Tuesday, 16 September 2014

One to Watch: Bioengineering student Shruti Vasudev makes her mark on her placement year.

Last year Shruti spoke to us about choosing Sheffield and her experiences so far at the University. A year on and she has made the most of the opportunities that have come her way by actively seeking out further career opportunities and training to add to her ever-growing knowledge and experience of engineering.

Being highly motivated and ambitious one of Shruti’s greatest achievements over this past year took place on her placement year with National Instruments (NI) where she led a team to victory working on a robotic arm draughts opponent.

Tell us about the team you successfully managed to victory:
Each year the Application Engineering (AE) department at NI divides itself into four teams to participate in the four-month long AE projects competition alongside our daily roles. Rather than sit back I nominated myself to become the project manager for one of the groups which saw me lead other interns as well as graduate experienced employees by creating an automated draughts opponent using LabVIEW and the new NI myRIO. We were announced as winners and treated to a lovely day out and gifted an NI branded polo shirt with 'AE project winners 2014' written on the back. 

The experience helped me realise my passion for management and I decided to enroll onto an external self-funded course called PRINCE2. This course is a project management course that many companies follow the principles of and I passed both the foundation and practitioner exams for the course and am now officially a PRINCE2 Practitioner. NI have offered me a graduate job to be taken up upon the completion of my degree after seeing my work and enthusiasm over the year.

How did it feel managing a group of engineers?
Part of my group was made up of interns who started with me and had similar levels of technical knowledge and experience as me so it was easier than I thought. The experienced engineers are great at what they do and with them I took the approach of learning from their individual management styles and experiences. I would ask them for their opinions on how a task should be done and then use the advice that made most sense to me and matched my project plans. When I nominated myself for the role I knew this was my one chance to learn about project management from the experienced team members on this team who had had previous experience at managing teams and were willing to teach me as we went along .

You said you nominated yourself - do you feel pressure to 'step forward' and be seen because of your gender or are you a natural leader?
No, I did not feel pressured at all. I do agree that there are fewer women than men in the engineering industry but that is changing and if you work hard and prove yourself to be worthy of a role then people will respect you irrespective of your gender. I feel I am a natural leader who thrives in management related roles and am constantly trying to improve and further develop my leadership skills by learning from the people around me. 

Every team in the project had a mentor and I took a lot of guidance from our mentor for my project manager role. My mentor helped me develop my management style and advised me on different approaches to managing the different people in the team and I learned a great deal as a result of this.

What’s been the biggest learning curve?
Very early on in this internship I realised that I am here not to prove myself or the skills I already possess but to try and acquire new skills and knowledge from the pool of brilliant, talented and experienced engineers I was working with. This attitude and willingness to learn is what I feel, has benefited me most during this placement year. It has enabled me to have no inhibitions when working with more experienced people in the department and ask them to teach me something they are good at. 

What else are you working on at National Instruments at the moment?
I joined NI as an Applications Engineer, where after my intense training of two months, I began supporting our customers. NI has about 35,000 companies as customers around the world in different sectors of engineering and my role as Applications Engineer is to support these customers using our products. I have to understand their engineering applications which could range from medical to aerospace to radio frequency related. Many at times I need to recreate their problems in our lab using the same products and then try and find a technical solution for them.

I was also given the opportunity to do a three month stint/rotation in the technical sales department as a technical sales engineer. These three months really opened my eyes to the business side of engineering and gave me a different perspective of the industry. My role was primarily understanding the application needs of our customers and supporting them by advising on the right software and hardware products to satisfy their needs. Many at times I had to match their specifications with our products and produce a product list and quote for them. I was mainly in-charge of business in Scotland and North East of England and worked with a Field Engineer based in the area to support our business in the area.

Tell us more about the rowing event you organised as part of the NI team:
This was a fun event. Every year the Newbury Round table organises a massive charity event called Crafty Craft which involves building your own boat, forming a team and taking part in a boat race in the canal in Newbury. This year I was in-charge of organising our team. I began working on oganising teams to work on this event with me and I got some very talented people to fix our boat, paint it and also got some great rowers from the company. The theme for Crafty Craft this year was 'Brazilian Adventure'  and we named our team 'myRIO Car-NI-val' – a pun on the latest NI product myRIO and NI for National Instruments.

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