Gita is currently a Technology Planner Manager for General Motors of Canada
What is your morning routine?
I wish I could say I have a perfectly organized morning routine, but – as many working parents can probably appreciate – my routine pretty much consists of the following: waking up; checking my work email for any pressing issues; getting showered and dressed; wrangling my daughter into her clothes, through breakfast and off to daycare (with the help of my husband, for whom I am eternally grateful); and then driving to work. Sometimes there’s a conference call thrown in there too. I’m hoping to incorporate a few healthy rituals into my morning routine this year, though I haven’t yet decided on any.
Tell us about your career path.
Like most kids, I had ever-changing career ambitions. At one point I wanted to be an airline pilot and even got my pilot’s license. During high school I had the opportunity to do an internship at a company that developed flight simulators, and from there I decided to study aerospace engineering. After graduation I went to work for Canadian aerospace leader MDA Robotics and Automation. As a systems design engineer, I worked on International Space Station robotics, a host of space exploration studies and autonomous rover prototypes for the Canadian Space Agency, NASA and the European Space Agency, and even a neurosurgical robot.
After a decade in space and robotics, I wanted a career in an industry with more day-to-day relevance but was still swiftly transforming, so I took a position at General Motors of Canada (GM) as a technology development engineer. My first role at GM focused on developing current and future applications for battery systems and electric vehicles. I later worked on active safety systems used for crash prevention and driver assistance.
I currently hold the position of Technology Planner Manager for GM, focused on evolving the relationship between technology and transportation in Canada. I provide strategy to support the implementation of new infotainment and connected vehicle features based on the unique needs of the Canadian consumer, ensure those vehicles are compliant with legal and regulatory requirements, and support nation-wide launches of in-vehicle technology.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
Definitely a lack of female role models and an unconscious bias about the technical capabilities of women. I personally experienced stereotypes and biases early in my career and felt I always had to work harder to be taken seriously. More challenging technical assignments are often extended to my male peers while the female ones get offered more administrative type tasks. The lack of female role models intensified as my career progressed, which I suppose isn’t entirely surprising as statistics show that representation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) decreases as they go up the career ladder – the so-called “Leaky Pipe” phenomenon. Over the years I’ve seen so many of my female peers and mentors leave engineering completely and pursue careers in other disciplines.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Focus on being the best YOU can be. Live life with healthy curiosity, always be open to learning new things (be it a technical skill, language, art, or anything really) and never let failures discourage you from moving forward in life. Don’t be afraid of risks and always learn from your mistakes. Be confident in yourself and your decisions. No one knows you like you know yourself.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
It can be hard sometimes, especially if you’re in a role where you have to be on call. I try not to check my work email often on weekends and make an effort to take a vacation, even just camping, at least once or twice a year. I also remind myself that a job is something we retire from eventually but our family and friends are forever.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people, especially women, who are not afraid to challenge the status quo by taking on and conquering non-traditional roles. I’m inspired by people who have managed to find the perfect balance between career, family, social life, health and fitness, and giving back to the community. I’m inspired by those who strive for continuous improvement and challenge themselves to learn and try new things from cradle to grave.