Stories Of Women in Engineering – Shruti Bandyopadhyaya

Interview with Shruti Bandyopadhya

My name is Shruti Bandyopadhyaya. I’m a Technical Leader for ALTEN in UK. 

I was born and brought up in India. I got my undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from SRM University in India. I worked for about eight years before I decided to do my master’s in manufacturing, systems engineering and management in the UK. I have worked mainly in gas turbine engine design, largely to do with the design of the fan case and its different components. 

What factors influenced the choice to pursue a career in engineering? 

The reason I got into engineering was definitely my father. He’s a mechanical engineer working for the natural gas and petroleum industry in India. My oldest memory is of following my dad around the house, fixing little things. That made me curious about engineering in general – in using my hands to build things. And then my teachers in school, in particular my physics teacher, generated interest in space and technology. I studied subjects like satellite design and missile technology in my undergraduate studies as well.  

Can you describe what your roles and responsibilities are?  

There are two main aspects to my role as a technical leader: one is managing the project, the deadlines, the timelines and coordinating with the client; and then there is the engineering side of things, the actual designs and the documentation, which has to be reviewed regularly. Essentially, I enable my team to do their job, guiding them where required. A technical leader has their feet very firmly in engineering; we step out once in a while into project management to make sure that things are running smoothly and we’re able to meet the deadlines. 

Can tell us about what projects you’re currently involved in – how are they innovative? 

The two teams I’m the technical leader for are the Agile Cost Reduction team and the UltraFan Core design team. They’re both Rolls Royce projects, but they deal with very different technical aspects. 
The Agile Cost Reduction team explores how we can engineer a component of the engine using new technology to ultimately reduce the cost of the part. It’s innovative in the sense that we explore new materials, manufacturing technologies, components and we leverage that knowledge to generate ideas that ultimately will enable an engine to perform better. With the UltraFan Core project, the product itself is the innovation. The Rolls Royce UltraFan engine is meant to be the best in its class. The whole engine is a feat of innovation. 

How do you balance technical experience with the ability to inspire and motivate your team?

Having to manage team members across two continents can get a bit difficult because culturally, people are different and they react differently. My personal policy is friendliness over fear. I take time to listen to people’s issues, their problems, to find out if they have blockages or just to respond to their curiosity. People need to feel like they’re being heard, and that’s when they come up with ideas and innovations. So that is the kind of environment I encourage in my team. We work together towards the same goal, so we should be able to help each other out.   

What are your career goals?

My career goal is to keep one foot firmly in technology. I understand that from a corporate point of view, at some point everybody has to manage people and projects in some capacity, which tends to move you away from the pure engineering aspect of things.  

How do you see your expertise and experience contributing to the advancement of engineering?

The biggest contribution I can make with my experience and expertise is to generate the same kind of curiosity in my team members. I love to see their passion increase, to see them advancing in their careers in the engineering field.

Which emerging technologies and trends will have the greatest impact on future engineering projects?  

One advancement that I feel is going to make a big contribution in the future is clean energy. In the aerospace industry, hydrogen fuel cells are being tested right now and if they can be commercialized in the near future, they are going to be the biggest advancement that I can think of in the clean energy sector. 

How do you manage your work-life balance? What are your interests outside of work? 

The biggest passion I have outside of work is Crossfit. It has contributed in a major way to enabling me to work better. I can stand in a room full of men, being the only girl, and I’m able to lead the team because of the confidence it has given me. Also, I have a very intense job and setting boundaries is a priority. I would encourage everybody to set boundaries and to manage their time within work and outside of work. That’s how I maintain a work-life balance. 

What values do you share with ALTEN and your colleagues?  

The biggest value I share with my colleagues and ALTEN is respect. The second is consideration. People’s lives are different and outside of work and everybody has things going on; you need to be considerate so that everyone is able to perform their best within the team, so that you’re able to effectively work towards the same goal.  

What is your vision of the place of women engineers in the professional world? 

Historically, women have contributed significantly to all of the engineering fields they have belonged to, from the software developers who contributed to putting the first man on the moon to the women who mentored me as I progressed in my career. 

How can we encourage more women to pursue engineering careers? 

To encourage more women to pursue STEM careers we need to make it enjoyable. We should also encourage them to start as early as they can. I started in school, studying physics, chemistry, math, and my curiosity developed because my science teacher was able to make it interesting.

In your opinion, what sets ALTEN apart? 

The ALTEN work culture sets it apart above everything else. You’re allowed to be yourself. You’re shown consideration for your life outside work. You are respected. And your career goals are taken into account. We work as a team.  

What would you say to someone who’s looking into working at ALTEN? 

To anybody who’s looking to work at ALTEN I would say go for it. The exposure you will receive working within ALTEN is not just limited to one part of the industry. You are able to work for different clients in different areas of engineering. You’re able to quench your curiosity. ALTEN makes it possible for you to jump careers within engineering if that’s what you choose to do. They encourage working in different spheres so that you’re able to find what interests you the most.  

How can engineering contribute to a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future? 

The biggest way in which engineering can contribute to a more sustainable future is through innovation. Many curious people are trying to find new technologies, new materials, new manufacturing methods to make things work better, to make modern life easier. From the buildings we live in to the planes we fly – engineering is in everything.  

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