Women in Stem: Alekhya’s Journey to Thermal Engineering

By Alekhya Addagatla

Growing up in India, my sister and I were heavily encouraged to pursue a career in either math or science. Although it can be assumed that it did not feel like a choice, it actually felt like a destiny. Engineering would open doors of opportunities and my parents only wanted the best for us.

As someone who really liked math and physics, I decided to pursue Mechanical Engineering as it was also one of my strengths. I loved to find solutions to problems around the house and would create contraptions to do so. With a goal to establish myself in a challenging career, I felt it’s equally important to break the stereotype of women in STEM.

I started my engineering journey with a bachelor’s degree from JNTU University in Hyderabad, India. Women pursuing engineering in India is considered a taboo, and despite the endless taunts and remarks from friends and family, my parents continued to strongly support my endeavors. Going through my undergraduate career, I began to ask myself what I wanted to pursue with my degree post-undergraduate. I did not have a concrete answer but knew that Mechanical Engineering was my end goal because it would lead to new opportunities. I was fortunate to get into a master’s program in the United States and successfully graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in thermal management; I owe a lot to all the professors and mentors at my university.

During my graduate career, Dr. Dereje Agonafer, Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, played a pivotal role in my professional development as he served as a mentor. I took an Electronics and Packaging class with him and knew I wanted him to be my graduate advisor. I then wrote my thesis on liquid cooling under him.

I started my professional career with Hyve Solutions as a Thermal Engineer, eager to learn and solve complex problems. As Hyve is customer obsessed, somewhere along the way I started engaging and interfacing with customers directly. I coordinated and accompanied customer teams on site-visits, worked to diffuse difficult situations, and managed desired changes and modifications on product designs. Along with technical problems, I juggled management requirements, unique customer needs, budgetary constraints, as well as changes in next generation technology.

After a year into my career at Hyve, I now have a unique opportunity of working on a sophisticated thermal design solution that is scalable across 2S, 4S and 8S product designs for HPC applications. To maintain a stable temperature, CPUs need to be cooled by efficiently removing and releasing heat. As forced air cooling couldn’t cut the thermal cooling envelope for the 8S design, liquid cooling was the way to go. With liquid cooling, less energy is expended to cool systems – a significant savings in HPC deployments with arrays of servers drawing energy and generating heat. The cascade of value continues, as ambient heat removed from systems can be used to heat buildings and augment or replace traditional heating systems. It’s an intelligent approach to thermal management, distributing the economic value of reduced energy use and transforming heat into an enterprise asset.

I have been rather lucky in my experiences as the people I work with here at Hyve like to keep things fun and we continue to challenge one another. Manufacturing is generally considered more “rough and tumble” than a lot of other engineering fields. But I have the opportunity to work with a lot of different individuals and have had very few challenges regarding being a woman in STEM. As a female engineer, the situation favors me greatly as employers call for diversity in the workplace and treat me as a rare gem. I just try my best every day and prove that I can hold my own, just like every one of my fellow coworkers.

If I wasn’t so determined on becoming an engineer and lacked fortunate circumstances, I would have never known the joy of doing that I love doing! While the journey of becoming, and being, a woman in STEM has been uncertain at times, I have absolutely no regrets on choosing this career path. I would advise any woman who wants to be in STEM to push through and really discover where your passion lies within the broad engineering field, as you never know how you can make an impact.

See how you can continue your career path with us. Check out openings here.