The world of engineering remains a mostly male-dominated profession, but that’s slowly and surely shifting towards a more balanced gender split. At Aerotek we work hard every day to help accelerate that change in the 21st century workplace. We know from experience that women of color working in STEM professions are even more rare, which is why we’re so proud when one of our top stars is recognized as a Technology Rising Star by the Women of Color STEM Conference. This year’s winner was Nadia Sunny and we had the great fortune to speak with her and the Aerotek practice lead that nominated her for the award.
A force of nature
Becca Fisher saw something special in Nadia from the beginning. “She’s extremely strong technically, but that’s just part of it. She’s intensely charismatic in her own quiet way. She connects with people. We know now from working together she also gets things done, big time. Nadia’s special and she deserved this award — she’s a true force of nature.”
Nadia echoed Becca’s point about connecting. “She’s right. As an engineer in this industry of biomedical devices, I have the unique opportunity to be very close to the emerging technology. It’s what connects me, every day, to innovative thinking and to talented people.”
Little girl dreams
We asked Nadia about her background, specifically how early in life had she started thinking about becoming an engineer.
“I grew up in Bangladesh. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a successful professional. My dad was an engineer, and he always inspired and encouraged me to study subjects that ultimately developed my interest in engineering. I know STEM curricula are growing in popularity here in the U.S., and that’s great especially for young girls. Where I grew up, STEM subjects were already popular in schools and engineering was already seen as a desirable profession. Not necessarily for little girls — but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my dream.”
Nadia elaborated. “If you asked parents what they wanted their daughters to be, not a lot of them would say engineers. But I wondered about the people behind the products. I was always imagining how smart the engineers would be that are behind the design and function of simple things like toothbrushes, lights, water pipes and all the other products of everyday life.”
Journey to America
The journey from Bangladesh to Midwest America is a long one, both geographically and culturally. We learned a lot about Nadia just from her recounting the thought process she went through in making such a bold career move.
“I had tasted all the treats in my country with my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and then my MBA, both from top universities. So, I set my sights on the U.S. Although my bachelor’s was in chemical engineering, I decided, upon consultation with my advisor from my undergraduate school, that the biomedical field had more promise for challenging opportunities and growth. So I shortlisted five universities with excellent master’s programs in biomedical engineering.”
“Another factor worked as an additional treat when I thought about finalizing my admission in Grand Valley State University. I grew up in a tropical climate — hot and humid. Michigan being a colder place and the marvels of snow worked as an added attraction.”
Culture of innovation
The acceleration of change driven by innovation in industries like the biomedical field has become almost dizzying, according to Becca Fisher.
“I go out to visit some of our clients and I see new production lines that weren’t there three months ago, making new products with new processes. One of the reasons we matter in the mix is we’ve gotten good at finding the right type of equally forward-thinking engineer to do this kind of innovative work. Nadia’s a perfect example.”
Nadia spoke about the nature of innovation in engineering, and how it differs here in the business-forward world of engineering in America.
“I’ve been in this country for five years now. The single word that defines engineering for me in America is innovation. I love this culture of innovation and highly appreciate the businesses that are letting the engineers hone through this opportunity and fulfill their engineering appetites. I see this culture in the universities and in the companies looking for the top talents coming out of the most innovative schools.”
What are your working on
Ever curious about what our contractors are actually working on, we asked Nadia about hers and weren’t surprised to find it’s on the cutting edge of biomedical device manufacturing.
“My project team is working on something very cool, it’s called UDI, for unique device identifier. The FDA has ruled that all devices manufactured for biomedical applications — from implant parts to surgical devices — have a traceable unique number imprinted on them. My team is working on developing and validating processes to laser mark medical devices like surgical drills and saws, with traceable unique numbers.”
Everyone knows Aerotek
We wondered how Nadia first came to connect with Aerotek, and she told us this story.
“When I was preparing to enter the workforce following my masters in biomed, I started researching great companies to work for in the industry. Everyone talked about the top ones in biomedical and I applied online at one of them that really seemed interesting to me.
“My friends told me about staffing companies and when I asked which ones specialized in biomed, everyone seemed to know about Aerotek. I was in a short-term job in the last semester of my master’s, and during that time I reached out to Aerotek to let them know what I was looking for. Within two months of my graduation, Aerotek placed me in the contract I’m working on now. That was two years ago, and the work is as exciting today as when I first started.”
A better world
When you speak with Nadia about her work and the world of biomedical engineering, you notice she always seems to have a greater plan in mind. We asked her about this and her answer did not disappoint.
“One of the things I find so exciting about my job is it gives me a lot of experience in managing complex projects. Another aspect that I really enjoy is how it keeps me close to innovative technology, developing processes for making it a better world.”
We noted that her Technology Rising Star award seemed to suggest we’re just seeing the beginning of a richly rewarding career. “Yes, the Woman of Color (WoC) award was very gratifying. Women have already mastered what they’ve been traditionally doing; they are not settling there; they’re now ready for doing more to contribute more to the world.”
“My advice to other young women coming into engineering, or almost any other profession, is this: The world still has to grow up a bit more to come out of the stereotypes. But we shouldn’t wait for them. We need to make use of our strengths to break through, and realize success.”
“At the WoC conference, I was speaking with Denise Gray, the Technologist of the Year 2017 award winner. She said what we need are good communicators and people oriented leaders to bring products to the market. I find that women are great communicators; they are naturally people oriented and take up responsibilities beyond their comfort zones. So, I believe - as long as we continue being good at what we do, we will attain success as a natural evolution!”If Nadia is as inspiring to you as she is to us, let’s talk after you’ve checked-out our current engineer opportunities. If you haven’t already, we invite you to create your Aerotek career account.