According to a Survey taken by Women’s Engineering Society in 2017, only 11% of the worlds engineering workforce are Women. Surprising enough, another statistics from Joint Council for Qualifications, shows that girls normally out-perform boys in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. Then why don’t we just see more women Engineers in the field yet?
Today on March 8th, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. A large part of the celebration involves spreading the awareness of Gender parity and emphasizing on equality. So, we decided to approach a successful Indian Women Engineer from a prominent filed who could share her experience. Hence we connected with Ms. Piyali Goswami who is a Software Application Engineer in Texas Instruments and she was generous enough to discuss the following with us.
Q1. What is your Job Profile in TI? How does a day in your office go like?
I am a Software Applications engineer. A typical day at office consists of working closely with ADAS customers to understand their system and software problems and offer optimal and innovative solutions to help them get the best out of TI devices. The team here is very close and jovial. Whether it is friendly banter, discussions (sometimes very passionate) on sports, opinions on the latest movie or spontaneous plans of eating out, there is always something fun and exciting to look forward to everyday. The best part is we get to share the closeness even with our worldwide teams as the work and interactions span across the globe.
Q2. What made you to select Engineering? Did being a girl hinder your thoughts?
I have always been an engineer at heart. Right from childhood, whether it be tinkering with electric switch boards at home or breaking apart electronic video games (not to the delight of my parents) to see what is in them, I have been curious to know how things work. Over time, what I have come to love most about engineering is being able to come up with practical solutions to real world problems. I love the whole process of breaking down a problem, coming up with ideas for the solution and transforming the idea from paper to reality. The icing on the cake is to see your solution being deployed in the end equipment and knowing your ideas and work is improving the lives of many people. I don’t believe Engineering is gender specific. As long as one is passionate about making a difference, thoughts about being a girl or a boy should not matter. I’ll be very honest, I did have some trouble with carpentry workshop back in B.Tech, but that’s about it!
Q3. What is Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS)?
Advanced Driver Assistance System or ADAS is a technology which enables the driver of a vehicle with essential information and assistance with the aim of improving road safety. ADAS technologies exist at different levels of active assistance. Basic ADAS systems include driver information systems, like rear-view cameras, surround-view displays, and blind spot and lane departure warnings where the driver continues to remain in full control of the vehicle at all times. Partially autonomous systems, such as lane keep assistance and active cruise control, enable the vehicle to control itself briefly in specific driving scenarios with the driver ready to override automatic control at all times. Driver monitoring systems in addition keep track of the driver’s attentiveness. Highly autonomous systems, including automatic parking valet, will take full control of the vehicle at specific times. While self-driving cars are still in development, advanced driver assistance is with us today and rapidly increasing in importance.
Q4. As an ADAS Application Engineer what has been your favorite project that you have worked on?
The most exciting project for me till date is to work on the architecture and development of Processor SDK - Radar targeted towards long, medium, short, ultra-short range millimeter wave Radar data processing on the JacintoTM family of devices. The challenge was to understand from customers how to map the raw Radar data processing system requirements to TI devices, how different it is from vision/camera sensors and provide software solutions to enable meeting key criteria like processing latency, CPU load, configurability and functional safety.
Q5. How does ADAS use Radar and other sensors to perceive Traffic and road Environment?
Sensing the environment is a very critical task in ADAS and automated driving. Sensors add intelligence to a vehicle and help create an accurate perception of the vehicle surrounding. There are multiple image sensors in ADAS such as cameras, radar, laser, ultrasonic, infrared and Lidar.
Vision/Video cameras are one of the most popular and cost effective automotive sensors. Front camera and surround view camera systems are critical vision-based systems that help drivers stay in their lanes, avoid collisions, keep pedestrians safe, and provide parking assistance. Automotive radar sensors have the advantage of being able to penetrate nonmetal objects such as plastic, clothing and glass and is generally unaffected by environmental factors such as fog, rain, snow and bad or dazzling light. Automotive radar systems are categorized as short-, mid- and long-range, based on the range of object detection. Ultra-short range radar (USRR) is also an emerging ADAS application for park-assist systems. Driver-assist features such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking use long range radar (LRR) systems. Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) is a sensing method that detects objects and maps their distances for collision avoidance and 360 degree scene mapping. LIDAR, radar, ultrasonic sensors and cameras have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Highly or fully autonomous vehicles typically use multiple sensor technologies to sense the environment under different weather and lighting conditions in order to increase redundancy and improve safety. Sensor fusion is also deployed to generate an accurate and reliable map of the environment around a vehicle.
Q6. How is the work Environment in Texas Instruments? What are its perks?
TI provides an environment which allows all employees to think and apply their creativity while solving problems in silicon design, test, software and systems. There are experts in every domain of the semiconductor design, manufacturing and systems at TI. The open culture allows anyone to walk up, discuss their ideas and learn from the experts within the organization. In a technical discussion, there is no sense of hierarchy. Whether you are a new college graduate or a senior technical leader, man or woman, everyone’s ideas are heard and considered on their technical merit. At TI, there is a lot of emphasis and structure around developing, training and mentoring people at different stages of their career to help people realize their true potential and passion. This shines through when senior leaders highlight this as a part of the organization’s priorities. The timings are flexible to allow people to balance dedicating time towards their family and contribute at work. It is up to an individual to set their boundaries to which they would like to explore and make an impact. TI provides the opportunity for end to end ownership and rewards people accordingly. TI also provides facilities and infrastructure to enable and encourage people to pursue their passions outside work, whether it is health and fitness (we have a gym, basketball, tennis courts within the campus), music, arts (there are classes organized regularly) or social initiatives to help give back to the society.
Q7. With over 9 years of Experience in the Engineering field, how do you see this field for Women?
I believe for people who are driven, passionate about technology and want to make a difference in the world, the field of Engineering is a perfect place to create and express. The kind of opportunities available in Engineering (and Semiconductors in particular) is growing exponentially with everything becoming more smart, connected and green – Automobile, Industry, Consumer…. there is no end. There are many challenges yet to be solved to make these systems practical and cost effective. There is now more opportunity than ever to build long fulfilling technical careers for both women and men.
Q8. Why do you think there are not many Women in the industry? What changes do you think should be implemented?
When it comes to core engineering fields, there is often a skewed gender ratio starting from under Grad College. This may be due to multiple reasons: social conditioning, preferences to which many women tend to gravitate towards, experiences and encouragement during one’s formative years. Individuals at every stage of their career should be allowed to explore areas in which they feel excited, curious and passionate, and helped to take a decision either through counseling or coaching. As an organization, it is very important to provide opportunities (especially to women) to work with flexibility with respect to time, identify areas of strength and interest, and coach them towards avenues which bring out their best and allow them to pace their careers.
Q9. What would be your word of advice for the upcoming Women Engineers?
I think the most important thing for any young engineer is to be curious and excited to learn. Especially for young women engineers, it is important to seek mentors and people who can give you constructive feedback, guidance on career aspirations and confidence to step out of your comfort zone. Network with other men/women senior engineers/managers to understand what their journey has been and what solutions they have applied to their hurdles. Most times you would start seeing patterns and realize that any inhibitions or challenges are not unique to you or unsolved. Most importantly have fun!