Robot Fleets for Earth and Space…


IIT Kharagpur Foundation (USA) NEWSLETTER

Volume: 4.20.2024

Dear Reader,


“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”
― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead


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IITKGP Alumna Sreeja Nag (B.Tech+M/Tech/Geophysics/2009) is working to enable robot Fleets for Earth and Space

Dr. Sreeja Nag (also known as Sreeja Roy-Singh) is Head of Software Systems Engineering Nuro.AI, a Silicon Valley startup that is building and deploying the first driverless, passenger-less robot fleet on public roads. She is also a Senior Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA Ames Research Center (contracted by Bay Area Environmental Research Institute). She earned the B.Tech and M.Tech in Exploration Geophysics from IITKGP and completed her PhD in Space Systems Engineering from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sreeja is the recipient of many awards including IITKGP’s 2021 Young Alumni Achiever Award, the COSPAR Outstanding Paper Award for Young Scientists, and the NASA Ames Honor Award for Group Achievement 2017.

Sreeja expressed the following about her IITKGP education on Quora “... my IIT days were the most powerful 5 years in shaping who I am. IIT has lots of very intelligent, talented and passionate (about at least something) young people with lots of time on their hands. No really, sometimes it felt like we lived in a vacuum in time… We spent this time and energy in knowing each other, making very powerful friendships, reading and watching a ridiculous amount of information on nearly anything, discussing social change, life, meaning, ourselves, abstractions, refining the art of constructive argument, many extra-curricular activities in spite of the extremely limited resources and understanding ourselves. And I still carry all that with me wherever I go.” 

She also has a lot of great advice for dealing with the impostor syndrome as a female engineer. She states that “having worked internships/assistantships in the US (NASA and MIT with a diverse mix of Americans), Europe (European Space Agency with a diverse mix of Europeans) and India (in the IITs with a diverse mix of Indians)...” the answer to this question is VERY culture dependent. Following is an extract of all the advice she had posted some years ago on Quora to this question that is still very relevant.

1. For any project, make sure you are on the same page with your supervisor and team-mates about what your deliverables and contribution will be. 
2. Try to ensure that you are working with at least one other female team-mate or better still, reporting to at least one female supervisor. 
3. If you aren’t lucky enough to find other women, try to choose a supervisor and/or a team who has a good track record on working with women. 
4. Do not come across as too pushy/bossy/dominating when or to prevent being cornered/ignored. This is true for engineering or not alike (Sheryl Sandberg mentions it in Lean In as well) but the impostor syndrome increases tendencies to overcompensate. Don't take judgment too personally, but do respond to it and be positive and constructive in your response. Anne K. Halsall has wonderful examples of this.
5. Ask yourself what unique skill you bring to the table and build those skills and its associated image bit by bit.  Show that you have a confident reasoning process to back up your judgment. Projecting self-confidence induces others’ confidence in you. Building an image bit by bit will increase your team worth and start a positive reinforcement loop.
6. Talk about your experience in a project/team/company with women or people outside it to get a fresh perspective of your situation. 

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