Name: Prasha Sarwate Dutra
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Education: B.Tech Chemical Engineering, M.Sc Mechanical Engineering.
How did you determine what you wanted to study in college? Grad school?
Growing up I was always interested in how things are made and I always wanted to be an engineer. Role models like the late Astronaut Kalpana Chawla inspired me to follow an education in engineering.
Walk us through your initial job search strategy and how you landed your first full-time role.
I got a job 8 months before graduation through my college career fair at UT ARLINGTON. But it was more strategic than it sounds. Being an immigrant, I needed sponsorship to get hired and that makes you a less desirable candidate for a lot of jobs. That’s why my strategy had to be foolproof.
My strategy was being absolutely prepared, which meant I researched over 30 companies that were coming to the job fair. I shortlisted the top who hired immigrants and had a role that interested me. I prepared by reading about them and their products and prepared a 1min elevator pitch. I went into it with confidence that I will definitely get hired.
How did you go from that first role to your current role—what was that journey like for you?
My first role exposed me to a lot of high profile projects which helped me be in decision making roles. My first promotion was within my department and that was a role I expressed lots of interest while I was still in my graduate training role. I got my next promotion for a manager role because I continued to show interest and in my previous role I always collaborated with other departments. Collaborations and networking locally can be super helpful!
What has been your biggest career “hurdle” and what did you learn from it?
Being an immigrant visa was always my biggest issue. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is to be an immigrant, it comes with years of filling for visas, lotteries for H1B and pay gaps for immigrants to exist in some industries too. It also restricts you from traveling back home and it is probably the most stressful thing I have been through. I learned to become resourceful and grateful for all the opportunities that come my way.
What advice do you have for young women who are interested in engineering and other STEM fields?
Please pursue your dreams and remember that you will write your own story! Don’t compare yourself with anyone else, always BE YOURSELF and follow the path that interests you not the path that’s the easy way.
We love the mission of HerStemStory, of which you are also the founder! What prompted you to create it, and what is one thing that you were surprised to learn about yourself while running it?
I started Her STEM Story to share the stories of women in STEM from around the world. Many instances let me start the show but the most powerful one was my wedding party, which was all women engineers! I was always blessed with powerful women colleagues and friends and I thought their stories matter as much as the stories of famous women.
The one thing I learned about myself was that I am a creative person, before the show I always thought I am not a creative person.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
My mentors are Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, David Goggins and so many fantastic authors and influencers. I have a life coach now, but two years ago, all I had was books and I got my advice from these famous people and their valuable lessons. Books are my go-to source for all my inspiration! I work with my community and my coach for support.
What does collaboration over competition mean to you?
It is one of my core beliefs and it means that we value everyone’s strength and we make more progress together. Competiton creates a gap between us but collaboration closes it. I demonstrate this by collaborating with all of the women who I feature on the show.
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education and career goals?
Be brave, be authentic! When you are brave you can dream big and pursue your dreams with bravery. When you are authentic you can bring your true self to work and use your uniqueness to shine!
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you? How can they learn more about HerStemStory?