By Michelle Hua @MadeWithGlove
Ananya Panja is a hardware engineer working in Wearables for Intel Corporation. Based in San Francisco, she has a Bachelors in Electrical & Computer Engineering and a Masters in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University. She has been working in the tech industry for 6 years with experience in a wide range of embedded systems ranging from smart watch platforms, Augmented Reality platforms and Flash Memory Storage systems.
How did a degree in from India, a 2nd degree in Electrical Engineering in Indiana USA lead you to a Masters in Engineering hardware at Santa Clara University to then working in San Francisco for Intel?
I started my Undergraduate degree in India and then I transferred to Purdue University in the US, at the beginning of my Junior year. After graduation, I got my first full time embedded engineering position in Seattle, WA. After working in flash memory storage systems, I joined Intel in Austin and later in Santa Clara. At Intel, I worked on SoC chips and processors and then finally on wearable products. I currently work on smart watch and Augmented Reality glasses.
Are there any women in your team?
There are 4 women out of 15 people in the team. 1 woman is the Hardware Design Engineer and 3 women are Hardware Test Engineers
What does your role entail?
I develop code to bring up a piece of hardware, to test various functionalities of the hardware. I also find bugs and try to fix it in the design and work cross teams and collaborate with different type of stakeholders. I do product demos as well.
Being in the technical team, do you see the end product of the work you were involved in?
Yes I do and it depends on the size of the your immediate team, organisation and transparency in the organisation as well as a good manager also helps in highlighting your work to upper management and understanding the value of your contribution. The bigger the teams, your contribution also starts to get undermined by other forces.
Do you feel there are any challenges of working in the technical side of wearables as a hardware engineer?
It’s difficult to find an approachable mentor who can guide you in career development. It’s very important to work on good and trendy products which are the pulse of the company. It is better to work on shippable products so that it gives you good experience in High Volume production of devices. That’s a valuable learning. Apart from hardware engineering, there is mechanical, software, management aspects which goes into making a wearable product. So, it could be challenging to understand all the above facets.
Do you have a mentor?
I don’t have a designated mentor but I have networked with some people in the Management side of the Wearable Business Unit. They help me understand the various trends in the business, they explain the political environment in the sister business groups under wearable. They discuss about various customers.
You're working in the smart watches and AR headsets. Is this the future? What trends do you see in the wearables/IOT industry in the next 5 years?
AR headset is definitely the future. Check Gartner’s Hype cycle to see which technology is where w.r.t. crossing the chasm. Smart watches are the present. Apple, Samsung, Intel already has various projects in this realm. In the next 5 years, with the advent of more bio-sensors, there will be more wearable products in health and sports market. For enterprises, I see AR glasses being used at a bigger scale in the future.
What is your dream job?
At present, my dream job is to become a product Manager for a Consumer Electronics/Wearables. A product manager helps in shaping the product features for a certain market or customer. It’s a powerful role with lots of responsibility. I am doing a Masters In Engineering Management to help me land my dream job.
I am constantly inspired to create my own product as I am exposed to it so much everyday at work. But, it’s difficult to find spare time after work and graduate school.
What have been your biggest professional achievements?
My work getting attention from my group’s VP and got lot of kudos for my accomplishment. Also, I received full corporate funding for my Graduate School.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in tech/wearable tech?
Stacy Burr- VP of wearables in Adidas
Lisa Falzone- CEO revel System
Marissa Mayer- CEO of Yahoo
What advice would you give to young girls in STEM?
Try to be involved in the science community by doing small science projects and make simple hardware projects. Learn to take initiatives and push yourself to do hands-on experiments. Talk to your teachers, parents, friends about the latest in science and try to keep yourself motivated and informed. Go to science fairs and showcase your work (if any). This will make you very confident and a go-getter.
What advice would you give to women in the wearables industry?
Try to devise products for the emerging and developing nations and make a device which will help tackle real issues in society.