket science is not an easy job. It’s a very complex and advanced system. No wonder people dedicate their whole lives towards this science!

For anyone looking at similar internships, I recommend reaching out to faculty and making use of their connections or looking for conferences so you can make your own connections. Some of my professors had good contacts and references who worked at ISRO, so I approached it through them, but I have also made some very strong connections through conferences. You may feel intimidated to interact with people because of their knowledge and experience, but taking the initiative is worth it. I’m certain that if you take action, you will get at least 1 beneficial opportunity.

What is your current role at Aadyah Aerospace?

In Aadyah, I work as a Design Engineer on a satellite project. I deal with both mechanical and propulsion systems. In my previous role at CADES-Studec Technologies, I only analysed the CAD drawings. Now, I have the pleasure of developing systems from scratch as well as studying them. The best part about my role is that I work for the Mechanical and propulsion subsystems, which allows me to interact with experts from other subsystems like Attitude, Determination & Control, Power Systems, Communication Systems etc. I’ve learnt more about the role of each subsystem in their area and how they perform. I have a greater understanding of how a satellite works and what it takes to build one. I also really appreciate Aadyah as a company for providing me with enough opportunities to build myself and constantly supporting employees’ ideas.

What skills set apart an excellent candidate from a good one when it comes to job opportunities for aerospace students?

Frankly, given the number of graduates nowadays, a simple degree is not entirely sufficient. But you become a desirable candidate if you have some good core basic skills. First and foremost, you should focus on being clear in all essential concepts, since they’re the building blocks for everything else. With that, if you have some kind of experience, like internships or knowing some specific software or tools, it will definitely benefit you. When I had just graduated, I did not have software skills. However, I was good with the technical side of things, so I looked for opportunities where I could put this skill to use. I joined the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), a non-profit organisation. Working groups are also beneficial in building skills as you get the opportunity to interact with so many people from all over the work. I was part of a working group called Space Debris Mitigation during my 3rd year of college. I co-authored a research paper about using lasers to mitigate space debris. Since my technical skills had further evolved as a result of these experiences, I was able to secure a job. I am aware that nowadays organisations mostly prefer Masters students, but this obstacle can be overcome if you use other means and platforms to improve your concepts and knowledge base to show the organisation that you have just as much calibre as any Master's student.

What is an accomplishment you’re really proud of?​

Recently, I received the SGAC-ispace Scholarship award of $2000. They funded my trip to Paris for the International Astronautical Congress 2022 and Space Generation Congress 2022. I felt really proud– my hard work had finally paid off. It was unreal because I never imagined I would go to another country for a conference in the field I’m so passionate about! Sometimes, I question these moments– is this even real? I am truly living my dream life. Things are finally going the way I want them to and I’m very proud of where I am in life.​

What has been the driving factor throughout your journey?

Two things motivate me, the first being my passion for Aerospace. There was a time during my education when I had to temporarily discontinue my studies for almost a month because I didn’t have the money to pay my fees. My parents were almost at the point of asking me to discontinue entirely and shift to a different course. But I did not give up hope. Something inside me told me that this is what I’m meant to do and I cannot quit. I assured my parents that the risk they were taking by investing such a big amount in my dream will not go to waste. I’m glad that it was all worth it in the end!
The second biggest motivation in my life has been my mother. Whenever life is hard, I think about her. She passed away a few years ago right after I graduated from college. Even though she is not here anymore, I can feel her presence still. Whatever I do today is because of her. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I dedicate it all to her, because of all the hard work she did and the risks she took for me. Whenever I feel like quitting, I remember that my mother believed in my dreams. She didn’t study much and had no background in science. Yet, she was confident that I would make something of myself. Her belief motivates me to do better every day.

What would you say to women who are interested in Aerospace?

For those interested in pursuing this field, I’d say– be clear that Aerospace is your cup of tea. This field involves a lot of advanced and complex developments. The work environment is such that you have to work really hard. There is barely any scope for mistakes. Any kind of negligence can result in failures that cost millions of dollars, meaning that there is a high degree of risk and seriousness involved in this job. But if you are certain that this is your calling, go for it. An obstacle some may face is convincing family to join the field, which is often difficult for a woman. But I’m sure that if this is your passion, no one will stop you. Importantly, find a mentor. I understand that it can be awkward to approach a stranger and ask them to mentor you, but there are many platforms at your disposal today which will help you find the right guide. Everything gets sorted when you have a mentor. The SGAC also runs mentorship programs wherein you can get mentored by those in the field that you like. I have benefitted a great deal from the mentorship program, my mentor Ms Pushya helped me in many ways. I can assure you that success is guaranteed when you have a mentor who has your back.

Finally, I want to pass on two of my beliefs. One is the law of attraction– “When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it - Paulo Coelho”. Second is having a pay-it-forward mentality. Do good and good will come to you. I have felt this deeply in my life. Where I am today is all because of the generosity and kindness of many others who have helped and guided me at each step. So remain grateful for the people who support you and pledge to pay it forward.

-Karthika Rani Ramdoss

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

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