When Chandni Mehta left India for New York three years ago, she didn’t speak a word of English. Not only did she have to quickly learn a foreign language but also find a place to live and a way to get to New York University—all on a budget.
She’d been told that NYU fees would be $4,500 per semester, but once she arrived found they’d be more than twice that. Mehta found housing, but the $30 cab ride to NYU was beyond her means.
“In India for that, you could travel to two or three cities and have a nice lunch,” she said. “But I couldn’t go back because my parents sent me here to live my dreams.”
Instead, Mehta transferred to a community college, and eventually graduated from California Polytechnic University Pomona with a master’s in electrical engineering. Mehta, now an IT specialist and engineer with SCE, shared her inspiring story with about 200 middle-school girls who were at CSULB Friday for the Society of Women Engineers’ annual event, Women Engineers @ the Beach.
“It’s really important to have education,” said Mehta, who had a 3.87 percent GPA while in college. “Make sure you take advantage of it. You can’t get a job with a high school degree.”
Mehta said she loves her job designing and managing construction of SCE substations. “Whatever I’m doing I like it a lot. It’s so much fun,” she said.
Initially after joining SCE in 2015, her work was a combination of administrative and technical collaboration on 60KV, 200KV, and 550KV substation projects. After eight months, she officially joined the Telecom Infrastructure group and started handling Communication Room projects. Mehta is responsible for different projects on different sites that control communication between stations. She also builds circuits for control rooms where engineers can monitor substation the alarm systems.
After Mehta’s keynote, the girls attended workshops in which they learned how to make electricity from lemons, construct a bridge with limited amounts of wood, program an animation, and measure the strength of concrete. Participants also learned about design thinking, human factors, mechanics, and virtual reality.
CSULB engineering students shared their stories of how they discovered engineering. “Engineering’s supercool,” said aerospace engineering major Kaori Emerson-Shurilla, who saw people making things and thought “that would be so cool if I could do this.”
Allan Rivera, a teacher from Alliance Neuwirth Leadership Academy in Watts, said his class was excited about coming to the event, even though Friday was a “free day” for them. The Neuwirth Academy encourages girls and students of color to enter STEM fields.