Welcome to the STEM Career Highlight Series, which is a Q&A series highlighting the people of Hughes and the STEM path they took to jumpstart their careers and get to where they are today. Through sharing these experiences, we hope to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders and instill in them the same enthusiasm and passion our employees have for what they do.
This week, we’re talking to Avani, a Senior Director at Hughes.
What got you interested in STEM?
I became interested in STEM from a young age. My family exposed me to different engineering ideas, and I would try things out on my own because I was so fascinated. I’ve always been curious and liked to explore new things, so I kept pursuing it.
Did you study STEM in school?
My bachelor’s degree is in engineering, from the Indian Institute of Technology and I have an MBA from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. I’ve been able to use them both at Hughes.
How long have you been working for Hughes?
I’ve been at Hughes for 19 years! I actually started my career in food manufacturing, working in quality control for the leading baked product company in India. I was hired into the management track for new graduates, which lead me to pursuing an MBA. For the last 9 months, I’ve been working on the Hughes Enterprise team, helping our customers find better ways to protect their data and speed up their existing processes.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
Having mentors and role models was really important for me early on in my career. When I pursued my undergraduate degree, I was only one of 13 women in a class of 350, so I didn’t really have many role models. The mentors I’ve had helped me explore new opportunities, which has been invaluable.
Because of that, I always try to give back, especially to young women. I look back at my experiences and try to make sure young women starting in STEM have the opportunities to grow and take on more challenging tasks because that’s not something that comes easily.
What’s been your favorite project to work on at Hughes?
We recently released a new platform for our enterprise customers, which helps businesses speed up their processes and do things more efficiently. It was an opportunity for me to lead a team and do something new that I hadn’t done before, and it was exciting to have that chance. I worked with people from across a number of different teams, and it was very gratifying to see everything come together. I’m a problem solver at heart, so this allowed me and my team to address something we have been facing for a while. Through some critical analysis and hard work, we ended up with a new solution that we had not thought of at first, which was great.
What advice would you give to students entering the STEM field?
My advice would be to try different things and see what you like. I became interested in STEM because I was exposed to it at an early age. Today, there are a lot of programs that allow students to explore new fields when they’re young. I would encourage students to be open to try new things and experiment to find their passion—that’s what I tell my kids!